David Lombardi, ESPN Staff Writer 663d

Idaho completes big turnaround with 61-50 upset of Colorado State

That was a wild one.

Idaho, a 16-point underdog, blitzed Colorado State 61-50 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Vandals won a bowl game by double digits for the first time, and the 111 combined points were the third-most in bowl history.

Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan threw for 381 yards and accounted for five scores, and the Rams couldn't contain 6-foot-4 Idaho receiver Deon Watson, who roamed free for 140 yards on five catches as the Vandals built a 41-7 third-quarter lead.

The Vandals, on the other hand, couldn't contain Colorado State receiver Olabisi Johnson, who caught seven passes for 265 yards as the Rams brought chaos to the box score with a late offensive flurry of their own.

Even so, this was without question Idaho's night. That much was confirmed when Jordan Frysinger hauled in a spectacular long touchdown with one hand in the fourth quarter, even with flags flying for pass interference.

As the Vandals' remaining time in the FBS ticks away -- Idaho has only one more season before it's slated to become the first team ever to move down to the FCS -- the football program's resurrection continues. The Vandals' victim this night was no pushover: Colorado State had whipped Mountain West champion San Diego State 63-31 on the road to end the regular season.

The Rams jumped to a 7-0 lead when quarterback Nick Stevens found Johnson on a 52-yard strike. But Idaho's attack proved relentless after four punts to start the game, amassing 355 yards on five straight touchdown drives to bridge the second and third quarters and build that 34-point lead.

Linehan's steady arm -- his 21 completions were spread to eight receivers -- and Isaiah Saunders' 147-yard rushing performance were the primary fuel of this virtuoso offensive performance.

In their previous game, the Rams held San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey -- the FBS' all-time leading rusher -- to 2.9 yards per carry. But they had no answer for Saunders, who shredded Colorado State for three touchdowns and set Linehan up for play-action deep strikes to his talented receivers.

By the time the dust settled, both teams had reached 600 yards of offense. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Idaho scored a touchdown on 57 percent of its drives in this game, after scoring on just 23 percent during the regular season. The Vandals' 61 points were their most since they put up 64 points against Boise State in 1996.

This tour de force, fittingly, came on the blue turf of Boise State's stadium. It marked another step forward for Idaho coach Paul Petrino, who won only one game in each of his first two seasons at the helm. The Vandals improved to 4-8 last year before this season's 9-4 finish, the program's best since 2008.

Idaho players soaked Petrino with icy Gatorade to cap off the 15-degree Boise night. But the coach didn't seem to mind the cold on the sideline. He smiled while relishing the Vandals' turnaround.

Petrino and the Vandals would certainly like to see next year end on a similar note.

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