MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho Vandals don’t have a clear-cut starting quarterback heading into the summer. But they have playmakers in spades – and a starting defensive front brimming with confidence.
Idaho finished their spring with the Silver and Gold game at the Kibbie Dome on Friday night, with Matt Linehan and Chad Chalich looking as close to one another in a nip-and-tuck QB race as they had over the past five weeks.
The two young quarterbacks alternated snaps with the first-team offense, which carried the Gold team to a 61-7 victory in the four-quarter spring game.
The real story, though, was the explosiveness shown by sophomore offensive threat Richard Montgomery and the dominance of the first-team defensive front seven.
Montgomery, a 5-foot-8 scatback/receiver from Jacksonville, Fla., started the spring game with a 61-yard touchdown on a wheel route out of the backfield. Then he flashed his brilliant speed on a 15-yard draw play for a TD and a 61-yard scamper during which he outraced the second-team defense for another score.
He had with 163 total yards (83 rushing, 80 receiving) and three TDs.
It wasn’t just Montgomery’s quickness that excited coach Paul Petrino. The whole team, he said, is noticeably quicker – and better – than his first spring a year ago.
“Our team’s just so much faster,” Petrino said. “Our whole team works so much harder. You can hear the hitting. You can just see it out there and hear it. We’re just a way better football team and it’s exciting.
“I think the attitude, the effort and just the feeling that we have (on) the team is awesome.”
Montgomery was the biggest playmaker on the field. But other offensive players stood out, most notably sophomore receivers Jacob Sannon (nine catches, 142 yards) and Deon Watson (nine for 160), as well as senior wideout Dezmon Epps (11 for 121).
Meanwhile, converted wideout Josh McCain left the scrimmage with a left ankle injury but still had 80 yards receiving. Petrino said the senior should be fine.
“We’re not solely dependent on one person,” Watson said of the receiving group. “The depth is crazy.”
Running backs Kris Olugbode and Jerrel Brown also traded the spotlight with mixed success. Olugbode had the longest run of the night, a 40-yard carry up the middle, and finished with 80 yards on 10 rushes. Brown had 14 carries for 86 yards.
Much of the night, though, the defensive line clogged the running lanes. That was particularly the case with the first unit, led by QuayShawne Buckley and Maxx Forde, going against the second-team offense.
“I think it has a chance to be pretty special,” Petrino said of the defensive line.
Linehan took the bulk of the throws as he did most of the spring, finishing 30 of 46 for 373 yards through the air. Chalich was 16 of 27 for 306 yards. Both had two TDs.
Petrino reiterated that he’s fine not naming a starter until the fall. He wants to develop both as if they’ll play in games.
“It’s a win-win situation for us,” Watson said.
The Vandals walk away from spring with a positive vibe. Earlier in the week Petrino said the Vandals were ahead of schedule, while multiple players said there was a completely different energy with the team than last year.
“We’re all ready to start winning,” Chalich said. “It’s been a while.”