On Tuesday, when Idaho coach Paul Petrino recalled his team’s 19-16 win at Troy on Saturday, he thought of a nugget of knowledge from famed sports psychologist Kevin Elko.
“One of the biggest things he always talked about was being comfortable when you’re uncomfortable. ... You couldn’t be much more uncomfortable than that trip was for us,” Petrino said.
A 14-hour flight delay from Moscow to Alabama meant the Vandals arrived in Troy about four hours before kickoff, with most players only getting sleep on the flight. But the victory was Idaho’s first on the road since Nov. 5, 2011, and the fifth time in 39 games it held a team to fewer than 34 points.
“I think it can definitely be a turning point in the whole program,” Petrino said. “That’s something we want to build on, and hopefully make it happen.”
Idaho is looking for its first back-to-back wins since rattling off five in a row between Sept. 19 and Oct. 17, 2009, a season when the Vandals won the Humanitarian Bowl, their only bowl berth this century.
The Vandals host Louisiana-Monroe at 3 p.m. Saturday, then visit New Mexico State (Oct. 31) and South Alabama (Nov. 7). Those three schools are a combined 4-14 with two wins over Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Add in a home season finale Nov. 28 against Texas State, which has no FBS wins, and the table is set for a potential run. Idaho lost its first Sun Belt games to consistent front-runners Georgia Southern and Arkansas State, and Petrino knew the schedule opened up a bit after that stretch.
“I said at the very beginning that we had two of the best teams right off the bat, then after that, there’s a bunch of teams I feel we can be very competitive against,” Petrino said.
The two wins this season are the most since 2011. Considering all the factors, the energy level around the Kibbie Dome is as high as it has been in quite some time. Now, the key is corralling it into momentum and stringing together some wins.
“It really helps, it makes them excited ... I think it’s a great step forward,” Petrino said.
Senior wide receiver Dezmon Epps (62 catches, 659 yards) played some defensive back in the Troy game, making two tackles. Petrino said he may continue to play a bit while the secondary depth is thin with multiple players recovering from injury. ... Cornerback Dorian Clark was ejected from the Troy game for targeting and will miss the first half against the Warhawks, though Petrino has sought to get it appealed. ... Quarterbacks Matt Linehan and Jake Luton will both play again.