LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Idaho committed two turnovers in the first six minutes and New Mexico State cashed them in for 14 points. The Vandals (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) limited the Aggies (5-6, 3-4 Sun Belt) to just a field goal the rest of the way but could not come all the way back in a 17-10 loss , at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
“Our defense played their hearts out,” said head coach Paul Petrino. “We’re just not playing well enough on offense. You have to score more points. It’s a shame for those defensive guys because I thought they competed their hearts out and played really well. There were some guys on offense who competed hard, but overall as a group we’re not playing well enough.”
True freshman quarterback Colton Richardson made his collegiate debut after starter Mason Petrino was forced to leave on the Idaho’s second offensive possession. Richardson’s first career completion went for six yards before being fumbled and setting up New Mexico State just outside the red zone. Five plays later the Aggies had their second touchdown and a 14-0 lead, less than seven minutes into the game.
Idaho’s defense and special teams kept the Vandals in the game, forcing two turnovers and blocking two field goals. It is the first time Idaho has blocked two kicks in a game since 2008, when they blocked a field goal and a punt against Idaho State ().
The first turnover gave Richardson the opportunity to breathe life into Idaho’s offense before the half. With just over two minutes to go in the second quarter, Ed Hall tracked down a receiver and forced a fumble that Jalen Hoover grabbed out of the air near midfield.
Richardson fired a 25-yard touchdown to David Ungerer along the left sideline to cap the first scoring drive of his career, going 44 yards in three plays and bringing the Vandals within seven at the break. The Lewiston, Idaho, native would finish 18-for-33 for 167 yards and the one touchdown. He was intercepted on the final play of the game with the Vandals needing to go 71 yards in six seconds. Richardson was also sacked 10 times as the Aggies tallied 11 sacks for the game.
The momentum carried over out of the locker room as Idaho’s second blocked field goal put an end to New Mexico State’s first drive of the third quarter. The Vandals used a Cade Coffey field goal to get within four at 14-10, but would not draw closer.
NMSU started the fourth quarter by driving into the red zone, but the Vandal defense held the Aggies to a 24-yard field goal with remaining. It would be the only score of the final period.
After an Armond Hawkins interception in the end zone stymied another deep NMSU drive, the Vandals put together their longest drive of the second half. Idaho went 47 yards in 10 plays, including a 31-yard completion from Richardson to Onunwor and a fourth-down conversion by Aaron Duckworth. Ultimately a fourth-down sack gave the ball back to NMSU on downs with to play and Idaho would not cross midfield again.
Tony Lashley led the defensive effort with a career-high-tying 16 tackles. Lashley, a junior, paces the Vandals with 107 tackles on the season, his second 100-tackle season. Hawkins finished the day with eight tackles, an interception and a blocked kick.
All seven of Idaho’s Sun Belt games have been decided by one possession and the Vandals’ five conference losses have come by a combined 24 points. The season finale is next week at Georgia State (). Kickoff is slated for /11 a.m. PT and will be available on ESPN3.