| 03.17.2018

Freshmen step up — Underclassmen carry the load in first win for Vandals


It was the season-defining performance for redshirt freshman Chad Chalich. It was true freshman Richard Montgomery’s lightning-like quickness — Austin Rehkow’s precision under pressure, just five games into the season for yet another true freshman.

And don’t discount first-year offensive guard Steven Matlock, who made his first start on an offensive line that allows more sacks than any other in the FBS. That line allowed a season-low two sacks Saturday.

The Idaho Vandals won their first football game under coach Paul Petrino Saturday and it’d be disrespectful to detract from the performance of the team’s underclassmen, a group that accounted for all of Idaho’s points in a 26-24 win over Temple.

Petrino made sure to note each of his young guns during the postgame press conference, beginning with Rehkow, his true freshman kicker/punter, who single-handedly accounted for 12 of the team’s points and connected on 4-5 of his field goal attempts after starting the season 1-5.

“I was fired up, fired up that he made them. It’s big time,” Petrino said. “He’s going to be really, really special.”

Special was a common word that could’ve applied to any number of freshmen Saturday — Matlock included.

“Starting a true freshman at offensive guard is almost unheard of in Division I, that kid’s so tough I love him,” Petrino said. “Obviously, he’s a redhead so he’s tough.”

On the few occasions that

Rehkow wasn’t called upon, a contingent of young guns flexed their muscle to help drive downfield and into the end zone.

Chalich, who played his first full game of Division I ball, was exceptional in the air and on the ground. The Coeur d’Alene product was 26-for-43 passing with 310 yards and became the first Idaho quarterback since 1993 to rush for more than 100 yards. College Sports Madness named him the Independent Offensive Player of the Week.

“We’ve got a young team, we’ve got a long ways to go … but these young guys stepped up tonight, made great plays and we’re just going to keep getting better, keep being successful,” said Chalich, who hooked up with redshirt freshman receiver and former CDA teammate Deon Watson five times for 33 yards Saturday.

Montgomery, who possesses the type of engine that any Division I coach would drool over, showcased his high-tempo style on a number of occasions. The Jacksonville speedster (Atlantic Coast High School) found himself on the receiving end of Idaho’s first touchdown of the afternoon, when Chalich rolled out to the left and saw his running back streaking down the other side of the field. Chalich hit Montgomery on stride and the rest was history.

Montgomery scored again in the second quarter, rushing into the end zone from 5 yards out.

“He has speed that definitely helps our offense and makes it more diverse– so he’s a great player, great athlete,” Chalich said.

Petrino, a firm believer in the idea that those who produce during practice are the same ones who see time on Saturdays, put that notion into action Saturday, when he favored Montgomery over veteran back James Baker and junior college transfer Kris Olugbode.

The same was seen with Chalich, who took 100 percent of the snaps Saturday. It was the first time this season Petrino opted not to utilize junior Josh McCain, who had rotated in and out for the first four games.

“We’re going to start the guys who practice the best, we’re going to give the ball to the guys who practice the best,” Petrino said.

Saturday, a contingent of youngsters carried the load and if it results in victory, Petrino is just fine with that.

Theo Lawson can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu 

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