STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – As college football’s 150th season commences, there’s good and bad news for Idaho as it looks to improve upon last fall’s four-win campaign.
The bad news? The Vandals gained 47 yards of offense, while yielding 406, in the first half of their opener Saturday afternoon at nationally ranked Penn State.
The good news? The Big Sky is not the Big Ten, and none of Idaho’s remaining opponents is among the sport’s blue bloods.
The Vandals managed just one first down in the first half, during which the Nittany Lions scored on eight of their 10 possessions, and it rendered the second half all but academic in a 79-7 loss before a crowd of 104,527 at Beaver Stadium.
“It’s a long season,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said. “That’s a tough day today. That’s tough on anybody’s pride.”
By game’s end, the 15th-ranked Nittany Lions had outgained the Vandals 673-145.
“If you’re a competitor, right now, you should be mad,” Petrino said. “What we’ve got to do is make sure we show up to practice tomorrow, still believe in each other, still believe in ourselves, and believe in our schemes.”
Penn State amassed 331 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
“As long as we can all watch the film, learn from it, understand what we could have done better as players and coaches, then we have a chance to move on and get better,” Petrino said.
With 8 minutes, 14 seconds left in the second quarter, Idaho quarterback Colton Richardson found Jeff Cotton for a 38-yard catch-and run along the sidelines, moving the chains for the first time.
Mason Petrino started under center for the Vandals, playing the first quarter while Richardson played the second. They alternated series in the third and fourth quarters.
Paul Petrino has said that he would like to have a starter named by the fourth game, when Idaho begins conference play. Neither quarterback could get comfortable on Saturday, as both were under heavy pressure from an athletic Penn State defense that registered seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
“I think they both did a good job at times of making checks, and I think they both struggled at times because of the protection,” Paul Petrino said. “So we just have to watch the tape.”
Mason Petrino finished 11 for 17 for 91 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Richardson was 5 for 9 for 50 yards.
“I already decided that I was going to play both of them in the first three games, and then make a decision from there,” Paul Petrino said.
Idaho got on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter, when Penn State’s Mac Hippenhammer muffed a punt that David Eppinger recovered for the Vandals at the Nittany Lions’ 25-yard line. On first down, Mason Petrino connected with Nick Romano for a 24-yard gain. Idaho scored from 1 yard out on the next play, as Petrino found fullback Logan Kendall on a play-action pass in the corner of the end zone.
Linebacker Tre Walker led Idaho with eight tackles, including two for losses.
“Playing games like this helps you find out about the heart of the players on your team,” Walker said.
Despite what transpired on the field, the trip was a lucrative one for Idaho, which is guaranteed to receive $1.45 million from Penn State, according to a report from USA Today.
That figure was negotiated before the then-FBS Vandals transitioned to the FCS, and is more than double what FCS schools routinely fetch when they visit an FBS opponent.
Mike Walsh, Idaho’s associate athletic director for communications, told The Spokesman-Review that the university expects the full payout.
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