[Vandal] Idaho Falls In Another Rollercoaster Ride

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Sun Oct 31 08:24:54 PDT 2021


>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoSunday, October 31, 2021
Idaho Falls In Another Rollercoaster Ride
Fake punt, last-minute picks seals win for NAU
By Stephan Wiebe
MOSCOW — There was a fake punt touchdown, a fumble recovery for score, an accidental punter kneel-down, three interceptions and a lot of offense.
When the dust finally settled, Northern Arizona held a 38-31 lead against Idaho in a Big Sky football game Saturday at the Kibbie Dome.
In the game’s waning moments, Idaho got a big break when NAU punter Derek Arnson’s knee touched the turf on a low snap on fourth down.
Idaho got the ball back at the NAU 32-yard line down a touchdown with 1:30 left. But ’Jacks safety Morgan Vest intercepted Vandal quarterback Mike Beaudry at the 5-yard line on the next play — the safety’s second pick of the day — effectively ending the game since the Vandals were out of timeouts.
“I think they fought all the way to the end and competed all the way to the end,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “You just can’t give up a fake (punt) for a touchdown and have three interceptions and win a close game.”
Each time Idaho (2-6, 1-4 Big Sky) and NAU (4-4, 3-2) have played since 2019, the games have been nailbiters. This one was no different.
Like it did against Montana on Oct. 23, Idaho scored first. Rumbling, 273-pound fullback Logan Kendal broke about six tackles and carried three NAU defenders with him for a 26-yard gain that helped set up a short touchdown run for the junior two plays later.
The Vandals could barely finish celebrating their early lead before NAU struck back. The Lumberjacks took just three plays and 37 seconds to answer on a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback RJ Martinez to receiver Hendrix Johnson and tie it at 7.
That’s the kind of game it was.
One team would have a flashy score or big drive, then the other team would immediately answer. One group would get a three-and-out or big turnover on defense, then the offense would fire up.
NAU would go up 14-7 before Idaho equalized again on Kendall’s second touchdown of the game to make it 14-14.
“It’s a lot of fun in the moment,” Kendall said of the swingy game, “but at the end of the day, we just gotta do a better job at the end and finish.”
Idaho’s next score would come on arguably its biggest play of the game. With Martinez running for his life and bouncing off his own lineman, Vandal linebacker Fa’avae Fa’avae swooped in for a sack and forced fumble. Charles Akanno was there to scoop up the loose ball for a defensive touchdown on Idaho’s first takeaway in four games.
“I felt like it was perfect timing — it was a perfect play,” Fa’avae said. “As soon as the ball came out and it bounced once, Chuck was able to recover it and score.
“It was definitely a big score, but it doesn’t mean nothing unless we get the dub.”
That touchdown gave UI a 21-14 lead and came with only 1:36 to go before halftime. But like clockwork, the Lumberjacks went the length of the field with ease and got a short field goal before halftime.
If Idaho’s biggest play came on defense, NAU’s came on special teams.
The Lumberjacks ran a fake punt for a 50-yard touchdown on their first drive of the second half for a 24-21 lead. The ball snapped directly to upback Harrison Beemiller and the Vandals didn’t see it coming.
Idaho would later tie it at 31, but they never regained an advantage.
NAU’s final score came on one of its three hyperfast touchdown drives of four plays or fewer and was capped by a 1-yard Martinez run with 5:17 to go.
The Vandals’ passing offense found a resurgence with the return of Beaudry for the first time in three games as the senior passed for 306 yards — almost double Idaho’s season average. But Beaudry also tossed three interceptions to his one touchdown.
Still, Petrino was proud of the toughness shown by his senior leader.
“He fought his tail off,” Petrino said. “He took some shots, stood in there (and) kept battling. Obviously, you don’t want him to throw the interceptions, but he continued to fight — missed a couple he’d probably like to have back for sure.”
Terez Traynor (12 catches, 167 yards, 1 TD) and Mekhi Stevenson (9, 92) benefitted from the return of Beaudry’s big arm with career nights at receiver.
For NAU, running back Kevin Daniels ran for 177 yards and receiver Coleman Owen had seven catches for 139 yards and a score.
The game particularly was heartbreaking since the Vandals were one or two plays from getting the win, or at least a chance at overtime.
If Beaudry’s final pass of the game was a bit higher, it could’ve been a touchdown to Traynor. The fake punt also came on a play the Vandals had practiced against, Petrino said.
“I hurt for my assistant coaches, I hurt for the players,” Petrino said. “Everything you ever do is fight and do everything in your power to help the players get wins.”
Odds and Ends
Idaho’s captains were linebacker Tre Walker, cornerback Jalen Hoover, tight end Connor Whitney and fullback Logan Kendall. … Running back/returner Nick Romano left the game in the first quarter with an apparent left arm injury after a big hit on a kickoff return. He was seen with a sling on the arm after the game. … Freshman Grayson Harwood of Rupert, Idaho, got the start at center.
NAU -- IDAHO STATISTICS
First downs 23 25Rushes-yards 41-232 31-116Passing 238 306Comp-Att-Int 18-29-0 28-46-3Return Yards 15 66Punts-Avg. 6-39.0 5-41.8Fumbles-Lost 3-1 0-0Penalty-Yards 8-90 3-45Time of Possession 26:08 33:52
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING: N. Arizona, Ke. Daniels 27-177, Ha. Beemiller 1-50, Ge. Robinson 4-12, RJ. Martinez 5-6, Ty. Grubbs 1-2, Team 2-(minus 1), DJ. Arnson 1-(minus 14). Idaho, Ro. Johnson 11-57, Lo. Kendall 4-31, Au. Carter 6-22, El. Cummings 4-8, Za. Borisch 2-3, Mi. Beaudry 4-(minus 5).PASSING: N. Arizona, RJ. Martinez 18-29-0-238. Idaho, Mi. Beaudry 28-46-3-306.RECEIVING: N. Arizona, Co. Owen 7-139, He. Johnson 2-42, Ma. Kempton 5-38, He. Beemiller 1-8, Ke. Daniels 2-7, Dr. Hall 1-4. Idaho, Te. Traynor 12-167, Me. Stevenson 9-92, Je. Jackson 2-18, Da. Puffer 2-16, Cu. Haywood 2-10, Ky. Beachem 1-3.
Stars of the Game
NAU running back KEVIN DANIELS ran for 177 yards, including a 40-yarder that helped set up the Lumberjacks’ final go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Receiver OWEN COLEMAN caught seven receptions for 139 yards and one touchdown. Safety MORGAN VEST snagged two of NAU’s three interceptions and also had 10 tackles and two deflected passes.
For Idaho, TEREZ TRAYNOR hauled in 12 passes for 167 yards and MEKHI STEVENSON caught nine for 92 — the best career outings for the receiver duo. Fullback LOGAN KENDALL rushed for a pair of touchdowns and had a 26-yard run where he dragged a collection of Lumberjacks with him for several yards before they tackled him. CHARLES AKANNO scored a defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery after a sack and forced fumble by FA’AVAE FA’AVAE in the second quarter.
Key Plays

With Idaho leading by three, NAU ran a fake punt on a snap to upback Harrison Beemiller at midfield and the senior scampered 50 yards for a touchdown, breaking a tackle from returner Mekhi Stevenson in the process. The touchdown and ensuing PAT put the Lumberjacks up 24-21 on their first drive of the second half. Idaho would tie the game later in the half, but never regained the lead.
Up Next
Idaho plays Southern Utah at 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPN+) at the Kibbie Dome in its final home game of the season.
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