[Vandal] For Vandals, The Worst Is Behind Them

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Mon Oct 25 09:53:01 PDT 2021


>From the Daily NewsMoscow, IdahoMonday, October 25, 2021
For Vandals, The Worst Is Behind Them
By Stephan Wiebe
It’s a cliche older than the sport itself, but as a recent rain and wind storm rattled the windows of my Palouse home while I sat down to write this column, it seemed a fitting metaphor for Idaho’s football season at the halfway point of conference play.
“Weathering the storm” — a phrase no fan or player likes to hear.
It’s a storm that’s seen a couple breaks in the clouds — the Vandals almost pulled an upset of ranked UC Davis and downed a tough Portland State team — but a storm nonetheless.
The good news for the battered Vandals is they should be through the worst of it. And the worst of it wasn’t pretty.
Four of Idaho’s five losses have been lopsided affairs, two of them to FBS opponents and two to a pair of rivals, No. 2 Eastern Washington and No. 11 Montana on Saturday.
It’s those latter two that particularly sting for the Vandal faithful. Idaho sits at 2-5 overall and 1-3 in Big Sky play coming off its 50-point loss to the Eagles and a 20-pointer at home to the Griz.
It doesn’t take a mathematician or analytics expert to see that’s a -70 in point differential.
Outside of a Nov. 13 contest at No. 8 Montana State, Idaho’s other three remaining opponents have a combined record of 5-17; Northern Arizona (3-4), Southern Utah (1-7) and Idaho State (1-6).
To throw a couple more cliches out there, coaches like to say things every game is a “must-win,” and each week presents an “opportunity to go 1-0.”
But for Idaho’s players and coaches, it’s an attitude that they'll have to adopt if they’re going to turn the season back around.
“That’s really what sports are all about is teaching you how to keep fighting and keep moving forward,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “And I thought they came out and practiced hard this past week and made improvements.
“We played better this week than we did last week. Now, we gotta make big improvements so we can play even better and get a win.”
No one is saying they are, but injuries are not an excuse in college football.
Just ask Montana.
The Grizzlies rolled Saturday behind a backup quarterback and fifth string — yes, fifth-string running back. Quarterback Kris Brown and running back junior Bergen 333 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
So what are the prospects for a Vandal team that’s been without its top two quarterbacks in recent weeks? Petrino was asked if quarterbacks Zach Borisch and, in particular, true freshman Gevani McCoy are picking things up and improving quickly enough to get back in the win column.
“I think so,” Petrino said. “And it’s not just them, it’s everybody around them. It was two very tough opponents back to back. But I do think they’re improving and they’re taking big steps. We gotta believe that they can.”
A Borisch-led touchdown drive to start the game and a McCoy-led TD drive late in the fourth quarter were a couple of rare bright spots in the Vandals' 34-14 loss to the Griz.
But it wasn’t near enough to stop a Montana team that extended its win streak in the Little Brown Sten game to seven.
Luckily for Idaho, the Lumberjacks don’t feature the top offense in the FCS, like EWU, or arguably the conference’s best defense, like Montana.
And the Vandals play at home again when they take on Northern Arizona at 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPN+/SWX) at the Kibbie Dome.
It’s time for Idaho to put that “keep fighting and keep moving forward” mantra to the test.
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