MOSCOW, Idaho – All week, Idaho head football coach Paul Petrino had seen progress. His dueling quarterbacks, Matt Linehan and Chad Chalich, were getting better. On Wednesday morning, in fact, they shared snaps during what Petrino said “might have been the best practice we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
But then Saturday morning happened. Chalich and Linehan both threw two interceptions and posted similar numbers in the second scrimmage of fall camp to further cloud the starting quarterback race.
Who will open the season under center at Florida on Aug. 30? Petrino hasn’t given an indication, though he did say Linehan played a little better in the first scrimmage last week.
After Saturday’s 128-play scrimmage at the Kibbie Dome, the second-year coach was more focused on the QBs’ mistakes and missed chances – almost all of which came under constant pressure from Idaho’s defensive front – than sorting out a starter.
“You know, they can’t turn the ball over,” Petrino said. “I got to watch it on tape because they both had really good weeks. They both got way better during the week. They can’t turn the ball over and they can’t miss wide-open touchdowns. And they both had a little bit of that.”
Linehan, a redshirt freshman, was 19 of 33 for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Chalich, a redshirt sophomore from Coeur d’Alene, was 15 of 22 for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Both tried to force balls into coverage with defensive ends Quinton Bradley and Anthony Rice, among others, bearing down on them. But Petrino also liked how they bounced back.
“We’ve got two more weeks,” he said. “We’ll keep improving. They’re both young and we’ll keep moving on and getting better.”
Neither Linehan nor Chalich was made available to the media (Petrino said they needed a break from reporters). It seems increasingly likely that both will take snaps in Week 1 against the Gators, as Petrino mentioned was a possibility before camp started.
On Saturday, the offensive line did a better job run-blocking than protecting Chalich, Linehan or freshman Jake Luton. Senior tailback Kris Olugbode gashed the defense for 158 yards and two scores on 13 carries. Newcomer Elijhaa Penny also broke open a 41-yard run late in the scrimmage.
The biggest bright spot, Petrino said, was Bradley, a junior from San Antonio who missed four games last year because of injuries. The quarterbacks were off-limits, but he piled up three touch sacks and could have had more if Petrino hadn’t told the officials to keep plays going.
“A lot of sacks did not get called, but Coach told me that the offense still has to get work, so I understand,” Bradley said. “When you’re out there, though, you want the sacks to get your name in the paper.”
Rice, who played mostly with the second-team defense, had four sacks. Fellow defensive lineman Ryan Edwards led the team with nine tackles.
The secondary also looked sharp for much of the day. Starting cornerback Jayshawn Jordan had one interception and two pass breakups, and roving defensive back Bradley Njoku picked off Chalich after blanketing receiver Jacob Sannon down the field.
“It was good to get those interceptions,” Petrino said. “We just can’t be throwing them.”
Freshman Jordan Rose, an offensive lineman from Freeman High, has a good chance of starting, Petrino said. The Vandals were without junior college transfers Jeff Travillion and Kato Fawkes and junior returner Cody Elenz, all of whom have undisclosed injuries. … Freshman David Ungerer, who starred at Pullman High, will probably see time this season at receiver, Petrino said. Ungerer also returned punts during Saturday’s scrimmage.