MOSCOW, Idaho – Four days after a breakthrough game, as the Idaho Vandals concluded a workout on a late afternoon that finally felt like football weather, two practitioners of a fundamental football art were still excited by their performance.
As Idaho prepared for a trip to Northern Colorado and its first Big Sky Conference game, senior All-America guard Noah Johnson and sophomore center Logan Floyd, a freshman All-America, brought confidence to a practice that did not involve headlong contact but emphasized hustling out of a stance to get the right block at the right time.
It was an echo of the dominant first half the Vandals enjoyed against Eastern Washington, when they blocked Eagles off their feet and provided quarterback Mason Petrino a solid pocket on the way to a 28-0 halftime edge and an eventual 35-27 victory.
“The offensive line and the defensive line is where you win games,” Vandals coach Paul Petrino said.
Idaho’s scheme was right against EWU, and its surprising physical superiority reinforced its advantage, Johnson said. Plus, it was fun.
“Honestly, it was a lot of fun helping Logan off the ground (after a play) when he was on someone,” Johnson said.
“There was just a confidence we had in each other. We knew what we were doing,” Floyd said.
On at least one play, Floyd neutralized a rusher on his right then wheeled left to wall off another.
“It was just the moment,” Floyd said. “I was just going and I didn’t want to stop. If I got one, I got one. If I got three, I got three.”
“I might need to strive for that. I’ve seen NFL players do it,” Floyd said.
An unsatisfying effort against EWU last season, when the Vandals were handled 38-14, gnawed at them and provided the impetus to reach their potential during a campaign in which Idaho could return to the Big Sky’s upper echelon, Johnson said.
“After the Eastern game last year, we knew we didn’t play well enough,” Johnson said. “We worked all winter, spring and fall to prepare to be that team.”
A key attribute this season has been bringing a crispness to practice that approaches the urgency of a game, Johnson said. It helps the offense and defense.
“We want to give each other a good look,” Johnson said. “We’re moving much better.”
Having recovered from a pair of shoulder injuries, Johnson took advantage of offseason weight lifting going into his senior season. For Floyd, the passage of time has been an ally.
“Coming in as a freshman last year, I was strong,” Floyd said. “But not like I am now.”
As interior linemen, Johnson and Floyd are accustomed to operating in tight spaces, where success is measured in inches and individual victories are not always noticed.
But they appreciate an ideal situation. The opportunity to pull and pick off a defensive end is something Johnson craves.
“They do not see me coming,” Johnson said.
For Floyd, a rusher doing a spin or rip move to try to get pressure inside plays to his strength and doesn’t require him to reach to make a block.
“I am right there to say hello,” Floyd said.
Following a pair of four-win seasons as Idaho bid adieu to the Football Bowl Subdivision and returned to the Football Championship Subdivision, Johnson is looking forward to concluding his career on a much higher note. The Vandals (2-2) seek a road win, their first conference win and a chance to climb above .500 against Northern Colorado.
Looking long term, Johnson wants to leave a legacy of leadership with Floyd.
“I want him to follow in my footsteps with the reputation that the offensive line is the hardest-working group,” Johnson said. “You want it more than the guy across from you.”
For Floyd, playing next to Johnson has been reassuring.
“There’s just the confidence I have in him,” Floyd said. “It’s going to be fun to watch him play (in the NFL).”
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