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Idaho linebacker Tre Walker ready to cap college career against Idaho State

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 18, 2021

Indiana wide receiver D.J. Matthews Jr. (7) attempts a pass reception while being covered by Idaho linebacker Tre Walker (8) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Bloomington, Ind.  (Associated Press)
Indiana wide receiver D.J. Matthews Jr. (7) attempts a pass reception while being covered by Idaho linebacker Tre Walker (8) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Bloomington, Ind. (Associated Press)
By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

It has come to this. After 233 tackles, including 16.5 tackles for loss since 2018, Idaho’s All-America linebacker Tre Walker is staring at his final college football game when the 3-7 Vandals meet Idaho State in Pocatello Saturday.

Following the COVID season last spring which did not count against players’ eligibility, Walker would have had the opportunity to return for another year. But he says he is hewing to his original plan when he came to Idaho: play four years, graduate and see if he can earn a job in the National Football League.

The Vandals were never able to post a winning season in his career, coming closest in 2019 when they went 5-7. However, Walker is not looking back on his time in Moscow with regret. At the Big Sky Conference media day in Spokane last July, Walker lit up the room with an immense grin and talked about anticipating the 2021 season. As it winds down to a final game against in-state rival ISU he says “I feel it measured up pretty good. I am excited to go on a last ride with this team. I’m playing for these guys.”

The Vandals are 14-25 during his tenure. Walker, though, says “wins and losses don’t matter. They’re the butter on the bread.”

In one of Idaho’s last practices Wednesday, Walker and other seniors swapped jerseys with younger teammates. Walker gave his number 8 to freshman linebacker Jake Kindel and wore Kindel’s 57.

“We’re giving the younger guys an opportunity to wear single digit numbers,” he said.

The afternoon had an air of finality – even though the announcement of coach Paul Petrino’s dismissal after nine seasons in which he compiled a 33-46 record, highlighted by a 9-4 record in 2016, when the Vandals won the Famous Idaho Potatoes Bowl did not come until the following day. The normally exuberant Vandals were notably subdued until, at the conclusion of the workout, the team assembled along both sides of a tackling dummy covered with a Bengals’ jersey and cheered as the seniors unloaded on it. Walker, who has been abusing tackling dummies since “the beginning of playing football,” was happy to take part in the tradition.

Against the (1-11) Bengals, Petrino said the Vandals should expect a balanced attack. ISU has rushed for a pedestrian 128.4 yards per game and 195.9 passing yards. The best game in the Bengals’ portfolio is a 27-17 upset of No. 10 UC Davis.

For much of the year, the Bengals were led by freshman Hunter Hays at quarterback, who replaced junior starter Tyler Vander Waal, when Vander Waal was injured against Sacramento State in September. Hays completed 87 of 158 passes for 1003 yards, with six touchdowns and seven interceptions, but he gave way to freshman Sagan Gronauer in the Bengals’ most recent game, a 32-29 loss to Cal Poly, in which Gronauer completed 23 of 38 attempts for 273 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

A favorite target of both quarterbacks is senior Tanner Scott, with 38 receptions for 654 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman Tyevin Ford has rushed 106 times for 483 yards and four touchdowns

Linebacker Oshea Trujillo, 53 tackles, five tackles for loss “is their best football player on defense,” Petrino said. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got him blocked.”

Linebacker Darian Green leads the team in tackles with 57, including 6.5 tackles for loss and a sack. “He’s a good player,” said Petrino.

Zach Borisch took the first-team reps in practice at quarterback for Idaho this week. Projected starters Mike Beaudry and C J Jordan have both been lost to injuries. For the year, Borisch has completed 14 of 27 passes for 283 yards with 2 touchdowns. But he has also rushed for 438 yards with 4 scores.

The Vandals nearly upset No. 3 Montana State a week ago, falling 20-13 in the closing three minutes. The finale against ISU is a last opportunity for them.

“They will be excited for this game. It’s the last game, and it comes down to who wants to play the most,” Petrino said.

Winning “is just always a great way to end a season,” he added. (Even though somebody else will be leading the Vandals going forward.)

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