Amid seemingly all the video reviews in the world, and enough turnovers for a month, they also played football at the Kibbie Dome. But the teams did play football, and it was the Arkansas State Red Wolves who came away with the 44-28 victory over the Idaho Vandals.
After a punt to open the game, the Red Wolves got a turnover-and this would become a theme of this game-and cashed it in quickly with a 44-yard touchdown from running back Michael Gordon. It was easy for head coach Blake Anderson's squad in the opening 15 minutes, except that A-State couldn't make the most of its opportunities. After the first quarter, the team had run 23 plays to Idaho's 14, and gained 129 yards to Idaho's 29 but when Luke Ferguson punted the ball to the Vandals to start the second, the score was still just 7-0.
Well, the second quarter was a flip on that script. It was a flip in the sense that Idaho moved the ball at will on its first possession. But the turnover part remained, when Xavier Woodson forcing a Matt Linehan fumble at the A-State 7-yard line. Rocky Hayes recovered the ball and scored a long, long touchdown to put his team up by 14 points.
The Vandals took the ensuing kickoff and this time scored on a 1-yard run from Jerrel Brown. Another Linehan fumble didn't prove costly for Idaho, though head coach Paul Petrino decided it was time to have a new quarterback-in came sophomore Chad Chalich in time to lead his team on a touchdown drive, on the ground with Brown again.
After a Ferguson 28-yard field goal, the Red Wolves led 17-14 at the half but had been outgained 236 to 182.
After trading possessions to start the third quarter, the Vandals took a 21-17 lead on a 2-yard run from Elijhaa Penny. Incredibly, A-State forced a fifth Idaho turnover and responded in a flash-as in, with a 7-yard rushing touchdown from "Flash" Gordon. This would become the theme of the second half, namely Gordon running wild for A-State. He tied a Sun Belt Conference record with five rushing touchdowns on the day.
The teams traded scores and Anderson's team led 30-28 after 45 minutes of play. By then, the high-scoring affair we had expected had finally arrived. It wasn't exactly a clean half, with Linehan coming back in the game for Idaho after the Vandals' third turnover of the second half. But at least, the 273 (i.e. approximately) video reviews of the first 30 minutes were gone at least.
The Red Wolves escaped Moscow unscathed and kept alive their (admittedly tenuous) dream for a fourth Sun Belt title. Unfortunately, wide receiver J.D. McKissic couldn't finish the game but he did catch a pass. His streak with at least one catch is now up to 34-as in, every game of his career.