Two days after playing a game missing nine of its standouts, the University of Idaho football team postponed its coming contest against Northern Arizona, citing “(coronavirus) protocols within the Vandals’ program.”
An effort will be made by the schools and the Big Sky Conference to reschedule the game, which was originally slated to be played Saturday at Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Idaho (1-1) was surprisingly short-handed in its 27-17 loss to UC Davis on Saturday in the Kibbie Dome.
The Vandals were without the following players: their best offensive linemen in juniors Logan Floyd and Matthew Faupusa; a defensive captain at nose tackle in senior Rahsaan Crawford; a third-year starter at tight end in Connor Whitney; a former All-American punter in senior Cade Coffey; fourth-year secondary starter Jalen Hoover and sophomore strong safety Jaxon Woodward.
Each of those Vandals had started in UI’s Week 1 win against Eastern Washington in Moscow.
Junior college transfers Jermaine Jackson, a speedster receiver, and center Chad Bagwell both sustained injuries early in the EWU game, and did not return. Jackson watched Saturday’s matchup from the Idaho sideline.
Eighth-year UI coach Paul Petrino said after the UC Davis game that he was not permitted to disclose whether the players were missing because of COVID-19. He did not provide timetables for their returns.
“I don’t think I can legally say why, honestly, I just have to say they were unavailable,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent sure if I can tell you that.”
Idaho/NAU is the 14th Football Championship Subdivision spring-season game in the past three weeks to be postponed because of COVID-19 issues, and third involving the Big Sky. Cal Poly had to push back its first two games of the year because of the virus.
UI, NAU, EWU, UC Davis, Idaho State, Southern Utah, Weber State and Cal Poly comprise the Big Sky Conference for this truncated, six-game spring season. Montana, Montana State and Sacramento State — all top-15 FCS programs — opted out before the campaign, as did Portland State and Northern Colorado.
Various concerns related to the virus, weather and student-athlete safety ahead of a planned 2021 fall FCS season prompted the five schools’ decisions.
Still, the BSC will crown a spring champion in April, and the FCS will run a condensed postseason.
The Vandals have open dates on March 20 and April 17, built into the schedule to provide a potential makeup date for games postponed because of the pandemic.
Idaho started four freshmen on its O-line against the Aggies, three of them reserves in Idahoan center Greyson Harwood, tackle Elijah Sanchez and guard Josh Guzik, who hails from Spokane’s Rogers High. (A UI public-address announcer had initially tabbed junior Beau St. John as a starter Saturday.)
“They played their hearts out. They did some really good things,” Petrino said. “First half, I called the game trying to take care of those freshman O-linemen, and we kept the ball 44 plays to their 23.”
Idaho appeared to run out of steam as the third quarter progressed. The Vandals didn’t get a first down for the last 20 minutes of game time. UC Davis flipped the momentum, bouncing back from a 10-point deficit to take its first lead with about seven minutes to go, then coasting to the finish.
UI quarterback Mike Beaudry was sacked only once, but did have to use his legs to escape a crumbling pocket a few times.
“I’m super proud of those freshmen, just when we have that lead, we’ve got to win. That starts with me, that’s my fault,” Petrino added. “Honestly, I gotta watch the tape, but it might have been some of our older guys that need to play better in order for us to win.”
Washington State transfer Logan Prescott took over for Coffey. Logan Kendall, primarily a fullback, got most of the reps at tight end. Freshman Arnell Walker, plus junior transfers Josh Jones and Awan Parker, split time at cornerback to fill in for Hoover. True freshman Tommy McCormick started at safety in Woodward’s stead.
Parker and McCormick had two of the day’s more memorable plays, winning one-on-one battles deep downfield to break up long balls from the Aggies. But junior UC Davis quarterback Hunter Rodrigues was productive in his first career start, picking up chunk gains with quick, on-target throws and finishing 23-of-29 passing for 243 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.
“We knew the situation we were going into the game with, but there’s no excuses,” junior linebacker Tre Walker said. “Congrats to all the young guys that stepped up. The O-line, they did their job, had a wonderful game. Shoutout to them.”
Petrino acknowledged during spring camp that two players opted out of Idaho’s season for personal reasons. A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed one of them to be Montana grad transfer cornerback Dareon Nash, an expected starter.
Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 627-3209.