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Idaho notebook: Vandals’ hopes of quick start against Eastern Washington faded away

Leading up to the renewal of the Big Sky rivalry with Eastern Washington, Idaho coach Paul Petrino preached about the importance of getting off to a good start and limiting the No. 5 Eagles’ high-flying offense early.

“I think we’ve gotta come out of the blocks fast, we’ve gotta be ready to play,” Petrino said at Tuesday’s media availability. “Play good early, ’cause we can’t let them jump out to a big lead and try to make us one-dimensional.”

The exact opposite happened.

Idaho QB Mason Petrino used an assortment of midrange passes on the first possession to move into EWU territory. Tyrese Walker used a cut-back move for 13 yards to get the Vandals into the red zone.

On third-and-8 at the 18, Jeff Cotton hauled in a short pass but was stripped on a crunching tackle by Ketner Kupp. D’londo Tucker recovered at the 17 to thwart the drive.

“We’ve been pretty good on our opening drives,” Petrino said. “We were moving down the field, doing a lot of really good things.”

Eastern walked down the field in six plays for its first touchdown.

Eastern Washington coach Aaron Best said the turnover was “huge.”

“Whenever all of the sudden it’s 6 (yards), and 8 and 4 and 9 and 2 and 3, and all of the sudden the ball comes out, it’s like, boy, you just took the wind out of their sails.

“You went from a seven-point possible swing against you to a seven-point swing for you. That’s a 14-point swing. So that thing is huge.”

On the next drive, Petrino decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Idaho 47. Isaiah Saunders was stuffed and three plays later EWU scored again to make it 14-0.

Did the fumble factor into the decision to go for it on fourth down?

“Not necessarily,” Petrino said. “Look back on it maybe I shouldn’t have gone for it. I thought if we had that much to get we should be able to get it.”

Idaho punted its next four possessions – each fewer than six plays – and the rout was on.

Local flair: Cheney grads Keenan Williams (EWU) and Ty Graham (Idaho) led their respective teams in tackles. Williams had six tackles and was in on a sack and Graham registered 12 tackles.

“It’s a very different kind of feeling,” Graham said of his return to his hometown. “As soon as we rolled in on the buses to Cheney, it was a little different. It was a really cool experience that I got to have today.”

With 13 players from Great Northern League schools in the game, it felt a little like homecoming.

“There’s a lot of people who I grew up playing with or against,” Graham said. “It’s a very humbling experience to look across the line and say, ‘Oh, I know that guy.’ ”

“I’ve played against a lot of those guys,” Williams said. “I’ve played with Ty pretty much my whole life. It meant a lot for me to play these guys. When you know people on the other team, it makes it sweeter to get that win.”

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