MOSCOW, Idaho – Although it has three practices next week focused on specific opponents in the upcoming season, Idaho, for the most part, culminated spring ball with its annual Silver and Gold game Friday.
The No. 1 Golds rolled the Silver reserves 70-20 in a bit more than three quarters. But it was the way they did it more than the score itself that most impressed Vandals head coach Paul Petrino.
A deep, experienced offensive line has been setting the tone for the Vandals all spring. The line reminds Petrino of the one that took Idaho to victory over Colorado State in the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
All-America and All-Big Sky senior guard Noah Johnson senses the Vandals may be on the verge of something special.
“I can’t wait for the season, honestly,” Johnson said. “It sucks that it’s so far away. I really like the improvement, effort and attitude we bring to practice every day. We come to practice to get better.”
Roshaun Johnson, who rushed for 139 yards on 14 carries and a pair of touchdowns, and wide receiver Jeff Cotton, who caught 13 passes for 217 yards and four touchdown passes –two each from senior Mason Petrino and junior Colton Richardson – also pointed to the line as the foundation of a successful spring for the offense.
“They are doing their job, so we can make the plays,” Cotton said of the line.
Based on what they showed in the spring game, the two Johnsons could be a notable part of the Vandals’ offense.
“They’re big guys, strong guys, and they are quick on their feet,” Roshaun Johnson said of the line.
Game situations and field position were manipulated to the point that statistics had little validity, but Cotton, Cutrell Haywood and tight end Connor Whitney dominated the game.
Haywood made 15 catches for 195 yards and took a short pass from Petrino and accelerated about 20 yards to the end zone at the close of the first half.
Whitney accounted for a pair of scores. Playing for the Silver team, he took a long pass from sophomore redshirt freshman quarterback Nikhil Nayar to the end zone, and Richardson found him from 7 yards out for the Gold team. Overall, he caught four passes for 83 yards.
“Our receivers are stepping up big time,” Roshaun Johnson said. “Our receiver corps is going to be ridiculous this year.”
All the spring game scoring tested the stamina of All-Big Sky punter Cade Coffey. In addition to punting, he kicked for both teams. His workload included 12 extra points without a miss and a pair of field goals, with a long of 37 yards.
“He’s special,” Paul Petrino said of Coffey. “We’ve got to keep getting him better, too.”
Mason Petrino and Richardson, as they did last spring and last season, alternated with the first-team offense.
Petrino finished the night completing 17 of 22 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
Richardson hit on 16 of 18 attempts for 175 yards and three scores. He also had one ball intercepted, by redshirt freshman defensive back D’Andrei Pitman.
Nayar struggled quarterbacking the Silvers. He connected on 9 of 19 passes for 94 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Gold linebackers served notice they can do for the defense what the line did for the offense.
“They really flew around when they took the field,” Paul Petrino said.
Redshirt juniors Charles Akanno and Austin Holt had two sacks apiece. Akanno had three tackles for loss and Holt had two.
Sophomore Tre Walker made seven tackles, including one for loss. He said the linebackers are ready to continue the legacy of last season’s corps as defensive leaders.
“There’s a real brotherhood on the team,” Walker said.
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