Vandal football seniors hope to win home finale

Idaho has lost 22 of its past 24 games; Old Dominion is 0-3 vs. FBS foes this year.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comNovember 9, 2013 

— From an exciting bowl victory in 2009 while redshirting to a 4-29 mark since the start of the 2011 season, some of the Idaho Vandals’ seniors have seen it all. Seventeen will play their final home game Saturday against Old Dominion at the Kibbie Dome, and most are in their fifth season with the program.

They witnessed the 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl four years ago, but also have been on a ride that has seen more lows than those early highs.

“It’s crazy. I get the chills thinking about it being the last one,” senior tight end Mike LaGrone said. “It’s amazing to think guys like myself have made it through everything, but it’s also hard because you know college ball is almost done.”

Paul Petrino took over the Vandals (1-8) this season, and with him came schemes and plenty of new faces. He added nearly 30 freshmen and junior-college signees.

Through Idaho’s struggles, Petrino often has praised his young talent.

“The future is bright,” Petrino said Monday. “I told the new guys, ‘Let’s have you guys start being the leaders.’ ”

Knowing the Vandals are looking to the future was no surprise to LaGrone, and he admitted trying to balance that fact, along with knowing he has just this year, at first was a bitter pill to take.

“That’s tough. You might think at first that this year doesn’t matter, but it does,” LaGrone said. “I’m trying to get somewhere in life, and if I were to give up, what kind of example is that for my child?”

Even with the focus on youth, Idaho has received solid contributions from its seniors. Quarterback Taylor Davis is likely to start his third straight game and has thrown one interception in 104 attempts. Running back James Baker has a team-best 486 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Defensive tackle QuayShawne Buckley has 10 tackles for loss. LaGrone has 15 catches for 175 yards, both fourth on the team and on pace for career-highs.

“I’ve learned a lot from this staff. I’ve been helped by every staff,” LaGrone said. “Guys have bought in, seniors or not.”

LaGrone doesn’t look back at his time at Idaho as something “stressful.” Instead, he opts to simply appreciate the work he and his teammates put in and can still look ahead for at least one thing.

“Winning our last home game would be perfect,” he said.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420,Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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