MOSCOW, Idaho – As Idaho’s disappointing (2-6, 1-4 Big Sky conference) season winds down to its final three weeks, two transfer wide receivers are finishing strongly for the Vandals.
In Idaho’s most recent game, a 38-31 loss to Northern Arizona, Terez Traynor caught 12 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Mekhi Stevenson added nine catches for 92 yards.
Traynor leads Idaho this year with 40 catches for 550 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Stevenson, who had 11 receptions on the year before his breakout game against NAU, has 20 for 256 yards and one touchdown.
They come from different backgrounds. Stevenson, who formerly played at UNLV, opted out of the COVID year and graduated. After entering the transfer portal, he took a quick look at the State University of New York at Albany before settling on Idaho. Traynor played at Western Kentucky and made four catches for 36 yards in 2020 but left after last spring.
“It wasn’t the right fit for me,” Traynor said.
The two have hopes of playing professionally. They agree they essentially made a business decision to come to Idaho to be tutored in the pass receiving art by Vandals head coach Paul Petrino.
“They have a track record here with receivers under coach Petrino,” Stevenson said.
Most recently, Idaho alum Jeff Cotton is in his second year in the NFL. He is playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars after making the L.A. Chargers’ practice squad as a rookie. Former Vandals teammate David Ungerer is in his second season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
In an earlier era, Petrino, as an assistant, coached Traynor’s uncle, LaVell Boyd, at the University of Louisville. Boyd went on to play three seasons in the NFL from 2000-2003 for Cincinnati, Miami and Minnesota and played an additional two seasons in NFL Europe.
In Vandals practices, Traynor is frequently the target of Petrino’s most intense coaching, but he takes no offense at the attention.
“That’s mostly the reason I came here,” Traynor said. “I wanted to be pushed to the limit.”
He is looking beyond this season to next spring and “getting to know my teammates better, putting my head in the playbook, and training better.”
In the preseason, Traynor and Stevenson expected to be taking deliveries from a pair of experienced quarterbacks. University of Connecticut graduate transfer Mike Beaudry and freshman CJ Jordan had played in the spring season, but both missed significant time with injuries this fall. Zach Borisch, primarily a runner, and freshman Gevani McCoy filled in until Beaudry returned against NAU. Neither Traynor nor Stevenson, though, said the uncertainty at quarterback affected them.
“It’s no problem. They all throw to us in practice,” Traynor said.
Stevenson said he played with six or seven quarterback at UNLV.
He and Traynor are alike in one respect. For Traynor, from Louisville, Kentucky, and Stevenson, from San Diego, Moscow is a unique experience.
“This is new for me. I’m used to cities,” Traynor said.
“This is my first college town,” Stevenson said. “I see people walking around in town wearing Vandal gear. I was in the airport in Las Vegas once wearing team gear and someone came up to me and said, ‘UNLV has a football team?’ ”
For the season’s final home game against Southern Utah on Saturday, Petrino expects the Thunderbirds (1-8, 0-6 Big Sky) to play better than their record.
“They play some really good defense. They were in quite a few of their games with the exception of (NAU and Eastern Washington),” he said.
The Thunderbirds are led by linebacker La’akea Kaho’ohanohano-Davis with 67 tackles, including 4.5 for loss. Cornerback Kobe Singleton leads the team with three interceptions.
Thunderbirds quarterback Justin Miller has completed 198 of 320 pass attempts for 2,060 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
“He stands in the pocket. He’s accurate. He has a strong arm,” Petrino said.
Favored targets are Ethan Bolingbroke, 51 catches for 491 yards and two touchdowns, and Brandon Schenks, 33 receptions for 424 yards with five touchdowns.
Petrino notes Montana barely escaped against SUU a week ago (20-19) and he expects a close game against the Thunderbirds similar to Idaho’s 33-32 win against SUU in the spring.
Thirteen Vandals seniors will play their last home game. All are available for duty, according to Petrino, who said the game “is about doing everything we can so those guys walk out with a win.”
“They’re a great group. Every single one has graduated, with the exception of one who will graduate in May.
“For the most part, they will all have two degrees or a master’s. They’re a pretty special group academically.”
Stevenson is one of those seniors. As he is closing out his career with a rush, those 92 yards against NAU brought him tantalizingly close to a big personal goal.
“I still haven’t had my first 100-yard game in college,” he said. “I would love to get to 100 in our last three games.”
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