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Vandals tumble 40-6 at North Texas

The first few minutes of Paul Petrino's debut as head coach and Chad Chalich's debut as a collegiate quarterback couldn't have gone better. Idaho marched down the field for a quick touchdown at North Texas, then recovered an onsides kick to get the ball back.

After that, almost nothing went right.

North Texas steamrolled to a 40-6 season-opening win over the Vandals at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas. Idaho lost its third straight season opener, and it had itself to blame for many of the things that went wrong.

The Vandals had 11 penalties and lost three fumbles. True freshman place-kicker Austin Rehkow missed the extra point on the game's first score and also missed a 40-yarder later Saturday night. And the Vandals' punt team gave up two long returns and couldn't convert a fake punt attempt in the first half.

A Texas-flavored opener for Vandals

Idaho football fans will get the first taste of the Vandals' 2013 season — and Paul Petrino's head-coaching career — this evening in Denton, Texas. The Vandals clash with the North Texas Mean Grean, a Conference USA team that went 4-8 in 2012 and is a 16-point favorite. Kickoff is 4 p.m. Pacific.

We've got lots to share after the link.

Notes from UI’s Media Day & mock game

It was a busy day inside the Kibbie Dome, with the Vandals going through game situations in their mock game and then holding their Media Day in the Litehouse Center.

We recap all the action below.

Petrino: I know who will start at QB

Idaho football coach Paul Petrino won't announce who will start at quarterback for the Vandals in their season opener at North Texas. But he said after practice Thursday morning that he and the team know who will start, and so does “anyone who's around” practice every day.

“I know who the starter is,” Petrino told The Spokesman-Review. “I’m just not announcing it.”

That comment, combined with what's taken place during fall camp, suggests redshirt freshman Chad Chalich will be under center in the first series against UNT on Aug. 31. Chalich, a former Coeur d'Alene High star, has been the best QB the last three weeks, outplaying newcomer Josh McCain and senior Taylor Davis.

Chalich completed 19 straight passes to finish the second fall scrimmage last week. He took all the snaps in the first three series and threw for 414 yards and five touchdowns. Asked if Chalich's performance was as impressive after watching tape as it seemed right after the scrimmage, Petrino said, “Yeah. He played really well.”

Petrino laughed after saying that practice observers know who the starting QB will be. But he also said his policy of not announcing the starting quarterback applies to other positions.

“Anyone who’s around, they know who the starter is,” Petrino said. “Our players know. I just don’t know what good it does to let North Texas know, personally. I’m not announcing who’s starting at defensive nose guard, either.”

Idaho practice notes: O-line improving

Sandwiched between two-a-day practices on Monday and Wednesday, the Vandals practiced Tuesday morning for more than two hours. We've got a brief report and an update on the strides the offensive line is taking after the jump.

Petrino on scrimmage No. 2 and Chalich’s huge day

Idaho's second scrimmage didn't go quite as long as the first, nor was it quite as hot in Moscow for the late morning/early afternoon session. Still, after the first and second units scrimmaged for more than 90 minutes, coach Paul Petrino had the third team, filled with mostly newcomers, go for close to another 45 minutes on their own.

We've got a summary of quarterback Chad Chalich's remarkable 19-of-20 passing day and Petrino's full comments to the media with the season opener at North Texas two weeks away.

Petrino on first scrimmage

The Idaho football team scrimmaged for just over two hours Saturday morning and early afternoon, and that was after 30 minutes of warm-ups and position drills. It was a long day in the heat. Afterward, first-year coach Paul Petrino met with reporters. The full transcript of his interview is below.

UPDATE: My story on Quinton Bradley and the scrimmage can be found here.

Vandals practice under lights on Day 4

The Vandals concluded Day 4 of fall camp with a two-hour practice on a beautiful evening in Moscow. Not too hot, not too windy. Just right. I've got notes from the practice and after talking to coach Paul Petrino.

Vandals’ first day in the books

The Idaho football team started preparing for the 2013 season in earnest this afternoon in Moscow. Our first practice report of fall camp (yes, it's still summer) is below.

UI opens camp with whole new feel

In eight months, the Idaho football program has been (almost) completely remade. The coaching staff is all new, save for tight ends coach Al Pupunu. The offensive playbook under Paul Petrino will be much more extensive and adaptable than in previous years. And though the Vandals will be an independent this season, the uncertainty of a conferenceless future is gone; next year at this time, UI will be prepping for its first season back in the Sun Belt. 

Idaho opens fall camp Monday afternoon at 3, and below the Vandals' new offensive and defensive coordinators share what you can expect from them as coaches.

Petrino addresses media before camp

The Idaho football teams kicks off the season at North Texas exactly one month from tomorrow. And it starts fall camp on Monday with a 3 p.m. practice. Before then, first-year coach Paul Petrino met with reporters today. We have the highlights after the link.

Fall camp approaching for Idaho football

Conferences across the country have been holding media days the last week or two. For Idaho, an independent this season, that means things have been quieter than usual. Paul Petrino took part in the Sun Belt media event (even though UI won't join the league until next year), and Idaho will hold its own media day on Aug. 23 at the Kibbie Dome. Here are other key dates to know over the next month for the Vandals:

  • Aug. 4: Players report for fall camp
  • Aug. 5: First practice of fall (3 p.m.)
  • Aug. 23: Media day (5 p.m., Litehouse Center; mock game at 2 p.m.)
  • Aug. 31: Season opener at North Texas (4 p.m. PST)

We'll keep you updated here and on Twitter at @SR_JoshWright.

Vandals to play at USC in 2015

Idaho continues to stack up big-name (and big-money) football opponents. The latest is USC, which announced Wednesday that it will host the Vandals in 2015. UI will net $1.1 million to play the Trojans, slightly more than they get to travel to Auburn the same season.

The Vandals have played one or two high-profile opponents a season in recent years, and the paydays for these games continues to rise. In 2007, when UI played at USC in Robb Akey's first game as coach, the Vandals took home $600,000. They got $800,000 to play at Nebraska in 2010, and last year LSU paid Idaho $925,000 to play in Baton Rouge.

Idaho's 2013 schedule — its lone year as an independent before joining the Sun Belt — includes money games at Mississippi ($850,000) and Florida State ($950,000). In 2014, UI will get $975,000 to play at Florida.

Also on Wednesday, Idaho announced it will host a football media day on Aug. 23.

Vandals add two defensive assistants

Eric Brown and Bam Hardmon have joined Paul Petrino's staff at Idaho, replacing two former Vandals who left after spring practice ended. Brown will be linebackers coach (a position held by Mike Anderson) and Hardmon will be defensive line coach (formerly Patrick Libey's post).

Brown was with UI defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee at Indiana State. He played at Fresno State and is the son of the late Dan Brown, a longtime Bulldogs coach. “He’s probably one of the greatest young minds in college football,” Petrino said in a release.

Hardmon played at Florida from 1999-2002 and spent last year at Charleston Southern. Petrino mentioned Hardmon's “great connections” in Florida and the Southeast as a recruiter. “Bam is a great young coach,” Petrino said. “He’s fiery, he’s excited and he relates well to the players.”

No charges in Mansel Simmons case

COUGARS

Whitman County prosecutor Denis Tracy has declined to file charges against Idaho receiver Roman Runner or Washington State receiver Mansel Simmons for their role in a March 24 altercation in Pullman.

Pullman Police concluded their investigation into the matter last week and recommended a second-degree assault charge for Runner, who allegedly punched Simmons in the face and knocked him unconscious after Simmons ran at him during a skirmish outside a party.

Simmons, 20, was later treated for facial fractures and a severe concussion, and announced in April that he has been forced to retire from football due to his injuries.

He told the Spokesman-Review last week that he believed he was defending himself when he approached Runner, who had previously shown a knife before putting it away. According to a police press release, both men were being held back by friends before Simmons broke free and ran at Runner, then was knocked to the ground unconscious.

Pullman PD Cmdr. Chris Tennant said Tracy determined that Runner, 21, was acting in self-defense when he punched Simmons. Police also recommended a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for Simmons, though Tennant said Tracy concluded that because of a number of factors, including the extent of Simmons’ injuries, he “didn’t feel (a charge) was appropriate.”

Tracy could not be reached for comment.

Simmons, who has been staying in Phoenix with family and friends as he recovers from his injuries, declined comment Wednesday.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

Kibbie Dome to get new video board

The reshaping of the nearly 40-year-old Kibbie Dome continued Wednesday, when the University of Idaho gained approval from the State Board of Education to install a 50-foot wide, 30-foot tall video board on the east wall of the stadium.

The board will be ready for football games this fall and cost $1.15 million, according to the Idaho Statesman. The athletic department's portion of the total is $787,321, all of which is being funded privately.

Athletic director Rob Spear said tonight that two of the five advertising panels on the state-of-the-art board have yet to be sold. The main sponsor is the Idaho Potato Commission, which will have a large Famous Idaho Potatoes banner across the top of the board. Also involved are Blue Cross of Idaho and Commercial Tire. “I’m very confident we’ll sell two panels,” said Spear, noting that sponsors are paying for the advertising rights over five years but will be able to keep their name on the board for 10 years.

The Kibbie Dome in recent years has undergone a major facelift, getting translucent light panels on both ends, a new club room (surrounded by suites and premium seats) and a new press box. Spear has also pushed through a new weight room, updated lockers and meeting rooms and an outdoor practice field.

“It’s night and day from where it was before,” Spear said.

Akey files suit against Idaho

Former Idaho football coach Robb Akey has filed a lawsuit against the university and the State Board of Education in an attempt to claim a lump-sum media payment withheld from him when he was fired in October.

Akey confirmed the lawsuit Tuesday night to The Spokesman-Review. He declined to go into the specifics of the suit, only to say “Ray Charles could see” what he was seeking from his former employer.

If Akey had finished the 2012 season, he would have received the second of two $105,000 media payments as part of his roughly $375,000 salary. But he was let go with four games left on the Vandals' schedule.

Shortly after he was fired, Akey told the S-R, “If I had coached four more games, they would have had to pay me a third of my salary. You lose a third of your salary it affects your ability to feed your family, so it’s a little disappointing.”

His contract stated that he would receive the second half of the media payment “provided (he) has fully participated in media programs and public appearances” through the team's final regular season game or postseason appearance. 

Akey, whose record was 20-50 as Idaho coach, will be paid his base annual salary of $165,796 through the end of 2014 if he doesn't find a job before then.

Idaho athletic director Rob Spear told the S-R that his department doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Idaho’s Cowan signs with Raiders

For the first time since 2007, Idaho didn't have a player selected in the NFL draft. But at least a few former Vandals will get tryouts via undrafted free agent deals or invitations to minicamps. That includes punter Bobby Cowan, who signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders. Cowan's signing was mentioned by Idaho athletic director Rob Spear and several of Cowan's former teammates on Twitter.

Safety Gary Walker also announced on Twitter that he struck a deal with Baltimore, while cornerback Aaron Grymes (Green Bay) and receiver Justin Veltung (Seattle) appear to have snagged minicamp invites.

Cowan, one of the top punters in Idaho history, will get a chance to replace longtime Raiders punter Shane Lechler, who signed with Houston in March. Lechler was drafted in the fifth round in 2000 and established himself as an All Pro. Lechler's replacement is expected to be Marquette King — but Cowan might have something to say about that.

Two assistants leave Idaho football staff

UPDATED

Three days after the close of spring football, Idaho coach Paul Petrino is suddenly in the hunt for two new defensive assistants. Read on for our brief story.
  

Chalich, Vandals show toughness in spring game

Spring football is over for the Idaho Vandals, and overall Paul Petrino said it was a success. His quarterbacks stayed healthy — despite taking a constant beating — and the same players on offense and defense stepped up over 15 sessions. But he was most impressed by how his team got tougher, something he could see in the way players got themselves off the turf after getting hit. 

We have our spring game story below, as well as lots of quotes to pass along.