This is as good a week as any for Idaho to be heading into a bye week.
The Vandals headed to Jonesboro, Ark. looking to put up a fight with future conference-mate Arkansas State with an eye toward putting behind them the demons of last week’s 61-14 blowout to Fresno State.
Instead, Idaho got on the plane back to Moscow with a 48-24 loss and down to its third-string quarterback.
Starting quarterback Chad Chalich went down in the first quarter with a shoulder injury, giving the show to senior Taylor Davis. Davis was promoted to the back-up role after Josh McCain went down with a shoulder injury last week in the 4th quarter against Fresno State.
Davis, who hadn’t played since 2012’s season-finale at Utah State, was able to shake off the rust from a poor first half to be effective in spurts in second half. He finished 14-of-39 for 199 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dezmon Epps in the second half as part of a 17-point Idaho run that cut the lead to 31-24 in the 4th quarter, set up off of a timely Trey Williams 37-yard interception return.
Unfortunately for Davis and the Vandals, Paul Petrino let Austin Rehkow kick the ball to J.D. McKinnis. McKinnis put an end to Idaho’s comeback attempt with 14:10 left in the game with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Idaho wouldn’t put points on the board for the rest of the night after that point.
“That’s all on me,” Paul Petrino said. “I went into the game saying we weren’t going to let him beat us and then I kicked it to him so that’s my fault.”
The game had all the makings of another road blowout early in the first quarter when the Red Wolves quickly jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Then Arkansas State tried to get cute, attempting a fake punt on 4th and 1 on its own 42. Idaho stuffed the attempt and took it down in four plays to cut the lead to 14-7.
Idaho fought for momentum the rest of the night. After its 17 straight point output cut the Arkansas State lead to 31-24, the Red Wolves put up 17 straight of their own to finish off the 48-24 blowout.
Still, for an Idaho team that has been plastered on the road its first three tries this particular trip down to Sun Belt country on will bear some positives.
One is the fact that the game was not decided until mid-way through the fourth quarter. Two would be Idaho’s production in the running game. Senior James Baker took control of the running game, going for 150 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards a touch. Three would be that its third-string quarterback played well enough to lead a potential comeback in the second half.
“I trusted in the guys upfront up front, just trying to run hard, keep my pads low and played my game,” Baker said.
The positives didn’t come without a cost. Along with Chalich, defensive end Quinton Bradley and offensive tackle Jesse Davis left the game with injuries in the first half. It’s likely Bradley re-aggravated the shoulder injury he sustained against Northern Illinois.
On Chalich, Petrino said he wouldn’t comment until he heard from team doctors.
Idaho comes back home for a much needed bye-week, one Idaho will surely hope it can use to get healthy at quarterback. Only true freshman Matt Linehan remains behind Davis as healthy quarterback options right now.
– Dezmon Epps had another very strong game, finishing with 91 yards receiving on eight catches and a touchdown
– Austin Rehkow kept his roll kicking field goals, hitting from 28 yards out to go to 6-of-11 on the year
– Idaho’s 24 points tonight is the most for a road outing this season. Idaho went over 20 points on the road last season once, putting up 28 at La. Tech.