MOSCOW, Idaho – The last time Idaho State came away from the Kibbie Dome with a win (Oct. 31, 1981), the band Metallica had just formed in Los Angeles.
It would be music to Idaho’s ears if the Vandals could avenge last year’s 62-28 loss to the Bengals in Pocatello. The chief architect of that defeat, quarterback Tanner Gueller, who threw for 492 yards and pitched eight touchdowns against the Vandals, has graduated.
Idaho’s homecoming matchup on Saturday features a Big Sky Conference opponent coming off a 55-20 victory against North Dakota that featured quarterback Matt Struck throwing five touchdown passes.
Wins over Northern Iowa, Portland State and North Dakota suggest the Bengals (3-3, 2-1 Big Sky) can deliver a top-end performance in any game. But a 59-20 collapse against Montana hints they can also be had, and Idaho (2-5, 0-3) badly needs a victory after three consecutive losses.
Cotton could have a new quarterback throwing to him.
After absorbing a series of big hits in games this season, senior quarterback Mason Petrino gave way to Colton Richardson against PSU. Vandals coach Paul Petrino said he would “play it by ear, day to day” in practice leading up to the ISU game to decide if Richardson on Mason Petrino would start against the Bengals.
Idaho State likes to set up its passing with a ground game, and Ty Flanagan is coming off a pair of 100-yard efforts. He rushed for 130 yards in the Montana loss and 163 in the win over North Dakota.
Paul Petrino pointed to Bengals wide receiver Tanner Conner (6-3, 225) as someone who would test the Vandals’ defense. Conner made four catches for 122 yards and a touchdown against UND.
Idaho counters with a pair of the Big Sky’s elite defenders. Tre Walker is averaging 11.1 tackles per game as a linebacker, and Charles Akanno has 12 1/2 tackles for loss this season and is an edge rusher any defense must respect.
Paul Petrino said Idaho’s team leadership is stepping up to keep the Vandals on task and optimistic despite their losing streak.
“I think we have good leaders,” he said.
One of those leaders, junior noseguard Rahsaan Crawford, dismisses the influence of past performance and near misses, like the six-point loss to fourth-ranked Weber State in Idaho’s last home game. Crawford is blunt about the imperative facing the Vandals who are trying to salvage their season.
“You never play well enough to win until you win,” Crawford said.
Idaho tends to play well at home, and Petrino notes the team has been 5-1 in homecoming games during his tenure.
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