With the score tied and only 1:11 left in the game, Pete Thomas and the Warhawks (2-0) offense marched down the field 74 yards, capped by a Centarius Donald rushing touchdown to catapult ULM to a 38-31 victory over Idaho (0-1) on a stormy Saturday night in JPS Field at Malone Stadium.
The Warhawks registered their second consecutive game winning drive, which was set up by a 36 yard reception from Tyler Cain that landed the offense in the red zone. After a rush and a penalty, Donald found the end zone on a one-yard scramble up the middle with nine seconds remaining.
The triumph improves ULM’s record to 2-0 for the first time since 1993. The game featured a two hour and six minute lightning delay with 3:32 left in the first quarter and the Warhawks leading Idaho, 14-7.
Thomas completed 24 passes on 44 attempts for 384 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Six of his passes and one touchdown were caught by Ajalen Holley for 175 yards.
Donald garnered 20 carries for 111 yards and three touchdowns, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the second consecutive game.
The ULM defense combined for 80 tackles with four sacks, six tackles for loss and two interceptions. The defensive effort was led by Justin Backus with 10 tackles and Hunter Kissinger who added eight tackles, one sack and one interception.
For the Vandals, Matt Linehan went 26-47 for 324 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Idaho’s Joshua McCain caught eight passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns, while Deon Watson posted seven receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown. Jerrel Brown chipped in 117 yards on 22 rushes.
Idaho struck on its first drive as they drove 75 yards for a touchdown. Early on Linehan pitched the ball to Richard Montgomery who rushed to the ULM 35 yard line. On the next play, Justin Backus appeared to have stripped the ball after a completed pass to Justin Podrabsky, but an official review overturned the call on the field and Idaho kept the ball. Three plays later, Linehan found McCain for a nine yard touchdown. Austin Rehkow’s PAT secured a 7-0 lead for the Vandals.
ULM drew even with the Vandals on its second series during a five play, 81 yard drive. Thomas completed a 13 yard pass to Alec Osborne to the ULM 32 yard line. After a 10 yard scramble by Donald, Thomas found Holly for a 54 yard bomb that put the Warhawks at the Idaho two yard line. Thomas continued his accuracy on the next snap as he found Osborne deep in the left corner for a two yard touchdown. Justin Manton’s extra point made it a 7-7 game with 6:03 left in the first quarter.
The ULM defense remained strong as they forced another three and out on the next drive. The Warhawks took their first lead of the game on the next possession. The Thomas-Holley combination proved vital again as Thomas connected with Holley for 58 yards and a touchdown, the wide receiver’s first of the season and sixth of his career.
The Warhawks came out of the lightning delay firing on all cylinders. Following a three and out, Donald notched the ninth rushing touchdown of his career as he raced 34 yards after a handoff from Thomas. The extra point from Manton increased ULM’s lead to 21-7.
The Vandals cut into the Warhawks lead in the second quarter. Elijhaa Penny capped a 10 play drive with a three yard touchdown to make it 21-14.
In the second quarter, Linehan completed a 10 yard pass up the middle to McCain for a touchdown to tie the game at 21-21 with 6:52 left in the half.
Justin Manton booted a 27-yard field goal late in the second quarter to give the Warhawks a 24-21 advantage heading into the half.
In the third quarter, the ULM defense regained its momentum as they picked off Linehan to force its first turnover the game. The interception by Kissinger gave the Warhawks their 28th straight game with a turnover, the nation’s second longest streak.
The defense’s impact play turned out to be costly for the Vandals as Donald dashed up the middle for a 21 yard touchdown to extend the ULM lead to 31-21 with 8:31 left in the third quarter.
The Vandals tacked on a field goal to cut the deficit to 31-24 with 13:59 remaining.
Linehan led an 11 play, 64 yard drive that ended in a 32 yard pass to Deon Watson for a touchdown to draw even at 31-31 with 4:22 left on the clock.
Before Thomas’ sixth career game winning drive, the Vandals had one last chance on their own 40 line, but failed their hail mary attempt as Cody Robinson registered his first career interception as the clock expired.
The Warhawks will travel to Baton Rouge next Saturday to face LSU at 6:00 p.m. on ESPNU.