Cephus Johnson III ran for two touchdowns, Zy Alexander had a late pick-6 and Southeastern Louisiana held off Idaho 45-42 in the first round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday night.
Southeast Louisiana (9-3), ranked 23rd in the FCS coaches poll, picked up its sixth straight win and advances to play sixth-ranked Samford on Dec. 3.
Jermaine Jackson ended a 21-point run by the Lions when he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown with 14:03 left. Idaho got the ball right back and Gevani McCoy hit Hayden Hatten for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Vandals a 35-31 lead with 9:15 remaining.
SE Louisiana reclaimed the lead on its next possession when Johnson scored on a 1-yard run. Alexander picked off McCoy on first down and turned it into a 48-yard pick-6 and the Lions led 45-35. Alexander intercepted McCoy’s next pass, but a roughing-the-passer penalty negated it. McCoy fired a 70-yard scoring strike to Jackson two plays later and the Vandals trailed by three with 3:23 left.
Idaho got the ball back at its own 42-yard line with 1:35 to go. McCoy drove the Vandals to the Lions’ 22, but Ricardo Chavez missed a 39-yard field goal wide left with six seconds left.
McCoy completed 19 of 26 passes for 343 yards with two costly picks for Idaho, ranked 24th in the FCS coaches poll. Hayden Hatten finished with nine catches and a career-high 209 yards.
Johnson finished with 208 yards on 18-of-28 passing for SELU.
It was Idaho’s first FCS playoff game in 27 years. The Vandals (7-5) spent 22 of those seasons as a FBS program.
The Vandals’ playoff bid comes as a tight-knit Moscow community still grieves the loss of four University of Idaho students who were found dead Nov. 13 in an off-campus house. The Moscow Police Department and other agencies investigating the quadruple homicide still have no suspect.