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Idaho Football

‘Idaho took a chance on me’: Quarterback Gevani McCoy ready to lead Vandals on deep run in FCS playoffs

Idaho quarterback Gevani McCoy looks to pass during a nonconference game against Nevada in Reno, Nevada, on Sept. 9.  (Courtesy of Idaho Athletics)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

MOSCOW, Idaho – In just two years as Idaho’s starter, Gevani McCoy has set himself apart as one of the great quarterbacks in Vandals history.

He’s a decorated player – a national award winner and the top QB in the Big Sky Conference. McCoy’s name is soaring up the Idaho record books. He ranks in the top 10 in most of the program’s all-time passing stat categories.

Most important, McCoy is a proven winner. He’s been a key piece in Idaho’s resurgence under coach Jason Eck – a vital player for the Vandals during the team’s best two-year stretch in decades.

“It’s a tough job, but I love it,” McCoy said. “It just feels great to be a part of it, to make a stamp (on the program).”

McCoy emerged as a star last year, leading Idaho to its first Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearance of its second stint in the Big Sky (2018-present). He reprised his role this season, helping the Vandals to a second-place finish in the Big Sky and the No. 4 seed for the FCS playoffs.

“We all want to go on a deep run. That’s our plan,” McCoy said. “As coach Eck says, we’re not fine with just being in the playoffs. We want to make a run, and we’re all pumped up for it.”

The Vandals’ phenomenal young QB is expected to be back in action at 7 p.m. Saturday, when Idaho (8-3) hosts Southern Illinois (8-4) at the Kibbie Dome for a second-round FCS playoff matchup.

McCoy was sidelined during the Vandals’ regular-season finale, a 63-21 home win over Idaho State on Nov. 18, due to an injury. Idaho received a first-round bye, providing McCoy some time to recover.

“That was a nice week of rest for us, and it was good to have some extra time to prepare,” McCoy said.

The Vandals got an exceptional effort a couple of weeks ago from backup QB Jack Layne, who tied the single-game school record with six TD passes against the Bengals. But Idaho could use McCoy’s experience and poise against the Salukis, who boast a top-10 defense in the FCS.

“I’m just excited,” McCoy said. “The season played out well and it’s time for a playoff run now.”

A redshirt sophomore from Baldwin Hills, California, McCoy recently landed on the All-Big Sky first team and was named a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the best offensive player in the FCS.

“It feels good, like all my hard work is paying off,” he said of the recognition.

McCoy passed for 2,410 yards and 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions, completing 66% of his attempts. He ranks 24th nationally in passing efficiency and 29th in yardage.

Stats don’t tell the whole story with McCoy. Eck speaks often about the QB’s cool demeanor and calming influence on the offense.

“He’s a great leader, very poised,” Eck said earlier this season. “I don’t ever worry about Gevani getting rattled.”

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound McCoy might not be putting up huge numbers, but he operates with efficiency – making the right reads and taking what defenses give to him. He keeps the offense on the field, extending drives however he can. McCoy shines when improvising, turning broken plays into positive gains.

He’s an accurate passer who can make any kind of throw, and is capable of piling up big totals through the air – he produced more than 300 passing yards in three games this year – but he’s also comfortable in a game-managing role, tossing short completions and handing the reins to his tailbacks.

McCoy’s statistics dipped a bit from his freshman to sophomore seasons, and much of that can be attributed to Idaho’s balance this year. The Vandals have become a more well-rounded offensive team with a strong rushing game led by an All-Big Sky running back in Anthony Woods.

McCoy has become a more productive ball-carrier, too. Excluding yards lost from sacks, McCoy has gained 322 yards on the ground and scored twice.

He’s boosted his size, strength and athleticism this year, and said his knowledge of the game has grown enormously.

“I’ve taken big steps, both physically and with the play calls,” McCoy said. “Since this time last year, I’ve taken big steps in all aspects.

“The biggest step I took was that I got faster. And with where I can put the ball. I can make a lot of plays with my feet, on top of what I can do with my arm.”

Perhaps most significant has been McCoy’s growth as a leader. He was named a captain by his teammates before the season.

“Coach has emphasized that this team is mine and I need to take charge,” McCoy said. “I’ve for sure grown in that field, as well.

“In our first year together, I think I showed (teammates) that I’d give them all I got. I think they saw that and I earned those guys’ trust.”

McCoy also won over the Vandals fan base last year, when he put together one of the finest seasons by an Idaho freshman.

He won a preseason position battle, then became a national standout.

“I think (the new staff) saw how consistent I was,” he said. “I just came out every day and competed.”

McCoy threw for 2,721 yards and 27 touchdowns (tied for fifth in single-season program history) and set the single-season program record with a 68.4% completion rate. He claimed the Jerry Rice Award (FCS Freshman of the Year).

Through 23 games, McCoy has accumulated 5,334 passing yards and 42 touchdowns on 409 completions – all top-10 career marks in Idaho history. He’s No. 1 in Idaho history in career completion percentage (66%).

At this rate, McCoy will wind up etching his name among Idaho’s top QBs, next to Big Sky greats like John Friesz, Doug Nussmeier and Ken Hobart.

Not bad for an underrecruited player who only had one scholarship offer out of high school. McCoy said his smaller size probably played a part in his lack of recruitment. It didn’t help that he played just four games during his senior season at Lawndale High in the Los Angeles metro, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Idaho took a chance on me,” McCoy said. “I had to take it, and it all played out well. I’m very thankful for that.”

McCoy got on the field in three games during his true freshman season and showed some promise. When Idaho welcomed in a new staff, McCoy quickly bought in, then became the face of the Vandals’ offense and helped transform Idaho into an FCS power.

“When I first came here, things weren’t like this at all,” McCoy said. “Now, it’s honestly a shock to see (how far the program has come).”