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Mason Petrino showing his playmaking skills for Idaho Vandals

Matt Linehan is the solid No. 1 quarterback for the Vandals, with Mason Petrino emerging as the likely backup. (File/Associated Press)
Matt Linehan is the solid No. 1 quarterback for the Vandals, with Mason Petrino emerging as the likely backup. (File/Associated Press)

MOSCOW – Idaho wide receiver David Ungerer has seen the same playmaking Mason Petrino with the Vandals as he witnessed when both played at Pullman High School.

The question is, how much of Petrino will UI fans see on game days this fall?

The son of head coach Paul Petrino came into Saturday’s scrimmage as the third quarterback on Idaho’s depth chart. But he was far more productive with the second-team offense than No. 2 QB Gunnar Amos, the redshirt freshman who starred at Coeur d’Alene High.

“He’s been nothing but great since he got on the team in the summer,” Ungerer said of Mason Petrino, a true freshman. “Had a great summer. Came into fall camp and he’s just been doing exactly what he did at Pullman – running around making plays with his legs and with his arm.”

Amos threw four interceptions during the 90-minute scrimmage and struggled going against the first-team defense. Mason Petrino – who’s listed at 5-foot-11, 168 pounds – tossed one pick, but he found receivers after scrambling in the pocket and showed good speed on designed runs.

Idaho’s sports information department did not release scrimmage statistics.

“Really I thought (Friday at practice) was probably his best day,” Paul Petrino said of his son. “And then today he did even a little bit better. So he’s really improving.”

The Vandals have depth – much of it experienced – at wide receiver, safety and other positions. Their No. 1 offense, behind three-year starter Matt Linehan and a veteran offensive line, has drawn praise during camp. But once Jake Luton transferred this summer, their backup quarterback situation became dicey.

The Vandals had planned to redshirt Mason Petrino and perhaps play him at wide receiver. Amos joined UI as a grayshirt in January 2015 and redshirted last fall. He was behind Luton during spring camp while Linehan was recovering from foot surgery.

Linehan is almost back to full strength, and he looked sharp against the second-team defense – especially early. The redshirt junior was 7-of-8 passing in the first three drives he led, finding Jacob Sannon for a long catch-and-run touchdown on the second possession.

“He’s (taken) his game to a whole new level,” said Ungerer, a 5-8 sophomore who had two impressive touchdowns. “He’s throwing the ball extremely accurate, going through his progressions, checking the play when it needs to be made. I mean, he looks like a totally new guy on the field. It’s just great to see him healthy.”

In Petrino’s three previous seasons, the Vandals have often used – or been forced to use – multiple QBs. Last year, Luton saw action in eight games and started against Arkansas State when Linehan was out with an ankle injury. In 2014, Chad Chalich attempted 64 passes in four games, even though Linehan started all 11 games.

With Luton out of the picture, Idaho has installed a package for Mason Petrino and given more practice reps to its No. 2 offense because of the comfort level it feels with Linehan and the first-team offense.

As for Amos’ four interceptions on Saturday, Petrino said, “It’s a learning experience. We’ll just move on from it. Watch it on tape. Really learn from it and get better.”


With their only fall scrimmage behind them, the Vandals will start installing their offense and defense for their season opener on Sept. 1 against Montana State. … Petrino said Aaron Duckworth and Isaiah Saunders are “pretty even” at running back. They could split carries in Week 1.

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