HILLSBORO, Ore. — Idaho football coach Paul Petrino got pretty comprehensive during his postgame talk when citing the prevailing factors in an ugly result Saturday.
“I’m not sure we played very good anywhere on offense,” he said.
Could he expand on that?
“We can’t turn the ball over, we gotta run block better, we gotta pass protect better,” he noted, then paused to think before resuming. “We gotta run better, we gotta run routes better, we gotta catch the ball better. So, coach better.”
The Vandals’ battered offense did little right and their hardly-helped defense eventually succumbed to Portland State in a 24-0 drubbing, the first time Idaho’s been shut out in six years and second under Petrino.
“To hold anybody to a goose egg — even in pee-wee football — that’s big,” said Vikings coach Bruce Barnum, whose team’s win was its second ever against the Vandals. It also was Portland State’s first shutout of a league team in 13 years.
Idaho (2-5, 0-3 Big Sky) was limited to 236 yards — 45 on a garbage-time drive — in its worst offensive output since an Aug. 31 rout at Penn State.
The Vikings (4-3, 2-1) might as well have had a Power 5 defense. Their box-loaded flex front bundled up UI runners (80 yards on 33 attempts) and burned its offensive line, utilizing disguised speed-rushing schemes to rattle the Vandals’ two quarterbacks.
Portland State totaled 10 tackles for loss, including six sacks of Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson, who combined for 156 yards on 45 percent.
During its first series of the third quarter with the defense-heavy game tied at 0, Idaho shook things up, calling on backup quarterback Richardson, of Lewiston, on a third-and-13.
“Just trying to do something to give us a spark, try to do something a little bit different,” Paul Petrino said. “He still had two games he could play and still redshirt.”
Richardson stared left and fired toward receiver Jante Boston, who was on a curl. Deon Crayon jumped it for the day’s third interception, leading Portland State to a 38-yard Cody Williams field goal.
“We needed to be the first on the board in a game like that,” Barnum said. “You get behind in a game like that and it’s dangerous.”
From then, Richardson fared maybe a modicum better than Mason Petrino, who returned on the next series only to be sacked, go three-and-out, then be benched; he finished 8-of-15 for 70 yards and two interceptions, and has committed eight turnovers in his past three games.
His second pick was on a ricochet after an impressive diving swat; the first was grabbed off a juggle in the end zone late in the first quarter. It was one of only two red-zone appearances for Idaho.
Meanwhile, Portland State’s offense executed precisely how UI’s did in a 20-7 Vandals’ decision a year ago — stoked by defensive stops, it chewed up clock and found opportunity when it came down the stretch. Idaho went 3-for-13 on third downs.
The Vikings followed their field goal with an eight-play, 91-yard series in which slippery quarterback Davis Alexander rushed for 66 yards, scoring with multiple cuts on a 21-yarder and enlivening an offense that’d also been stifled in the first half.
Richardson led the ensuing possession 67 yards, picking up 18 on a read-option keeper and floating a 30-yarder to Cutrell Haywood.
But after a pair of run stops and a sack, Cade Coffey missed a 34-yard field goal wide left.
Richardson went 5-of-14 for 86 yards and two interceptions, one on the game’s final play, a Hail Mary.
“When we’re not (pass protecting) great, I think that hurts him sometimes because of his ability to move, but he did move a couple times and did some good things,” Paul Petrino said.
Alexander boosted the Vikings to another lengthy drive at the start of the fourth. His passing game had been hindered by Idaho pressure earlier, but he got in a groove, began to evade approaching defenders, and put Portland State up by 17 with a touch pass lofted to Davis Koetter for 28 yards in the back of the end zone.
Lloyd Hightower forced a turnover and the Vandals registered eight TFLs — three from Christian Elliss, Alexander’s spy — but could only keep a versatile Viks offense contained for so long.
After its top-ranked Big Sky defense suppressed another Vandal series with a fourth-down sack, Portland State moved methodically, nickel and diming its way downfield and adding some extra flare with a 21-yard, one-handed touchdown grab by Emmanuel Daigbe on a fourth-down back-shoulder throw.
Alexander went 13-of-26 for 167 yards, and led all players with 91 yards rushing.
The Vandals — who played without two offensive linemen, receiver Jeff Cotton and running backs Aundre Carter and Roshaun Johnson — most likely have been eliminated from postseason contention in the Football Championship Subdivision.
They furthered a recent M.O., committing seven penalties for 72 yards; they fell to 0-10 on the road since the start of 2018, and have regressed mightily since a Week 4 win against Eastern Washington.
Stars of the game
Portland State’s flex defense, designed to provide speedsters rushing lanes, clicked perfectly against a shaky Idaho front. It had a total of 10 tackles for loss — six sacks — and was led by DAVID JOSEPH, who tallied 3 1/2.
Offensively, Vikings quarterback DAVIS ALEXANDER was relatively bottled up in the first half, but gained composure with time and began to gash UI’s defense in both respects in the second. He shook off a bunch of defenders in rushing for 91 yards, and was 13-of-26 passing for 167 yards and two scores.
Idaho linebacker CHRISTIAN ELLISS was in large part responsible for keeping PSU’s volatile offense in check. He contained Alexander well enough early, making three tackles for loss to go with his game-best 14 stops.
Trailing 10-0 with about five-and-a-half minutes to go in the third, the Vandals and quarterback Colton Richardson seem to be in a do-or-die drive. Richardson leads them downfield, with outside runs and his tendency to test coverages deep. But after all that, with UI in the red zone for the second of two times, Richardson is sacked, the inside-run game is sent back, and Cade Coffey misses a 34-yard field goal. It felt like their best chance, and it was squandered.
Idaho (2-5, 0-3 Big Sky) will stage a matchup with improving Gem State foe Idaho State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Kibbie Dome.