For the season finale Idaho donned new headgear, sporting gold helmets for the first time since the 2011 season. The Vandals also added a little flash to the gear by incorporating their second school color - silver - into the script "Vandals" text added to each side. Its the first time both colors have been so prominently displayed on an Idaho helmet in many years, and a welcome change.
For the full story on the very generous gift that made the new helmets a reality, a donation by Bill Kearns who played for the Vandals from 1978-79, check the OFFICIAL SITE by clicking the link below:
LINK: CLICK HERE
Idaho's 38-31 victory over Texas State Saturday afternoon on Senior Day in the Dome was delivered in fitting fashion, and was indicative of the 2015 season for Idaho. The Vandals jumped out to an early 24-10 first half lead, withstood an advantageous Bobcats' comeback that tied the game at 31-31 with 8:27 left in the fourth, then put together a touchdown drive late that delivered the final touchdown of the game for the 38-31 Idaho win.
This Saturday it was senior leadership throughout the game, and particularly late in the game, that buoyed Idaho's win. Senior noseguard Ryan Edwards stuffed a Texas State rush up the gut on third and short with just over three minutes left that forced fourth down and a Bobcat punt. Prior to that, senior defensive end Quinton Bradley and senior linebacker Broc Westlake made timely plays throughout the game to make it tough sledding for the Bobcats. After Edwards key tackle, Idaho put the ball in the hands of senior tailback Elijhaa Penny, operating behind the lead-blocking of Riggins, Idaho native senior Jake Manley, for a key 22-yard pickup at mid-field that energized the Idaho offense. Then, following a tremendous Deon Watson one-handed reception that put the ball on the TSU 3-yard line, the Penny-Manley duo punched it in from five yards out for the lead with just over a minute left, and the eventual Vandal victory.
With the win Idaho (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt) broke a 4-game losing skid to Texas State (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) and evened the all-time series at 4-4-0. The season is over for Idaho, so dwelling on what-could-have-been had they hung on to commanding half-time leads over New Mexico State and South Alabama does nothing to change the season. But the win Saturday gives the team something to build on for next year -- the most wins by an Idaho team in five years, an offense that should be among the Sun Belt's leaders in 2016, an All-American punter, and the school's all-time leading field goal kicker. If the defense can make strides this off-season (they have some big shoes to fill, particularly in the front seven), Idaho as a team should be poised to continue its climb up the league standings.
Below are highlights from Saturday's action.
Deon Watson - Idaho's junior wide receiver "slash" tightend came up huge for Idaho Saturday against Texas State as the Coeur d'Alene native hauled in just five passes, but how productive those catches were. For the day he finished with 124 yards, second only to wideout Callen Hightower, and of those five receptions two went for touchdowns includine a 58 yarder from Linehan in the second quarter. Watson's other TD came in the fourth quarter to give Idaho a 31-24 lead.
Callen Hightower - How impressive has this guy been. Hightower wasn't even considered one of Idaho's top three receivers going into the season, but by the midpoint he fully stepped up his game and Saturday afternoon was no different. For the day Hightower caught nine passes for a game high 128 yards with a long of 40 yards. For the season Hightower finished with 621 yards and will go into the 2016 season as one of Idaho's top returning wide receiving prospects.
Elijhaa Penny - What an impressive season for the Vandal senior who trimmed his weight and focused this off-season. Saturday against Texas State Penny gained 149 yards and wasn't dropped for a loss once, and scored twice for Idaho on the ground. He also added two receptions out of the backfield for nine yards. For the season he is Idaho's first 1000 yard rusher in almost a decade, and his 1,159 yards for the year ranks him 8th ALL TIME for a single season at Idaho, between Deonte Jackson (2007 - 1,175 yards) and Zach Gerstner (2003 - 1,157 yards). Idaho's all-time single season leader was recorded by Devon Pearce in 1990 (1,393 yards).
Matt Linehan - Idaho's sophomore starter had one of his best games ever as a Vandal. Not necessarily because of the yards (an efficient 309 yards on 21-of-31 passing), but because he threw two TDs in the game, rushed for another from 10 yards on the ground, was sacked just once and didn't throw a single pick in the game. Coupled with the win, and a strong way to end the season. For the year Linehan completed 63.1% of his passes for 2,972 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 picks. We'll see how the final records read for the year, but if the current totals hold then Linehan's season puts him 10th All-Time in the Idaho record books, between Doug Nussmeier 1992 (3,028) and Nussmeier 1993 (2,960). Matt's season also puts Jr ahead of Linehan Sr, who threw for 2,954 yards in 1986.
Kaden Elliss - What a gem. The true-freshman out of the Utah joined the Vandals in January, made a splash in spring camp, dominated in fall camp, and finished the 2015 playing in every game at multiple linebacker positions. In all he finished No.2 for the season with 83 tackles (57 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, one sack and four quarterback hurries. Saturday in the Dome Ellis finished with a team-high 11 tackles (10 solo) and one quarterback hurry. He will go into his sophomore season next year as one of Idaho's top linebackers for 2016.
Austin Rehkow - It's been a transformative year for the Idaho's All-American punter. The last two years, while ranking among America's leading punters, Rehkow was also honing the other part of his game - field goal kicking. This year Rehkow kicked with a vengeance and converted 85.2% of his attempts (second all-time at Idaho behind Brian Decicio's 1985 mark of 87.5%), converting 23-of-27 attempts (his 23 field goals made is a new Idaho record, as is his 26 attempts), and set a new personal record on his last attempt of the season when he connected for 48 yards in the finale Saturday against Texas State. On the punting side of the ledger Rehkow averaged 52 yards per punt against the Bobcats and finished 2015 averaging 45.7 yards per boot.
For a complete game recap see the OFFICIAL SITE by clicking the link below (stats, videos, photos, etc.):