MOSCOW – Matt Linehan is being asked to live life outside the pocket.
The sophomore may have an advantage in Idaho’s quarterback competition, but it just means third-year coach Paul Petrino expects more out of him.
Linehan’s hesitancy to leave the pocket at times drew the vocal ire of Petrino during Saturday’s spring scrimmage.
The message was heard when Linehan started to put his feet to work, dashing for 18 yards on one scramble. He executed a read-option look near the goal line to cruise in for a touchdown.
“I spent an entire offseason devoted to getting bigger and stronger and faster and once you do that those pieces start to fall together,” Linehan said. “You start to feel more comfortable out of the pocket on the run. Coach Petrino has always reiterated to me: You have to be a willing runner.”
Linehan threw for 239 yards and four touchdowns and an interception on 19-of-35 passing. Freshman Jake Luton finished with 170 yards and a TD. Freshman Gunnar Amos had 33 yards.
“I thought he did some really good things and then he did some knucklehead things that we can’t have happen,” Petrino said. “He’s over that, he’s not a freshman anymore, but if we get down there in the critical zone he’s got to be smart, he’s got to run when they drop eight.”
Defensive pressure from the front seven made it difficult for any of the three quarterbacks to find an early rhythm. The defense totaled eight sacks, three by senior Quinton Bradley. Freshman linebacker Kaden Ellis took most of the front seven praise. He filled in for injured Chris Edwards, flying around the field to make a team-high 19 tackles.
“I’m excited, he finally stopped overthinking things like he does in practice and he finally let it loose,” senior linebacker Marc Millan said. “That’s what you get to do on defense is fly around, when you think too much that’s when you start making mistakes, but when you don’t think and just react it’s more fun.”
Elijhaa Penny got the better of the front seven on the day, however. The senior running back rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, bursting to the second level for big plays twice.
Penny and sophomore Aaron Duckworth (53 yards on 10 rushes) have been called “thunder and lightning” by coaches, though Penny has another for himself.
“I’m more like Flash,” he said. “We watch highlights, we watch Reggie Bush and Lendale White, White when he was with the Titans with Chris Johnson. … We like comparing ourselves to guys like that.”
Penny wasn’t the only player declaring a nickname. Linehan dubbed Jacob Sannon “Optimus Prime,” following a touchdown connection in which Sannon faked out Dorian Clark so badly Clark was 10 yards away from the end zone when Sannon hauled in Linehan’s pass.
Sannon is primed to become Idaho’s No. 2 wide receiver behind Dezmon Epps.
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