The Idaho football team has improved. I’ve been preaching it since spring, and despite its 0-2 record — I still stand by my words.
With that being said, the bad shouldn’t be ignored.
Big plays have been the demise of the defense. It took 10 passes to only two receivers for Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell to accumulate 241 yards. More notably, against Louisiana-Monroe, quarterback Pete Thomas completed two long passes to lead his team on a game winning drive.
In two games the defense surrendered almost 400 rushing yards. On Saturday, WMU running back Jarvion Franklin, not even five months removed from his high school prom, rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns.
The offensive line has given up eight sacks and there have been too many penalties — the list goes on, but the worrying needs to stop. The team will improve and is in good shape for the future.
The main reason for my optimism is redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Linehan. His stellar play is noteworthy. He led the Vandals to a touchdown on the first drive of his collegiate career and passed for more than 300 yards in each of his first two games.
His talent is obvious, but Linehan’s leadership is what stands out. It started in spring and fall camps. Whether it was running down the sideline to celebrate a touchdown pass he didn’t even throw or being the first to encourage a teammate who just made a mistake, the young quarterback took over a role the team desperately needed.
For the next three to four years, Linehan will be surrounded by a young nucleus on offense. True freshman offensive lineman Jordan Rose, running back Aaron Duckworth, wide receiver David Ungerer and sophomore wide receivers Deon Watson, Richard Montgomery and Jacob Sannon all have three years of eligibility remaining.
The offense hasn’t had much time together and has already proved to be the strength of the team early on. The more it plays together, the better it will get.
Coach Paul Petrino is only in his second year and took over a program that couldn’t get much worse. He has the program moving forward, has his quarterback of the future and has a conference for his team to compete in.
For now, wins will be tough to come by. Fans need to be patient and look at the small improvements being made. The first game against ULM was fun to watch as the Vandals were in it until the very end. The home opener against WMU was hard to watch, but still, Idaho was close — an improvement from last season.