Two Idaho starters who sustained injuries during the Vandal football team’s 28-21 season-opening win Saturday against Eastern Washington are “still pending,” according to UI coach Paul Petrino.
Speedster receiver/return man Jermaine Jackson went down with an apparent leg injury early in the second quarter after an EWU tackler fell on him. He was helped off the field, visibly frustrated, then later could be seen on crutches on the Idaho sideline.
Jackson (5-foot-7, 165 pounds) remains listed as a starting “X” receiver on UI’s depth chart ahead of its game this Saturday against UC Davis, which will kick off at noon at the Kibbie Dome.
The College of San Mateo (Calif.) transfer was highlighted throughout spring camp for his elusiveness and endurance.
Pass-catchers Hayden Hatten and Cutrell Haywood were efficient enough to compensate for the loss of a starting receiver, combining for 208 yards and two scores on 10 receptions.
Midway through the first quarter, center Chad Bagwell — a Sierra College (Calif.) transfer who Vandal coaches have pointed to as one of the team’s best newcomers — appeared to suffer a lower-body injury as well.
After a visit to the locker room, he watched the rest of the game from the sideline in street clothes. The 6-6, 298-pounder still sits atop Idaho’s depth chart.
“Right now, we don’t know on those guys,” Petrino said. “... Hopefully, we’ll know better as the week goes on.
“It’s hard anytime you see one of your buddies that’s worked so hard and grinded, and sacrificed everything they can to play, and they get injured,” Petrino added during his weekly coach’s show. “But they did a good job moving forward and continued to grind, and play hard for their teammates.”
The eighth-year coach liked what he saw in relief duty from true freshman Greyson Harwood, a 6-3, 275-pounder out of Rupert, Idaho. If Bagwell isn’t ready to go, the Minico High School product likely will get the nod.
“I was proud of him,” Petrino said. “He battled and competed. For a true freshman to get stuck in there and have to play against a top team in the country, I thought he did a heckuva job.”
Star middle linebacker Tre Walker, who also carried the ball five times for 27 yards, was absent for most of a quarter against EWU with muscle cramps. Other standout linebackers Fa’avae Fa’avae and Charles Akanno missed lengthy stretches too, but returned to help spearhead a solid showing from UI’s defense against a potent Eagle attack that finished 2019 as the top total offense in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“We had a great game plan going in,” safety Jaxon Woodward said. “Our defensive line got really good pressure up front, and we were able to keep (star EWU quarterback Eric Barriere) contained.”
New Mexico transfer receiver/returner Elijah Lilly, an expected contributor, is absent from the depth chart for unknown reasons for the second consecutive week, as are defensive backs Ryan Swanson, Awan Parker and Mujeeb Rufai. Reserve linebacker Jalan Jenkins was in sweats on the UI sideline for the opener.
Senior defensive linemen Leonick Tamba and Cameron Townsend weren’t on Idaho’s Week 1 two-deep, but both played against Eastern. Townsend missed all of 2019 with a leg injury.
Idaho climbs the polls
The Vandals were ranked 19th in Monday’s STATS Perform FCS national poll. It’s the first time they’ve earned a top-25 nod in an official poll since 1995 — their final season in the Big Sky before jumping to Division I-A/Football Bowl Subdivision play, where they’d stay for 22 seasons.
“Your ultimate goal is to go to the playoffs, so you’ve got to get ranked, you’ve got to keep moving up,” Petrino said. “Our players went into the season trying to make sure we accomplish that, and (getting ranked) gives you a better chance.”
In UI’s upset of then-No. 12 EWU, all three phases clicked. That hadn’t exactly been the norm the past two seasons, but the Vandals are hoping they’ve found their balance.
Led by the swarming duo of Walker and Christian Elliss (30 combined tackles), UI’s defense played a complete game, giving new quarterback Mike Beaudry a grace period when he started sluggishly. Later, the offense got grooving, and “all game long,” Petrino said, the “special teams did a great job flipping the field.”
Walker was the Big Sky’s defensive player of the week, and punter Cade Coffey (seven attempts, 50.6 yards on average) earned STATS FCS player of the week honors.
“It bodes well for next week,” Coffey said. “It’s awesome when you see the offense, defense and special teams feeding off each other. That’s when you know you have great leadership, to be honest, and a good team.”
Vandals weigh in on good/not good FG try
The Vandals have been there, kind of.
Two seasons ago, a matchup between Idaho and Montana State came down to the wire on a snowy mid-October afternoon in Bozeman.
UI capped its final series with a 9-yard touchdown run by receiver David Ungerer, who cut back and made a few men miss on a broken end-around play. An extra point could have tied it at 24 with three minutes remaining.
Coffey’s PAT try seemed to squeeze inside the upright, but officials ruled it no good. Idaho appealed fervently, but ultimately lost by a point.
Early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, EWU had a 22-yard field-goal attempt called unsuccessful after the ball bounced off Idaho’s scoreboard and back onto the field.
It would have put the Eagles up 24-21 with 11 minutes to play. The conference admitted Sunday that the ruling was erroneous.
“I’ve been on the other end of that a couple of times,” Coffey said. “Stuff like that happens. You’ve just got to move on.”
Petrino was asked for the first time what he thought of the play during his coach’s show Tuesday.
“We won by seven, so it doesn’t really matter. The same thing happened to us at Montana State two years ago. The only difference is we lost by one,” he told UI commentator Chris King, who later inquired about the Vandals’ game-winning drive, which ended with a gutty, 25-yard touchdown pass on third-and-11 from Beaudry to Hatten with 54 seconds left.
“We thought everybody might be complaining about the missed field goal, so we wanted to make sure we got a touchdown,” said Petrino, laughing.
Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.