MOSCOW, Idaho – His first spring football as Idaho coach complete, Paul Petrino declared the Vandals an improved team from when they started on March 22. But more importantly, he said, they’re a tougher team, too.
The quarterbacks absorbed hit after hit over the course of 15 sessions, and a new batch of junior college running backs and linebackers delivered blows with their physical styles.
But the most impressive thing this spring to Petrino? How players on both sides handled collisions as camp progressed.
“If you’ve noticed the last two scrimmages, there’s a couple guys who got nicked up today, but for the most part, you don’t see guys laying on the ground,” Petrino said. “Usually now if they’re on the ground, they’re actually hurt. Otherwise they jump up; they’re playing tough.”
No player showed that toughness Friday night in the Idaho spring game more than Chad Chalich. The redshirt freshman quarterback from Coeur d’Alene rose above the fray at quarterback – at least until fall camp – with a gritty five-touchdown performance to lead the Silver team to a 54-12 win over the Gold team.
Chalich passed for 332 yards and three touchdowns and showed his comfort in running the read-option with 102 yards on the ground. His last of two rushing TDs came when he lowered his shoulder near the goal line to get into the end zone.
That play and others caught the eye of his teammates.
“We hate to see him get hit at all, but to see someone as small as him get those hits and get back up, I mean, he’s a true warrior – a grinder, as we would say,” tailback Jerrel Brown said. “If Chad can take it, then we’ve got to take the hits. … We love to see the fire in Chad.”
Late in the spring game, Petrino had seen the Silver team – composed of mostly starters – have their way with the Gold team long enough, so he reshuffled each side to pit both first units against each other for the first time.
Two plays into the series, Taylor Davis was relieved at QB by Chalich, and the No. 1 defense had the upper hand in forcing a turnover on downs. But then Chalich led the first-team offense on the next series by extending several plays with his arm or feet and scoring on a tough 10-yard run.
“I thought I was more confident in the pocket and just throwing the ball,” Chalich said.
Petrino declined to name Chalich the starter after spring. But he said he would be the No. 1 QB if the season started next week. JC signee Josh McCain figures to be in the mix in the fall.
Even with the lopsided teams, Brown stood out with 159 yards on 20 carries. He had a larger role with the spring’s other standout at running back, Kris Olugbode, banged up and getting only one carry.