He inherited a mess at Idaho State. After surprising success, he’ll get a new contract.

Idaho State football coach Rob Phenicie.
Idaho State football coach Rob Phenicie. Courtesy of Idaho State

In his first season as a head coach, Rob Phenicie has led the Idaho State football team to a 4-4 record, the team’s second-best start since 2005.

In April, Phenicie signed a two-year deal with Idaho State that guarantees him an $85,000 salary for two years, according to the Idaho State Journal. The contract stipulates that he will be the head coach in 2017 and will remain on as at least the offensive coordinator in 2018.

But Idaho State Athletic Director Jeff Tingey was impressed enough with Phenicie’s first season that the two have verbally agreed to a three-year contract extension.

Phenicie is the lowest-paid head coach in the Big Sky Conference, according to research by The Spokesman-Review, and he’s just fine with that. He went from Idaho State wide receivers coach to Northern Iowa wide receivers coach to Idaho State head coach in a span of about a week in March.

“I told the president the other day that I would do this for what I am making now,” Phenicie said. “What is more important to me is watching the kids in the locker room smile, sing the fight song and have a great time, and just enjoy football.”

Idaho State said contract details will be worked out after the season and presented to the state board in December.

“He came in under some less-than-ideal circumstances and under some less-than-ideal timing and has performed very well,” Tingey said. The coach for the past six seasons, Mike Kramer, parted ways with the program in March after compiling an 18-50 record, including 10-38 in the Big Sky.

Idaho State (4-4, 2-3) plays at Montana State (3-4, 3-2) on Saturday (1:30 p.m., Root Sports). The Bengals have lost 10 in a row to the Bobcats, their last win coming on Oct. 11, 2003.

Idaho tries to end skid

Idaho has lost three straight games heading into Saturday’s contest against Louisiana-Monroe in the Kibbie Dome (3 p.m. MT, ESPN3).

Despite the losing streak, several individual Vandals have found ways to stand out.

▪ In a 68-21 loss at Missouri last week, junior linebacker Kaden Elliss became the first player in the country to record a sack and a touchdown reception in the same game.

▪ Senior running back Aaron Duckworth leads the Sun Belt with 626 rushing yards, a feat that was last accomplished by an Idaho running back in the Big West (Joel Thomas, 1996).

▪ Freshman kicker Cade Coffey has twice been named the Sun Belt special teams player of the week, and he leads the conference in punting average (46.98 yards) and is fifth in the nation.

BYU RB charged with possession

Freshman running back Ula Tolutau is the only Cougar to have scored more than one rushing touchdown this season, but he might not be available for Saturday’s home game against San Jose State (1 p.m., ESPN3).

Tolutau was charged with possession of a controlled substance, a class B misdemeanor, according to court documents obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune.

Tolutau was cited Oct. 8 in Orem, Utah, and has since played in two games for the Cougars (1-7).

BYU football spokesman Brett Pyne told the Salt Lake Tribune the school was “aware” of Tolutau’s situation but declined further comment.

C of I on road again

Coming off a 36-7 loss at No. 7 Southern Oregon, The College of Idaho has a chance to complete its first Frontier Conference sweep when it plays at Eastern Oregon (2-5) on Saturday (1 p.m., 99.1 FM). The Coyotes (3-5, 3-4) beat the Mountaineers 28-20 on Sept. 16 in Caldwell.

Sophomore Darius-James Peterson is on pace to break the program’s single-season rushing record by a quarterback. He collected 108 yards on the ground against Southern Oregon and has 820 yards this season, which ranks third in program history. The record is 857 set by Teejay Gordon in 2014.

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @byrachelroberts