The Idaho Vandals make their third appearance in the state of Alabama this week, this time against SEC power Auburn. The $1 Million guarantee game doesn't present much of a chance for Idaho to get a win, but while the Vandals will still go down there playing to win, Idaho coach Paul Petrino believes this game presents an opportunity for certain players to make cases for the NFL and a case for younger players to get better for next season.
Here are more of his comments.
On what he saw on film from the 47-20 loss to Appalachian State
As you watch the tape, we executed and played pretty well in the first half. In the third quarter we had two third downs that we didn’t execute and we never got the ball back. Our offensive line kind of took the game over in the third quarter and really dominated. You have to execute on those third downs so you’re not standing on the sideline the whole third quarter and that’s kind of where the game got away from us.
On if his players are up to the challenge of playing Auburn
Yeah, I think definitely. How you go out there and compete and how hard you play and how well you execute, I think it’s going to be a great venue. It’s a great place to play. I told our players the other day I’ve been lucky enough to coach in that stadium twice and lucky enough to come out of their both times with a win. It’s a great place to go play, fans are really great fans. It’s going to be a great opportunity for our players to go play there. Test yourself against the best, go in there and have a good game where we play really well.
On when he prefers to play guarantee games
I think you just play them whenever they are. You don’t really want them two in a row at the beginning of the year, so I think whenever they come, you go out and play them as hard as you can.
On having to travel to Alabama a third time
That’s the way the schedule worked out, both other times we went down we pretty well. Did a great job of getting the win at Troy and played one of our better games, made some silly mistakes in the second half, but the South Alabama game is one of the better games we’ve played all year. Hopefully we’ll go back there and play well.
On getting Penny involved in the running game again
That really helps. It helps when we can make sure we can continue to get him the ball. Duck’s feeling better now so maybe we can give Penny the ball 22 times and Duck the ball 14 times or 16 times, that would probably be a good run game. Otherwise you just put too much pressure on the offensive line pass protecting that many times.
On the match-up problems Auburn presents
They’re really good up front on defense, that defensive line is very solid. And they run the ball real well, they run it a lot of different ways in a lot of different personnel groups and different formations. He’s (Gus Mahlzan) done a great job of scheming for the run and then throwing deep. They’re a good team, we have to go down there and try to execute. Last couple days we’ve been game planning and find things you think are going to work, we just have to work hard in practice go execute.
On motivating his team now that bowl eligibility is off the table
Because that’s why we play. It’s kind of like, if you’re going to run the race you run to win. If play a football game, you play the football game to win. That’s pride, it’s getting better every day. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back, so a lot of it is going out and getting better these next two weeks for next year and for the future and improving. So I think every day we step on the field, let’s go out there and do everything we can to get better individually as a player and then as your position group and then on your side of the ball and then as a whole team, let’s get better every day. That’s why you play, in any sport or anything you do, you play to be the best and to win. That’s been the message this week.
On if they think they can win
I think our guys are always confident. You never want to go into a game thinking you’re not going to win. You got to go into every game believing if you play your best and everyone does their job and play as hard as you can, you’re always going to have a chance to win.
On Auburn coach Gus Malzahn
I think he’s a great coach, he’s been a great coach everywhere he’s been from when he was at Shiloh Christian High School in Springdale and Springdale high. I remember going when he had that unbelievable team at Springdale, I remember walking in and sitting in his office trying to recruit some of his guys. He did a great job as an assistant at Arkansas and Tulsa and then was an offensive coordinator when they won it all at Auburn and then did a really good job at Arkansas State. Everywhere he’s been, he’s done a great job. He’s a great football coach.
On if he watches tape of Malzahn's offense to inspire his own schemes
In the offseason you always get tape of guys you enjoy watching and I’ve always enjoyed watching the things he does. He does a good job scheming, I’ve watched him a lot for years. He’s an excellent coach.
On if this is a big game for senior DE Quinton Bradley
For sure, I think it’s a big game for him. Big game for Penny. I think those are two guys who want to go out there and play really well and show they can play against that level of talent. It’s a big game for everybody. Everybody should be excited to play in that atmosphere against the big five players. .......... I think Quinton always believes that when he lines up across from somebody that he’s going to be better than the guy he’s lined up across from him. All the leaders have to go out there, and it starts with tonight’s practice, go out there and do your job and improve on your technique and how you do things, do that against Wednesday, do that against Thursday and go down there and play with unbelievable effort.
On what Quinton Bradley has improved on since the new coaching staff came in
I think he’s just really learned how to grind, he’s learned how to work. it’s something he fought a little bit when he first got here, didn’t always understand but he has really learned how to do it and that’s why I believe he’ll go make a team. Because he does know how to work and does know how to lay it all on the line and give everything he’s got and I think that’s going to pay huge dividends for him in his future. ............... I think once you get your program to where you really want it to be, sometimes that’s four years, it depends on where you’re at and where you’re going to, when you get the older guys who are policing everything that’s when you’re in good shape.
On if it's hard to prepare for SEC talent with the scout team
Yeah it does. That’s why a lot of times in practice we’ll do what we call crossover, when we go offense against defense running the other team’s stuff, kind of how they do in a practice in the NFL. Definitely there’s certain people in certain weeks where it’s tough to have a scout team be that guy.
On if Auburn has players difficult to prepare for
Yeah, they got a lot of them. They got a lot of guys who are that way. Their whole defensive front, their running backs, a couple of their offensive linemen. That’s why we have to be, a lot this week, we’ll just go against each other.
On how a trip like this could help recruiting
It’s good, it’s good to get down there and be in that area and they see you. We’ve been in Alabama three times this year, which is close to a lot of the different places we try to recruit so that’s a good thing.
On the problems that injuries present to defensive depth
It just affects, going back to the question earlier, sometimes when you’re numbers are down when it hurts as much as the game, it hurts your scout team. Because when you’ve lost numbers with your starters then sometimes your scout team isn’t quite as up to par as you’d want it to be.
On QB Matt Linehan's play the last four games
He’s been playing very well and I think he’s really improved over the last four weeks. He’s really picked up his game, he’s been doing a good job. That’s great, we have to keep that moving on.
On Austin Rehkow's improvements
I think what’s really impressed you about Austin is how much he’s improved in terms of his field goal kicking and how well he’s improved on his kickoffs. He’s been a great punter since he’s been there, but he’s really worked hard this offseason on becoming a better and more accurate field goal kicker and he’s broken the school record for the most field goals so I think he’s really stepped his game up that way and he’s really improved on his kickoffs. He’s probably had three times the touchbacks this year then he’s had in the past.
On how his improved field goal kicking has affected the offense
I think it helps you a lot to make sure you don’t come away with nothing. When you’re down there you make sure, that’s why we’re … one time we were one or two in the country in red zone country, I think we’re still in the top 10 … it really helps you to make sure we don’t leave the red zone with no points. The more points you can put up there, that just helps as the game goes on.
On what he wants to see these final two weeks
I just want to see them go out there and play with great effort and really improve on their execution. Do the little things right, pay attention to the details and just do a great job of executing. That’s the biggest thing I want to see ......... I think, the second half last week, we didn’t play as well as the month previous. So, we need to get back to the way we’d been playing for the whole month and get back these last two games playing really hard and playing really well.
On what makes Jordan-Hare Stadium special
The crowd is, they have great fans and they’re loud but they’re a little more polite to the visiting team. It’s a really neat place to play. And that pre-game where the war eagle flies down, it’s pretty awesome. I was telling the players that if you don’t get goose bumps and chills and don’t want to get ready to play at that moment of the pre-game then really, you shouldn’t be playing football.
On if Idaho players like playing in that environment
I do, I still think it’s a great atmosphere that some of them dream about and it’s stadiums that they want to play in. So, I still think we step in there. We’ve had individuals who’d played very well in some of these games so that’s something we’ll look forward to this week.
On his daughter signing a letter of intent to play fastpitch at Montana
It was awesome. That’s something that, family is the most important thing ever and that was great thing for our family. She worked hard, she deserved it. It’s kind of an ending of a lot of travel softball games, a lot of weekends. She played travel softball in five different states for a lot of good teams in different places, so it was just a great day, now it’s the beginning of a great career at Montana.
On wide receiver Callen Hightower stepping up in the last three games
He really improved his practice habits. He’s working hard in practice, he’s improving that and he’s really stepping up. I challenged him on Sunday night in practice ‘What you really need to show me these last two games is if you can be the No. 1 guy for next year, can you be the guy who’s going to go catch 80 balls in a season?’ That’s something I need to see every day in practice and that means it carries over to the games but he’s done a pretty good job of doing that the last three weeks and it’s important for him to do it these last two.