Idaho quarterbacks embrace rotation

Chalich, McCain have each flashed potential in the first three games.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comSeptember 21, 2013 


    Idaho and Nevada have agreed to a two-year series, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper. Nevada will play in Moscow on Sept. 26, 2015, while the Vandals will visit MackayStadium on Sept. 30, 2017.

As vital as the quarterback position is, having two options can present dicey situations. Only one is on the field at a time, pulling out a guy in the groove is risky, and trying to split snaps rarely works.

But bringing in a different look at intermittent times can be a boon, like Florida a few years ago with Tim Tebow when Chris Leak started, or Oklahoma recently with its big running quarterback, “Belldozer’’ Blake Bell.

That is the method Idaho has chosen this year with freshman Chad Chalich and junior Josh McCain. So far, despite three losses, it has been a success.

“We need them both right now,’’ coach Paul Petrino said. “Right now, there’s just a lot of pressure on them. Until everyone around them starts playing a little bit better, going in and out helps them a little.’’

Chalich is the starter, a fact Petrino makes clear — he is 55-of-84 passing for 634 yards and three touchdowns, while McCain is 3-of-4 for 52 yards.

However, McCain has provided a running option (his 122 rushing yards are a team-high). In last Saturday’s 45-35 loss to Northern Illinois, both appeared on the opening drive, which resulted in a touchdown. Chalich threw for two touchdowns and McCain ran for one against the Huskies.

“I think it’s big for both of us, but especially being a freshman and all, it’s a good thing for me to get a rest here and there,’’ Chalich said. “Josh can do some great things, so when I’m on the sideline, I know he can get the job done — and it pushes me, too.’’

For McCain, who came to Idaho this summer from De Anza (Calif.) College, it has taken some adjustment knowing he could come in or out of the game at any time. So far, he likes the results.

“You’re used to being the starter, so that’s different, but coach Petrino said before the season that we’d both play and that it would give us the best shot to win — and we saw in the last game we can move the ball. Now we just gotta get that W,’’ McCain said.

Petrino said both quarterbacks have improved through three games. Neither has thrown an interception, but they have six of Idaho’s nation-high eight lost fumbles.

“Not throwing an interception, that’s a huge positive, but we have fumbled, and that’s a huge negative,’’ Petrino said.

Both QBs said there isn’t much concern of being pulled at the wrong time — “Coach knows if we're doing well, he’s not going to mess with that,’’ McCain said.

Said Chalich: “We had a couple rough patches, but we’ve shown we’re improving — I think we’re going to get it going this next game.’’

Dave Southorn: 377-6420; Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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