Paul Petrino looked at Saturday’s game at Arkansas State as a measuring stick for what’s to come when the Idaho football coach leads his program to the Sun Belt next season.
What the first year Idaho coach probably didn’t anticipate was that it’d be his third-string quarterback leading the Vandals in their most competitive road game of the season.
It was senior Taylor Davis who led Idaho for over three quarters, orchestrating a 17-point third quarter run to cut Arkansas State’s lead to 31-24 with 14:22 left in the game. The hope ended there when ASU receiver J.D. McKissic took it back 98 yards on the kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff to make it 38-24. Idaho couldn’t recover from there.
“That’s all on me,” 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 bared positives for Idaho, who had been outscored on the road 124-16 going into Saturday’s game. The Vandals were within one touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The Vandals were down to their third-string quarterback and behind the legs of a 150-yard rusher James Baker, but it wasn’t enough as the Red Wolves dominated the final 14 minutes of the game.
“We just started executing better,” Petrino said. “The second half, we started making plays, executing better.”
Davis, who was promoted to backup when Josh McCain hurt his shoulder last week, came in to relieve starter Chad Chalich when Chalich fell on his shoulder taking a sack in the first quarter.
Chalich would stay on the sideline in his pads but never returned to the game. Petrino said he wouldn’t comment on the injury until he heard more from the doctors. Idaho only has true freshman Matt Linehan behind Davis as a healthy quarterback — but a bye week is coming for the Vandals.
Twice with Davis under center on Saturday, the Vandals were able to cut large deficits to one-touchdown deficits. Down 14-0, the Vandals took advantage of a failed ASU fake punt to get the ball at the Arkansas State 42-yard line, setting up a James Baker touchdown run.
Arkansas State answered back, led by quarterback Adam Kennedy, who threw his third of four touchdown passes shortly before halftime to put the Red Wolves up 24-7 at the half.
Kennedy threw touchdown pass number four to open up scoring in the second half, putting Arkansas State up 31-7. The rout was on until Idaho’s Trey Williams picked off Kennedy and brought it back 37 yards, setting up Davis’ first touchdown pass of the season — 15 yards to Dezmon Epps.
Idaho would get the ball back and behind the powerful running of Baker, took it 74 yards down the field on nine plays to make it 31-24 before McKissic put it away for Arkansas State on the very next play.
“It’s still a process,” Petrino said.
Sean Kramer can be reached at email@example.com