MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho Vandals fans no doubt hope Jennifer Lee will be piling up the frequent-flier miles this fall.
Lee made the trip to Moscow from Champaign, Illinois, to see her son in a Vandals uniform for the first time Saturday. D.J. Lee, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, rewarded her with four touchdown catches, two each from quarterbacks Colton Richardson and Mason Petrino.
“It was pretty exciting. I’m impressed. He did well,” Jennifer Lee said.
In addition to the touchdowns, Lee scored some thoughtful-son points.
“I came out with a different attitude today,” he said. “It’s Mom’s Weekend, and she came all the way from Illinois.”
Lee’s breakout day was foreshadowed in the first few spring practices, according to Idaho head coach Paul Petrino. But his play tailed off as coaches continued to introduce more of the offense over the course of spring workouts.
“He was playing too much not to make mistakes,” Petrino said.
But Lee showed he has become comfortable with Idaho’s scheme.
“My man No. 11 went off,” junior cornerback Lloyd Hightower said approvingly of Lee’s performance. Hightower also had a pair of highlights. He thwarted Richardson with tight coverage on a pair of scoring attempts, a short fade to Jeff Cotton and a 37-yard strike to Brandon Luckett.
Mason Petrino, however, completed a 7-yard pass in the corner of the end zone to Kaden Elliss, who has 4 inches and almost 60 pounds on Hightower and was able to wrestle the ball away from him.
“It was good on both sides of the ball,” Hightower said of the scrimmage. The defense did well. We tackled well. But as an individual I’ve got to improve.”
Paul Petrino believes the Vandals have improved since their first scrimmage.
The offensive line, a question going into spring, passed an early test. With a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line on the opening series, Petrino called four straight runs that concluded with Dylan Thigpen, running as an I-formation tailback (a power set that Idaho doesn’t use often) taking a 1-yard pitch in for a score.
The Vandals’ defense was able to get occasional pressure on Mason Petrino and Richardson. However, the QBs were sharp. The scrimmage format opened with Petrino and Richardson alternating series with first down at the 20-yard line. Later in the practice, the offense tried to score from 70 yards out, with the quarterbacks subbing in for each other after as few as two plays. For the day, Petrino threw for six touchdowns, Richardson five.
Petrino found Lee open against single coverage on a pair of long throws. Richardson drilled 19-yard and 15-yard missiles to him in tight quarters.
“I came out here today saying I’m not going to take any plays off,” Lee said. “This is my first year here, and I have to earn that spot. I wanted to show the coach I’ve got what he needs.”
After attending to that, Lee was ready to spend the remainder of Saturday making sure his mom was enjoying Moscow and the UI.
“We’ll probably go shopping,” she said. “I may hang out with him at a fraternity later. You know, college stuff.”
Note: Quarterback Dylan Lemle missed the scrimmage because of a death in the family.