Petrino met with the media on Tuesday for a 10-minute chat about Idaho's 52-45 loss at South Alabama and the upcoming home game against Appalachian State. The Vandals for a second straight week conceded a three-score lead, this time a 24-0 advantage by giving up 45 points in the second half. Special teams miscues led to 14 of those points, while an Elijhaa Penny fumble which was scooped up for a score led to another seven.
The Vandals (3-6, 2-4 Sun Belt) will try to get right against Appalachian State. The Mountaineers saw their Sun Belt title hopes fade last week with a 40-27 home loss to Arkansas State. That was a week after App. State needed two overtimes to survive Troy 44-41. Idaho fell 45-28 last season in Boone, N.C.
Read further for Petrino's comments
On if he's been through two games in a row like this
"Not that I remember, not two weeks in a row. I think it's a little bit of two things. I think one, our guys have done a great job along with our assistant coaches in preparation. I think we've been prepared for games, we had a great plan, were ready to play right off the bat and that's why we've gotten the leads. For that I applaud them, I applaud the assistant coaches. We were warming up in that game looking at South Alabama players and they looked like an SEC team, talent wise. So that part of it, you applaud them a ton.
And then, just in the second half ... Is it a little bit of lack of depth? Do we get worn out a little bit? Is it still not being able to make the play when it's a very crucial situation, that's what we got to keep working on to address."
On how he liked his leadership and toughness
"Our leadership and toughness was great. Because what we're worried about, the leadership part of it is getting ready to play, are we going to come out and play right off the bat and be ready? And our leaders did a great job of getting everybody ready to play. Our toughness was great, we didn't turn down hits, our physicality was great. Where we killed ourselves was a couple huge plays we gave up in special teams, and then just here and there where we don't ... a couple third downs we didn't convert on offense and in the fourth quarter when we cut it to seven (point deficit) twice and we don't stop them to give us a chance to send it to overtime. As far as the guys that played on the field, I think they were warriors. They played a ton of snaps. We don't really have a ton of subs, I think they battled their hearts out."
On what he can take out of these last two games
"Yeah, I think we just keep working on it and keep improving. What I think also what we've seen the last two weeks is how much further we've come along in the program. The amount of points we've scored the last two weeks, the yards that we've rolled up is great. We have a bunch of guys coming back on offense so I think that's a great light at the end of the tunnel of where we can get to, is how I can put it."
On if he did something different to get Deon Watson (7 rec, 109 yds, 2 TD) the ball
"We just try to move him around. Sometimes you pick a certain corner you're going to go after and sometimes, some people have been rolling certain coverages to Deon to stop certain things we're doing to him earlier, we tried a few different things to get him the ball in this game. Deon did a great job of getting himself ready to play, he had a couple nice releases and had a great game."
On Matt Linehan's performance
"Great performance from Matt, he's thrown for 300 yards two weeks in a row, made big time runs and really he went from coming out of fall camp without his top three receivers, so I just think ... certain guys like that. Quinton Bradley couldn't have played better. Talk about playing your heart out, he led us in tackles and a lot of those tackles were down the field. Unbelievable effort and hustle, there were a couple of guys like that it breaks your heart because they played good enough to win. Right now we're playing with about 29 guys, we have to get all 29 guys to play like that."
On how important tight ends Trent Cowan and Deon Watson have been
"Huge. Trent and Deon have been so big, I think their leadership, their toughness, their belief in themselves and each other and their confidence on the sideline and the confidence they bring to the field, they believe they're going to make the big plays, especially in crucial situations. Trent and Deon have been really, really big here lately."
On if Epps' absence has helped Linehan grow rapport with other receivers
"Yeah, I think he had a good rapport Trent and Deon already but I definitely agree with Hightower. It's helped him a lot, the last two weeks he's had nine catches and 10 catches and had a couple big catches. His diving catch on third down is what got momentum coming back in the third quarter, it's definitely helped him. Jante didn't show up in the game but he made plays during the week in practice and did the week before and Reuben making the big play down the sideline, it's helped everybody."
On Elijhaa Penny's performance (35 rushes, 135 yards, 2TD)
"You can't get much tougher than that, run the ball over 30 times. That's another one of those guys you really felt bad for in the locker room afterwards. He's been playing his heart out, it was a shame he's only fumbled once the whole year and that guy made a great play, put his helmet right on the ball. That's happened earlier in the year and Elijhaa has held on to it. He was really beating himself up over that, but he played his heart out and played very well."
On Cowan and Watson's development at tight end
"I think they both got stronger and bigger in the offseason, it's helped them getting off of little jams and guys getting their hands on them. They've lost a little weight here recently and we have to try and get it back a little bit. I just think, when they got bigger ... sometimes it's hard to convince guys that if they get bigger and stronger that they'll get faster. Sometimes guys are worried that when they get bigger that they're going to slow down, but both of those guys are really working hard to improve their strength and both got faster this season. I think that's really helped them both.
Where they hurt people, if you put a big linebacker on them, they're faster and if you put a normal size cornerback or safety on them, they're bigger and more physical than them."
On Appalachian State's key players
"Yeah, we have to mix it up on them. If you look at the stats, they lead every category on both sides of the ball. So, that's their boundry corner No. 5 (Latrell Gibbs), he does a good job. (Ronald) Blair, he's probably the one who worries you the most, No. 49 the defensive lineman. No. 88 (John Law) is a good linebacker. Offensively, their quarterback (Taylor Lamb) and running backs are good also. We definitely have to know where No. 5 (Gibbs) is at all times. He does a good job in zone coverage of tricking the quarterback into thinking the zone is open and then breaking on the ball and he has really good ball skills in picking the ball off."
On when he made the decision to dismiss Epps from the program
"That was something that we had talked about and we made the final decision on Sunday. We made our statement, I wish Dezmon all the best in the world. He'll always have a very special place in my heart and I'll do everything I can for him. But that's where we stand and that's kind of the end of it. Let's just talk about the guys who are playing now."
On what Appalachian State's recent struggles has revealed on tape
"Yeah, definitely if you look at the last two weeks people have had a lot more success against them than anybody up to this point so we've been studying hard and we actually started watching it on the plane ride home. Studied it hard Sunday, Monday and all day today so far. I think we're coming up with a really good plan. We just have to work hard and execute it.
Arkansas State defensively was just so physical running around got a turnover for a touchdown. Offensively, they ran the ball really well. Some of the runs that they did, some of their quarterback runs aren't necessarily what we do all the time, but there were some things we can take from both games that can help us."
On what the final two home games mean
"This week has been a lot like Homecoming. Our seniors have two games left in that dome. And those guys have done a great job for us and really worked hard so we have to go out there and do everything we can to get those guys a win in their last two home games."
On if Appalachian State is a program he's looked at as a program-building blueprint
"I have, I studied them a lot in the offseason and defensively we have very similar schemes. They just do things right. They have good players who know how to play hard, they do a great job of coaching. They're a team that I like to watch play, they're a team I study, the run the ball well and they got a coach's son at quarterback who knows how to take care of the ball and makes big plays. He really throws the ball well deep when he has to and they just do a lot of good things."
On what the losses of David Ungerer, Jacob Sannon and Jayshawn Jordan this year has meant
"It's just been crazy injuries that have lasted forever. Those could all be a positive thing next year but they really hurt our depth this year. Where it's really shown up is special teams. Jacob was our best special teams player last year, by far, Jayshawn was a great special teams player. It's hurt us both depth on offense and defense but it's really hurt us in special teams"
Petrino said all of the three should be eligible for medical redshirts.
On Ungerer's disciplinary status following alleged DUI arrest
"His status right now, we have to let the legal course take its course and then he'll be disciplined accordingly. He can't play right now regardless but if he could he wouldn't until the legal course took its course."
On Jordan Grabski returning from injury last week
"It was, and I think he'll be even better this week. That first week he comes back and you get playing but I think he could really help us this week and on special teams also."
On the defensive game plan against Appalachian State
"You got to stop the run first, that's what they believe in first. You have to stop the outside zone, they have some nice schemes, when you're watching their offensive line it's really one of the best offensive lines in the conference if not the best offensive line in the conference. Have to stop the run first and just know they're going to take shots, they're going to throw the ball down the field."
On the offensive line progression
"This is the best our offensive line has played, I think coach Cinkovich has done an amazing job. Those guys just keep improving week in and week out, and that's a great thing especially when you have most all of them coming back."
On Jordan Rose's move from guard to tackle
"I think it helped, I think it helped a lot. The thing about him and Mason is that they're really interchangeable and there's times in games where you can flip them back and forth. There's times where Rose plays guard and Mason plays tackle and then we flip them back. I just think it helps a lot, it helps that they all love football and they all work hard in practice every day and they all keep improving."
On Cinkovich's role with the offensive line compared to offensive coordinator
"You know, when you're a position coach and a coordinator your first thing always is being that position coach anyway. Good thing is we have a lot of experience on the staff, but no he still does all of his duties."