The dead horse has been beaten so badly. It’s basically a heap of bones now.

Well, let’s do it again. One. More. Time.

Quarterback Mason Petrino, surely the most puzzling, jeered and controversial subject in Idaho football history, sailed away on top — a 563-yard, seven-touchdown blaze of glory to give his dad, coach Paul, his first road win in two years with a ludicrous 60-53 overtime toppling of Northern Arizona.

At least for another year, Mason — the scarcely recruited 5-foot-10 signal-caller out of Pullman High — will sit at a tie for No. 1 in the single-game program record books with his six passing scores. And probably for a long, long time, he’ll be No. 2 in single-game total offense.

Good on him.

Even considering NAU’s couple-dozen missing defensive players, Petrino’s outing was no fluke. At least three of his plays would make it on his all-time top-five list.

He regrouped after a goal-line fumble, led a bold, lead-taking drive near the end of regulation, then kicked off OT with another of his well-positioned touchdown passes.

It all earned him the Big Sky’s player of the week honors and, certainly, a “thank you” from a defense that flipped a 180, and couldn’t cover, plus more gratitude from senior receiver Jeff Cotton, who was given the record-breaking game of his life (18 catches, 230 yards, two scores).

Was it nice to see the legitimately hard-working coach’s son have his best day, a stupid-good day, and get a little love for it? Of course; you had to feel pretty happy for the guy, who’d struggled mightily in all but a third of his games this season and had been headhunted by opponents en route to a league-leading 16 turnovers, and more targeted performance critiques than anyone I can remember.

After all, though, it wasn’t Mason who put Mason in a position to forever be maligned.

But does the eye-popping day vs. four-win NAU make up for the last two years, in which Idaho’s football team went 9-14, posting consecutive losing seasons in its return to the league?

Nah.

It’s just too ridiculous, too hard to get over the fact this whole ordeal happened at a Division I school, and still doesn’t receive much national attention despite the last two years being a nonsensical oddity, regardless of college classification.

And it’s not only the fact coach Paul Petrino very clearly neglected the quarterback position from late 2017 on, electing to follow nepotistic leanings and prep his naturally short-handed son for a coaching career in lieu of recruiting a ready-to-go juco QB or something of the sort — although this will primarily be what the Vandals from 2018-19 are remembered for because truly, QB limitations did them dirty.

“What a great way to end it,” the just-as-disparaged coach said after Mason went out with a bang. “(Mason and I) have had a lot of tough times. Good times, bad times.”

Those “bad times” were reflected in a Twitter post from Idaho football’s official account on Sunday morning.

After lauding Mason’s day and his program-best career completion percentage, the tweet’s author decided to employ the hashtag “HatersGonnaHate,” invoking resentment within a UI fan base the remark seemed directed toward.

Something similar happened after Mason’s other outstanding game — a win against Eastern Washington in September — when Paul practically called out the media and UI devotees because they supposedly “don’t like (Mason).”

People appreciated Mason’s character, toughness and football savvy. They appreciated that he left it all out there for Idaho.

For sure, they appreciated that career finale.

They didn’t appreciate a “father-son” bias, the several losses — many laughable — after a so-called “drop down” to the FCS, and how the program has trended in the direction of “us vs. our own supporters” over the last two years.

The quarterback, as we all know, takes the brunt of blame if the team’s not winning, particularly if a chunk of the losses can be laid at the feet of a muffled offense.

Yet, aside from a few unnecessarily low-blow comments, the charges have been wholly put on the league’s highest-paid coach, whose Big Sky UI teams have yet to vie for a postseason spot a few years removed from a 9-4, bowl-championship season — the first two didn’t come close.

So here we are, with a lump of the fan base still clinging to wilting FBS dreams, another glad to be in this league, but both lamenting all the humbling defeats and this controversy-laden two-year span that’s driven a wedge between the Vandals and their enthusiasts.

It’s been weird, huh? It’s been so strange, that it actually felt fitting for Mason Petrino to place himself in the record books with an otherworldly conclusion.

Not to beat the already pulverized horse ...

Colton Clark may be reached at cclark@lmtribune.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone (208) 848-2260.

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