MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho Vandals and lame-duck coach Paul Petrino are going on a last ride. With a disheartening 3-7 season all but in the rearview mirror, Idaho’s goals have become modest. The Vandals wanted to send their 13 seniors out on a high note with a final home game win, and they accomplished that Nov. 6 against Southern Utah.
It wouldn’t have qualified them for the playoffs or even clinched a winning record, but they almost managed to take down a nationally ranked opponent, falling to No. 3 Montana State 20-13 a week ago in Bozeman, after the Bobcats managed to score in the game’s final minute.
Now the only thing left for the Vandals to achieve is to conclude Petrino’s nine-year tenure at Idaho with a victory.
Here are three things to watch as the Vandals take on Idaho State (1-9) in Holt Arena in Pocatello.
1. Does ISU have its own senior day plans? Wide receiver Tanner Conner has caught 224 passes for 2,142 yards and 15 touchdowns in his career. He is 63 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns away from moving into the Bengals’ top 10 in those categories. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, he can be a challenge for an Idaho defense ranked 110th nationally in scoring defense, giving up 36 points per game.
2. The Borisch factor: By now, the word is out in the Big Sky Conference that Vandals quarterback Zach Borisch can run. In his debut behind center last spring as Idaho’s emergency fourth-string quarterback, Borisch surprised Eastern Washington with 205 yards rushing on 33 attempts. He hasn’t had a game like that since, as defenses are forced to pay attention, but he is still a dangerous runner. He torched the Eagles again for 119 yards in October, and against Montana State a week ago he led the Vandals with 70 yards rushing. He is also becoming more adept as a passer. He threw for 157 yards and a touchdown against the Bobcats. The Vandals have a stable of elite receivers, but quarterback injuries have often made it difficult for Idaho to access them. Borisch took all the first-team reps in practice this week and it looks like Idaho will call on him again. If his upward trajectory as a passer continues, the Bengals’ secondary could be in for a long day.
3. The grand finale: No matter how the game ends, keep an eye on the Idaho sideline in the final seconds. A tableau involving Petrino, players and a bucket of ice water may be forming as the Vandals say goodbye to their coach.
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