MOSCOW – Deon Watson feels slighted every time he steps onto the field. It’s a perpetual chip on his shoulder being a kid from Idaho playing for home-state University of Idaho.
He was overlooked coming out of high school and many outside of the Inland Northwest doubt the Vandals can turn a 4-8 record into a bowl appearance in 2016.
“We go into every battle with a chip on our shoulder, so we’ve always felt like people have doubted us,” the fifth-year senior said. “All that matters is the thoughts that are in that locker room, that we actually believe in ourselves.”
Watson became the revelation of Idaho’s 2016 spring ball, alternating between tight end and wide receiver and concluding his final spring helping the Silver squad score 80 points in an 80-10 result over the backup Gold team.
His focus now turns to the summer.
“Idaho isn’t a big spot on the map, but we’re going to make it known,” he said.
Coach Paul Petrino called it good with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, content with what his starters showed on both sides of the ball.
“A lot of people don’t go ones on ones as much as we do. We do it all the time. I just felt like it’s a good way to go into the summer so both sides win,” the fourth-year coach said of battling starters against backups. “Not one side is walking out of here with their head down. They’re both going to walk out of here feeling good, feeling like they improved all spring. Then we can continue to improve throughout the summer.”
Indeed, the defense held up their end of the bargain by often consuming reserve quarterback Gunnar Amos in the backfield and not allowing him a touchdown pass. Walk-on quarterback AJ Woodin was forced into a pick-6 to DJ Hampton by the pressure.
It often came from linebackers such as Kaden Elliss and Khalin Smith.
“That’s good, that means I’m doing my job if they’re coming in free,” defensive lineman Tueni Lupeamanu said. “So we call it eating potatoes. I’m out here in Idaho eating potatoes.”
Starting quarterback Matt Linehan made his way around the field without the help of a scooter or crutches, showing signs of an on-schedule return for fall practice following surgery on his left ankle.
“I think it’s going on schedule how they want it to be and he’s improving,” Petrino said. “It hurts anyone when you don’t get to play when you’re used to playing all the time. It’s been good for him as far as mental. He’s got a different way of viewing it and I think that’ll only help him in the future.”
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