Idaho Vandals

Struggling Vandals hoping for a stronger team effort in Louisiana

Idaho Vandals tight end Deon Watson runs for a gain against UNLV during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, in Las Vegas.
Idaho Vandals tight end Deon Watson runs for a gain against UNLV during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, in Las Vegas. The Associated Press

The Idaho Vandals can’t do much about playing football teams with superior talent, as was the case when they were humbled by Washington and Washington State.

What they can do is focus on effort.

Listening to coaches and players after last Saturday’s 34-13 loss to Troy, it’s clear that Idaho didn’t put together a team effort.

“They played hard,” senior offensive lineman Calvin White said of Troy. “At times, they played harder than us.”

Coach Paul Petrino went back to the way Idaho played the previous week, a 33-30 win at UNLV.

“It’s a matter of taking that big hit and keep fighting,” he said. “I thought we really did a good job of that in that game, and now we’ve got to get to where we can do that week in and week out.”

Idaho (2-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) gets another chance when it travels to Louisiana Monroe on Saturday (5 p.m., ESPN3 and 630 AM). The Warhawks (1-3, 0-1), who are coming off a bye, lost their previous three games, including a 58-7 rout at Auburn.

“This is a week where we’ve got to compete and find a way to win,” Petrino said. “We’ve lost to three good teams, but now it’s time to improve and take a big step forward.”

Kris Cinkovich, Idaho’s offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, knows one way to take that big step: improved production from his line.

“Our protection has been average, at best,” Cinkovich said. “We need to be cleaner and give (QB Matt Linehan) more time because he’ll make the plays when we do.”

On defense, Idaho will try to contain sophomore quarterback Garrett Smith, who has thrown for 881 yards and seven touchdowns (four interceptions). He also leads the team in rushing with 198 yards and two TDs.

“Everything kind of spins off the quarterback,” Idaho defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. “How he goes is how they go, offensively.”

Said senior safety Jayshawn Jordan: “I think it’s going to come down to who wants it most in the fourth quarter, and who wants to grind it out every quarter, from play one to the last play.’’

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