MOSCOW, Idaho – Surviving a first-half test when it fell behind, settling into its assignments and physically wearing down Western New Mexico as the game wore on allowed Idaho to finish with a flourish and collect its first win, 56-10, Saturday in the Kibbie Dome.
On back-to-back fourth-quarter series, the Vandals stunned the Mustangs with a blocked field goal attempt returned for a touchdown and a 65-yard punt return for a score.
It was the payoff for disciplined, determined play earlier, even when the Mustangs grabbed a 10-7 second-quarter lead.
“Confidence, first of all. A belief that hard work actually pays off,” Idaho coach Paul petrino said of the win.
After getting two field goal attempts blocked and returned for touchdowns a week ago against Fresno State, the Vandals were primed to pass that misery on. When a Mustang drive stalled at the Idaho 21 and Ignacio Correa launched a 38-yard field goal try, Idaho’s Kaden Elliss broke through up the middle and got a hand on the ball. He and Dorian Clark chased it down before Clark corralled it and brought it back 47 yards for the score. It put Idaho up 42-10.
The Mustangs went three-and-out when Charles Akanno sacked quarterback Blayne Armstrong. WNM punted, and David Ungerer took the kick in stride and started up the middle. He cut left to avoid a tackle and high-stepped into the end zone.
Jack Bamis added a final touchdown for the Vandals on a seven-yard tailback sweep in the closing minute of the game. The Mustangs all but conceded the play.
Ungerer, a senior, had a career day. He was Idaho’s leading receiver with nine catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, and his 235 all-purpose yards were the 13th-best in Idaho’s history.
“Dave really did a good job on offense,” Petrino said. “He did a great job on that punt return. He needed to. He’s one of our seniors.”
Following a sub par performance against Fresno State in a 79-13 shellacking in Idaho’s opening game, Ungerer said he was not surprised he didn’t get tighter coverage from the Mustangs.
“I’m not surprised at all because of last week. I’d play off me too,” Ungerer said.
As for the punt return, “I’m just happy my mom was there to see it,” he said.
The Vandals’ senior linebacker Ed Hall was their leading tackler with eight. WNM came ready to play in the first half. DeAndre Williams rushed for 52 yards on seven carries.
“We stayed with our plan and kept our heads up,” Hall said of the defense. “I believe we physically wore them down. We just got after it.”
Elliss, in addition to blocking the kick, provided smothering pressure all game against Armstrong.
“Kaden was a beast,” Petrino said. “Their quarterback, for the pressure he was under, did some good things.”
Idaho’s two-quarterback system worked well. Colton Richardson completed nine of 13 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns, and Mason Petrino was 12 of 13 passing for 151 yards, and he broke three tackles to score from 10 yards out for Idaho’s first touchdown, capping a seven-play 62-yard drive on the game’s first series.
Neither quarterback threw an interception.
Both Richardson’s touchdowns were impressive. On the first one, in the closing minute of the first half, he launched a 25-yard strike to Jeff Cotton in the corner of the end zone, and Cotton took the ball off the hands of a Mustang defender to put the Vandals up, 21-10.
In the fourth quarter, on third and goal at the four-yard line, Richardson started right to avoid a rush, spun out of a tackle attempt from linebacker CJ Aurjo, looked up to find Ungerer had worked free on the left side of the end zone and rifled a ball to him for a 35-10 lead.
“As soon as Colton spun away from that tackle, I knew it was going to come to me,” Ungerer said.
After Idaho opened the scoring with Petrino’s touchdown, UNM came right back with an 82-yard drive. Armstrong kept the drive alive twice. On third and 10 at his own 47-yard line he ran for a first down. Four plays later, under immense pressure from Kaden Elliss, he got off an end-over-end pass to tight end Isaac Crichton that gained 12 yards. The drive ended with a 34-yard field goal by Ignacio Correa. The Mustangs took their only lead in the second quarter when Armstrong found Elijah Jones and threaded a pass between Idaho’s cornerback Clark and middle linebacker Christian Elliss for a six-yard touchdown. For the game, Armstrong completed 26 of 40 throws for 180 yards and the touchdown. He also punted twice on fourth down from a shotgun formation for 61 yards.
Against Fresno State, every ball seemed to bounce away from the Vandals. Against Western New Mexico, however, an unusual play provided Idaho key momentum. With the Vandals trailing, Mason Petrino completed a pass to tight end Connor Whitney at the Mustangs’ 25. Whitney was tackled by linebacker Tyler Butler. As Butler dragged Whitney down, the ball popped loose. Ungerer plucked it from air, headed down sidelines and gained 23 yards. Defensive holding was called on the play, and Idaho declined. But the Mustangs used their final time out to get the play reviewed. Whitney was ruled down.
“The ball was on the 25, because I knew Connor caught it,” Petrino said. “I said ‘come on, let’s go, we’ve got some momentum going here.’ But they got the call right.”
When play resumed, Mason Petrino passed to Cutrell Haywood in the end zone corner. The Mustangs were hit with both a pass interference call on the play and a targeting call against an unblocked Butler, who lit up Petrino after the pass was released. On first down at the 10-yard line, Isaiah Saunders, Idaho’s leading rusher with 49 yards on 11 carries, broke a tackle, and scored, running over Mason Petrino who was blocking at the goal line. Idaho regained the lead, 14-10, and never fell behind again.
Although it was blown out by Mountain West power Fresno State, the Vandals were not dismissive about beating Division II Western New Mexico, according to Hall.
“Football’s football,” he said. “They’re a team, and we have to respect them.”
That second half really boosted our confidence.”