MOSCOW, Idaho – Chad Chalich has sidestepped most questions the last two weeks about how he’s performed as Idaho’s de facto No. 1 quarterback. Instead, he’s talked about his offensive line, his receivers, his tight ends, his coaches – anyone but him, usually.
But since the first practice of fall camp, he’s told reporters variations of the same thing: “We’re going to score a lot of touchdowns and win a lot of games this season.”
He repeated this same line three times Saturday in a four-minute interview. After his superb scrimmage Saturday, it sounded much more convincing.
Chalich completed 19 straight passes, several of them deep throws, to finish a remarkable afternoon in which he threw for 414 yards and accounted for seven touchdowns. Two of his TDs went to his former Coeur d’Alene High teammate, Deon Watson.
The redshirt freshman’s 19-of-20 passing effort further solidified his spot atop the Vandals’ depth chart at quarterback. But coach Paul Petrino still won’t say who will start Week 1 against North Texas, and he might not reveal the starter before the first game to keep UNT coaches guessing before Aug. 31.
It’s not much of a mystery at this point, though.
“It was really good,” Petrino said of Chalich’s performance. “There (were) a couple plays where he still made me upset, but other than that he played really well.”
Aside from the two misreads Petrino pointed out and a batted-down pass to start the scrimmage, Chalich had his way against UI’s beleaguered secondary. He threw a scrambling 32-yard TD strike to Najee Lovett in the first series, then unfurled throws of 48 yards to Dezmon Epps, 55 yards to Mike LaGrone and 59 yards to Watson.
Chalich took all the snaps in the first three series, when starters on both sides were on the field, and he also ran for 32 yards and two scores.
“I felt I did pretty good,” Chalich said. “There’s always areas of improvement, but I got after it today. I made some plays.”
After last week’s live scrimmage, in which the quarterbacks were sacked 11 times, Petrino changed it up Saturday. The QBs were off limits, but the offensive line – with tackle Jesse Davis back but still missing guard Dallas Sandberg (concussion) – handled pressure better than last week.
Chalich took advantage of the time and showed an accurate touch on deep balls. The most eye-catching was a sideline bomb to Watson, his longtime teammate and a big target at 6-foot-4.
“We’ve been together since first grade just playing football all through junior tackle, high school and now here,” Chalich said. “We have that chemistry, we know what each guy is going to do. So, yeah, (Watson is) a great guy. He has great speed, great size, great hands.”
Watson said he’s felt progressively more comfortable with Petrino’s system and reading defenses since spring. The 5:30 a.m. workouts and long practices are starting to pay off, the redshirt freshman said.
“You really are starting to see these guys come together, even the defense,” he said. “I don’t know, I just appreciate being a Vandal now.”
Safety Trey Williams could return Monday after missing all of fall camp with an apparent knee injury. “We need to get him back here,” Petrino said after the secondary struggled. … Running backs Kris Olugbode and James Baker sat out again with undisclosed injuries. Defensive tackle QuayShawne Buckley also sat out, while offensive lineman Spencer Beale had his right leg in a boot.