As Idaho’s head football coach, Paul Petrino has faced opposing quarterbacks such as Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch.
On Saturday, he and the Vandals take on No. 8 USC and senior quarterback Cody Kessler, the potential Heisman Trophy candidate, who he says is among the best he’s seen in recent years.
“Right up there at the very top,” Petrino said.
Kessler, who had a 39-to-5 touchdown to interception ratio last season, opened the season with four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 55-6 hammering of fellow Sun Belt foe Arkansas State.
So, Petrino thinks highly of Kessler. How about the guy snapping him the ball, senior Max Tuerk?
“His center might be even better,” Petrino said. “His center might be as good a center as I’ve ever watched.”
Add in skill players like senior running back Tre Madden (8.8 yards per carry against the Red Wolves) or sophomore receiver Juju Smith-Schuster (four catches for 89 yards), and it’s a nightmare matchup for anyone. So, yes, Idaho has its work cut out for itself after giving up 489 yards in its 45-28 loss to Ohio in the Vandals’ opener. Petrino singled out one defensive player Tuesday when speaking about the game — senior defensive end Quinton Bradley, who had two sacks and a forced fumble.
“I thought Quinton Bradley played well,” Petrino said. “The rest just didn’t play good enough.”
Bradley will have to contend with Tuerk and the Trojan offensive line, but it’s the sort of game that could get him noticed, which Petrino isn’t afraid to point out.
“I think it’s a huge game for Quinton Bradley. ... I think he has a chance to play on Sundays, and that’s the game people are going to want to see him in,” Petrino said.
The Bobcats had 14.2 yards per completion and eight rushes of 10 yards or more. USC averaged 8.0 yards per play against Arkansas State, which beat Idaho 44-28 last season and hosts the Vandals on Oct. 3.
“We’ve got to tackle better. ... If we can tackle these guys, then we should have a good chance tackling anybody the rest of the year,” Petrino said.
NOTES: Petrino said sophomore wide receiver David Ungerer has a foot injury that likely will keep him out about 4-6 weeks. Ungerer had been one of the team’s fall camp standouts. ... Redshirt freshman Jake Luton will get time at quarterback, but sophomore Matt Linehan will continue to be the starter, Petrino said.