Don’t look now, but history is brewing in Pocatello.
The Idaho State football team routed Idaho 62-28 on Saturday at Holt Arena, making the long-struggling Bengals 3-0 in the Big Sky Conference for the first time since 1981.
The win gives Idaho State (4-1) bragging rights over its long-lost rivals, but it also sends a message to the rest of the Big Sky.
A preseason coaches poll picked the Bengals to finish 12th in the 13-team Big Sky. After Saturday, the Bengals and No. 5-ranked Eastern Washington (5-1, 3-0) sit tied atop the Big Sky standings.
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“I think it puts us on the map. ISU is here,” Idaho State center Dallen Collins said. “We’re ready to play. We’re not the little red-headed stepchild, or orange-headed stepchild, anymore.”
Idaho State senior quarterback Tanner Gueller shredded Idaho’s (2-3, 1-2) defense, completing 19-of-30 passes for 492 yards and a school-record eight TDs. He fell one touchdown short of the Big Sky record of nine set by Portland State’s Drew Hubel in 2007.
“He did some things and made some checks out there where I was like, ‘Holy smokes,’ ” Idaho State coach Rob Phenicie said. “When you’ve got a fifth-year senior at quarterback that started three games his freshman year controlling the whole deal, he’s seen a lot of things and the game kind of slows down for him.”
Idaho’s defensive backs struggled to keep receivers in front of them all night, no matter what scheme they tried. Gueller finished the game averaging 25.9 yards per completion as he converted nearly every deep ball he attempted.
Michael Dean led three Idaho State receivers with more than 100 yards, finishing with six catches for 156 yards and four TDs. Tanner’s older brother Mitch Gueller had six catches for 184 yards and a TD, and true freshman DeMonte Horton (Skyview High) caught two passes for 113 yards and a TD.
“We just got our butt kicked, bottom line,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “They were a better team than us. They played better. They coached better. They were better than us today.”
The win puts Idaho State in unfamiliar territory. Long a doormat in the Big Sky, the Bengals are off to their best start in conference since winning the I-AA (now FCS) national title in 1981.
That remains a distant and wild goal as Idaho State has yet to enter either the FCS coaches’ or media poll. But the Bengals have a swagger not seen in Pocatello in years. They travel to UC Davis (4-1, 2-0) next week.
“We are in uncharted territory with this bunch,” Phenicie said. “Every experience we have from here on out is a new experience.”
NEAR SELLOUT CROWD
Idaho’s return to Idaho State drew 11,015 fans to Holt Arena, the Bengals’ largest since 11,434 against Montana in 2003.
“That was awesome being in front of crowd like that,” Dean said. “I haven’t experienced that since I’ve been here. That was definitely one of the coolest environments and atmospheres we’ve been around.”
Idaho dropped down to the FCS and the Big Sky this fall, setting up the first meeting between the Vandals and Bengals since 2008 and the first in Pocatello since 1997. Idaho State hadn’t beaten its in-state rival since 1995, Idaho’s last season in the Big Sky, until Saturday.
IDAHO NOT SETTLED ON QB
The Vandals continued to rotate Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson at quarterback, and Idaho coach Paul Petrino said he will continue to do so next week when the Vandals head to Montana State.
Richardson finished 13-of-20 for 191 yards and two TDs with one interception Saturday. Mason Petrino went 11-of-22 for 81 yards, and he added 44 yards and the game’s opening TD on the ground.
“Mason started and took us right down and scored,” Paul Petrino said. “I thought Colton did some good things, thought Mason did some good things. Then Mason got dinged up, so Colton played (a couple drives) in a row. Then Colton got dinged up, so Mason came back in and played. We’ll just see how the week goes.”