Vandals battle before falling 56-34 at Auburn

THE IDAHO OFFENSE BURST ONTO THE JORDAN-HARE STADIUM stage with a 2-play, 75-yard scoring drive composed of a 71-yard Matt Linehan to CALLEN HIGHTOWER pass followed by Elijhaa Penny's 4-yard touchdown plunge. In all Idaho (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) put up 479 yards of total offense before falling 56-34 to the Auburn Tigers (6-5, 2-5 SEC). Up next Idaho hosts Texas State for Senior Night in Moscow.

Idaho went into SEC territory to take on Auburn as 32.5 point underdogs. To say few gave Idaho a chance in this game, in that environment, would be an understatement.

The Vandals kept it close early and were down just 14-7 after the first quarter. During that opening period, on Idaho's first drive, the raucous Auburn crowd was temporarily quieted when Matt Linehan hit Callen Hightower for a 71-yard reception, and then senior tailback Elijhaa Penny punched it in from four yards out on the next play as Idaho responded to Auburn's opening possession TD with a touchdown of their own to tie it up at 7-7. The stadium was quieted enough that the Idaho fight song could be heard over the SEC Network telecast.

But 21 second quarter Auburn points, aided by Idaho turnovers (including a pick-six) and a Tiger goal-line stand that forced an Idaho field goal, allowed Auburn to build a lead Idaho couldn't overcome in the second half. In the end the Tigers walked away with the win they needed to gain bowl eligibility after the 22-point, 56-34 victory.

The Vandals walked away with an admirable effort on the heels of an impressive offensive performance in a hostile environment.

Now Idaho (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) sets its sights this weekend on the final game of the season as the Vandals host Texas State (3-7, 2-4 Sun Belt) for Senior Night in the Dome. Kickoff is at 2:00 PM and the game will be aired LIVE on ESPN3.

Below are highlights from Saturday's action at Auburn.

Matt Linehan and Jake Luton - Idaho's quarterback duo led a strong Idaho aerial attack Saturday afternoon at Auburn, combining for 356 yards and a touchdown through the air. Sophomore Linehan, Idaho's starting quarterback, completed 15-of-29 passes for 192 yards, while redshirt freshman Luton, a strong-armed backup, completed 14-of-18 attempts for 164 yards and a touchdown strike to Callen Hightower. They each had one pass picked off, and both added a rushing touchdown on the ground.

Elijhaa Penny - One week after becoming the first Idaho tailback to eclipse 1000 yards rushing on the season since Deonte Jackson gained 1,175 yards way back in 2007, Penny punched Idaho into the endzone on the team's first drive to draw Idaho to a 7-7 tie with Auburn. However, shortly after that the 6-foot-2, 234-pound senior power back succumbed to his first major setback of the season when he sustained a leg injury that knocked him out of the game (the extent of the injury is not yet known). Sophomore speedster Aaron Duckworth stepped in for Penny and gained 35 yards on 10 carries against the Tigers.

Callen Hightower - Based on his performance in the month of November, it looks like the Vandals may have found a new go-to wide receiver in Mr. Hightower. For the month of November he's caught 19 passes for 316 yards, including eight catches for 161 yards and a touchdown against Auburn on Saturday. For the season the first-year junior has 48 yards for 621 yards.

Trent Cowan - If Hightower is emerging as Idaho's go-to receiver on the outside, junior tightend "Buck" Cowan has more than stepped up this season as Idaho's top target at tightend. Saturday on the big stage at Auburn Cowan caught 10 passes for 118 yards. For the season he has 45 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns.

Austin Rehkow - Currently ranked 8th in the nation as a punter, averaging 45.3 yards per kick on 46 punts in 11 games. This weekend against Texas State should pit two of the best punter in the country, as the Bobcat's Lumi Kaba is ranked 9th right behind Rehkow. Aside from his duties asa punter, Austin has seen his stock rise this year as a field goal kicker as he's currently ranked 10th in the nation in field goal percentage at 88% (22-of-25 on the year).

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