On Saturday, Idaho squares off with Washington State in the 91st meeting of the Battle of the Palouse.
The rivalry may date back to 1894, but Idaho senior tight end Trent Cowan said the physical battle between the two regional programs has only increased over the years.
“You definitely embrace it, they’re some of the best athletes in Division I football,” Cowan said. “(When) you play against better teams in the Pac-12, you want to play up to their level and show that you’re capable of playing at that level.”
The Vandal defense is tasked with defending the notorious air raid offense of Washington State (0-2) led by quarterback Luke Falk. The junior averages 61 attempts, 459 yards and four touchdowns per game.
“They’ve got a really great quarterback and really good receivers,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said. “They’re going to score points, so we’ve got to score points.”
The Vandals (1-1) will look to junior quarterback Matt Linehan to put Idaho on the scoreboard Saturday. Idaho quarterback coach Charley Molnar said Linehan’s strong performance against No. 8 Washington was aided by quick passes early in the game to establish a rhythm.
“We really just have to take care of ourselves, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” Molnar said. “If we don’t do our jobs correctly, we’ll have a long day at the offense. If we can come out and get our rhythm going, get our confidence going, we feel like we can play with a lot of different schools.”
On the other side of the border, Washington State head coach Mike Leach said he was concerned about the energy level of his team after a 31-28 road loss to Boise State Saturday.
“We have the atmosphere of a JC softball game,” Leach said. “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s like the team that wins is the one that has the most fun.”
Leach criticized various aspects of his team’s offense and said he is disappointed in the results of the first two weeks of the season.
“I’ve got receivers running routes that don’t resemble anything that we teach,” Leach said. “We don’t tuck the ball and go straight up the field, we do all these stupid moves. We run out of bounds more than any team in the country.”
Idaho senior tight end Deon Watson said he is prepared to meet a fired up Washington State team.
“They’re going to come out and compete, try and get their first win,” Watson said. “They’re going to be fighting and scratching also. We take them very seriously, but (we) realize we can definitely utilize some mismatches.”
Cowan said the team will stay true to itself and its offense.
“We just need to go out and execute the plays that the coaches call. If we do that, good things will happen,” Cowan said.
The teams take the field at 11 a.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium in Pullman.
Josh Grissom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GoshJrissom