MOSCOW — Idaho's football team tried to make it feel every bit like a legitimate game.
There were refs, pregame routines, clock-management situations, and a hodgepodge of 100-or-so plays, most of them to scheme Penn State, but only about half of them ones vs. ones.
Plus, it all started with Okie, a verve-building, hard-hitting drill UI tends to run before games.
The energy was high in the Kibbie Dome on Wednesday during the Vandals’ mock game. But there were highs and lows too.
Here are four takeaways:
Some of it was on a short field — or in goal-line situations — and some in the open field, but regardless of disparate position, quarterbacks Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson performed well.
A lot came thanks to the offensive linemen, who often fashioned clean pockets for the two. But give credit where it’s due. About half of the scrimmage was first-team offense vs. a mix of potential first-team defenders, and the pair of signal callers took what the secondary gave them.
Petrino unofficially was 14-for-17 (about 8-for-10 against starters) for a combined 195 yards and four scores. Richardson unofficially went 11-for-14 for 120 yards and two touchdowns (approximately 7-for-9 against guys likely to play).
Petrino hit a free-flying Jeff Cotton over the middle several times. The day’s two top throws were for touchdowns, from Petrino to Cotton, who both times got a step on a corner. In those instances, Petrino placed a 30-yard ball on the money where only Cotton could grab it.
With a cleaner pocket to load, Petrino attempted throws further than his norm.
Richardson fared equally well, his best toss a 25-yard gain to Cutrell Haywood on the far side of the field. It was a well-placed ball, rocketed with haste.
Overall, the quarterbacks avoided precarious attempts. Even so, they managed quick releases, largely to pass-catchers with ample space to procure yards after the catch.
This could cause some alarm relating to UI’s new-look secondary, but one might also attribute the offense’s respectable day to its skill-player talent.
The one interception was from Nikhil Nayar — heading the scouts — who underthrew a long pass and had it picked by high-rising David Eppinger.
A BIT OF RB SEPARATION?
Nick Romano will indisputably be an impact player for UI's offense. Really, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he starts.
The true freshman and Gem State native got more snaps than all other backs, and made a case for “player of the scrimmage.”
He broke open several times on passing plays, finishing the night with almost 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns. On the ground, Romano danced for about 50 yards on six carries, although a bit of it came against the scout team.
If there were any such competition, he certainly made his case for “UI’s fastest player.”
Behind Romano, fellow freshman Kiahn Martinez had nine carries for approximately 45 yards — half of those coming via breaks outside, half inside, where the 5-foot-7, 186-pounder tried to play above his weight.
Roshaun Johnson, Aundre Carter and Dylan Thigpen repped about five times each out of the backfield. Most of Johnson’s snaps came later in the scrimmage, but he did bust two 20-yard gains against UI’s upper-echelons.
Early, Carter brushed off an edge-rusher, then scampered along the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown, more than half of his yardage.
It appears Romano and Martinez fit coach Paul Petrino’s bill of “guys who make people miss in space.” Although the five-way running-back battle remains open, the volume of reps Wednesday suggest the young ones are ahead of the curve.
PLUGGING IT UP
The runners didn’t have it easy — the gaps weren’t wide.
UI’s defensive line was the loudest, and with good reason. If there was a “position group of the day,” it was conceivably them.
Sacks were practically indeterminable — plays weren’t often marked down when a defensive linemen was looming — but the big men held fast in RPO and inside-zone situations. Particular standouts were buck Charles Akanno and 350-pound defensive tackle Noah Elliss, both of whom combined on three consecutive inside-run stuffs on the night’s second drive.
In one late case, unfortunate freshman Khalil Forehand was smacked by a free-rushing Akanno, then gobbled up on the next play by Elliss right when the ball touched his hands.
In all, the line forced two fumbles near the line of scrimmage and recovered both.
In playing the run, the bulls up front were notable, as told by pad pops, followed by “great job,” cries from position coach Luther Elliss. Additionally, several runs were bounced outside, because there simply wasn’t space.
But the offensive line mostly appeared to hold steady in pass protection, except in a few cases where backups were outright overpowered.
The 247-pound Akanno had a strong day, and many times found himself in the backfield alongside Elliss.
The D-line’s first team looked as follows: Kayode Rufai, Elliss, Jonah Kim and Akanno. Rahsaan Crawford and Nate DeGraw took reserve roles at DT, while Leo Tamba, Coleman Johnson and Theo Griffin rotated on the edges.
TEASING OUT THE WRS
Cotton unofficially had 160 yards and three scores. In other words, he was unguardable. Haywood created room with his blocking and his three grabs totaled 55 yards.
They’re locked in place.
Jante Boston made his case for a starting role. He grabbed three balls for 30 yards — one of them a diving, sideline catch — but Paul Petrino could be heard on the field, lauding Boston’s blocking.
DJ Lee wasn’t present at the scrimmage for an unknown reason.
There’s not much else known at this point, besides that UI probably will figure out its receiver depth during the first few weeks of the season. Pullman’s Jed Byers and Portland’s Mike Noil, and true freshmen Daseau Puffer and stocky Sean McCormick all got about equal action.
None of them made a strong case over another, with almost all of the receptions falling in the mitts of the standouts, running backs or tight end Connor Whitney, who had two 15-yard scores.
Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.