MOSCOW, Idaho – In a moment of pure joy, Idaho coach Paul Petrino sought out his wife and youngest daughter near midfield. Members of his staff gave each other – and their smiling families – warm hugs. And his players?
After a 26-24 win over Temple on Saturday that wasn’t decided until the final play, most of the Vandals danced around the Kibbie Dome while trying to remember how they were supposed to react to a victory.
Finally, with a bit of direction, they gathered together and went from sideline to sideline, greeting fans and singing the Idaho fight song.
“Happy, just real happy,” Petrino said when asked to describe his emotions after his first career win. “Happy for my wife. Happy for my kids, for the assistant coaches, for the players.”
A night after Petrino read his team a poem about perseverance that his father recited to him and his teammates at Carroll College, the Vandals vanquished a 10-game losing streak that stretched to last October. They had dropped 25 of 28 games since the start of 2011.
“I think it’s good for the team to see it come together, see all the hard work we’ve been putting in finally pay off on the field,” said defensive end Maxx Forde, who had a sack, a tackle for loss and four quarterback hurries.
With key contributions from a number of freshman, most notably quarterback Chad Chalich, the turnover-free Vandals (1-4) held on after Temple rallied from 14 points down to draw within two with 3:32 to go.
Chalich scrambled for 10 yards on third-and-10 with less than 3 minutes left to help drain the clock. It was the key play of the game, and it punctuated a 310-yard passing, 114-yard rushing performance from the Coeur d’Alene product.
He became what appears to be the first Idaho quarterback to pass for 300-plus yards and rush for 100-plus in the same game. The last Vandals QB to pass for 200 or more and run for 100 or more was Scott Linehan in 1984.
The Vandals got four field goals from true freshman Austin Rehkow of Spokane, while their only two touchdowns came from true freshman running back Richard Montgomery.
In addition to freshmen accounting for all of Idaho’s scoring, the Vandals started a true freshman guard, Steven Matlock, on the reshuffled offensive line.
“Definitely good to know we’ll be in good hands,” said Rehkow, who was 4 of 5 on field goals after making just one in the first four games.
In a last-gasp attempt, Temple took over with 10 seconds left needing a field goal to win. Connor Reilly’s Hail Mary heave toward the end zone was batted down by safety Jordan Grabski – another true freshman – to end the game.
Afterward, an emotional Petrino came back to the poem he read in the team meeting room Friday night.
“Give me a man that steps forward when others steps back, that holds on when others let go, doesn’t know the words ‘can’t’ and ‘quit,’ and I’ll give you a man that will win in the end,” Petrino said, reciting part of the poem. “That’s what they were today. They were a bunch of men that won in the end.”