The first drive of Chad Chalich's collegiate career couldn't have gone better.
Idaho's redshirt freshman quarterback completed 2-of-2 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown Saturday at North Texas. However, the Coeur d'Alene High graduate was unable to get the Vandals in the end zone again in a 40-6 loss.
Chalich finished the game 19-of-27 passing for 230 yards and did not have an interception.
"He was 70 percent on his completions, any time it's your first start as a freshman and you complete 70 percent of your balls, that's a good job," Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.
Even with a high completion percentage, Petrino said Chalich has quite a few aspects to work on, namely his decision-making. He pointed to the Vandals' second possession, when down 7-6, Chalich hit Dezmon Epps for 3 yards on a second-and-5 to the North Texas 20 the next two runs were short of the first down, and Idaho turned the ball over on downs at the 19.
"He misread it (on second down) and just needed to run for the first down," Petrino said.
Also with that decision-making were times when Chalich should not have ran, instead should have gone through his progressions. He ran 16 times for 42 yards and was sacked four times.
"There were some first-and-10s and some second-and-mediums where he had incompletions where he needed to put the ball on people instead of taking off and running," Petrino said.
In the loss to the Mean Green, Chalich fumbled twice on consecutive possessions once on a sack and another after a 10-yard run. Petrino also noted his quarterback will need to improve his blitz checks, but also praised Chalich's toughness, which was one of the keys in him getting the job.
"The day he has to run out of bounds or slide, he won't be our quarterback," Petrino said.
While Petrino likes Chalich's ability to scramble, and his lack of fear of tucking it and running in the heart of the defense, he also wants to spare him of a few hits while putting out another speedy option behind center.
Junior college transfer Josh McCain came in late in the game and ran twice for 24 yards. Petrino said he initially hoped to play him earlier, which may in fact happen in the near future.
"There's definitely a chance something could happen earlier in the game," he said.
A new era
Not only was Saturday Petrino's first game as a head coach, it was the first game action for half the players on the sideline.
"We brought 64 guys, 32 had never been in a Division I football game before," Petrino said.
Among the newcomers who stood out were Chalich, Epps (seven catches, 89 yards), running back Jerrel Brown (six carries, 70 yards), linebacker Mark Millan (10 tackles) and punter Austin Rehkow (six punts, 47.3-yard average).
Familiar faces in Laramie
Former Idaho head coach Chris Tormey (1995-99) is Wyoming's new defensive coordinator after spending last season as the Cowboys' secondary coach. Wyoming's quarterbacks coach is Jason Gesser, who served as Idaho's interim head coach for the final four games of 2012 after Robb Akey's firing. Gesser was Idaho's running backs coach in 2011, and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn