Matt Linehan’s offseason work showed up quickly for the Idaho Vandals in their season opener.
The sophomore quarterback stressed an improvement on the mental side of the game, even picking Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s brain about his approach.
It paid off in the Sept. 3 loss to Ohio: Linehan completed 36-of-48 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown, though his two interceptions are an area of needed improvement.
“I thought he played really well, thought he had good poise in the pocket ... made some really good protection checks,” coach Paul Petrino said.
One of the largest focuses for Linehan going into this season was his ability to read defenses, he said during spring practices. Petrino said he audibled out of 10 to 12 plays against Ohio where the look was not advantageous for the Vandals.
“I probably made more checks than I had all of last year,” said Linehan, whose father, Scott, is the offensive coordinator with the Cowboys.
The 36 completions were the most among FBS quarterbacks the first week of the season. Taking out sacks, Linehan also rushed seven times for 49 yards, including the team’s longest rush of the game, a 17-yarder.
“He made himself bigger and faster this offseason. When he took off and ran, I think that helped a lot, too,” Petrino said.
Eliminating turnovers will be key going forward, as the offense has harped on not giving the ball away.
“One thing I’ve learned is no day should go wasted. ... As I continue to go through the season, I have to keep working on the little things, being more and more fundamentally sound,” Linehan said.
Another solid game Saturday will no doubt give Linehan even more confidence, considering the opponent — No. 8 USC. The challenge is massive, but he isn’t backing down.
“We haven’t been ready to give in, ‘Oh this is USC.’ If you’re not ready to play this game, you probably shouldn’t be playing football,” Linehan said.
IDAHO IDS PLAYERS CAUGHT SHOPLIFTING
The university on Friday publicly identified wide receiver Dezmon Epps and cornerback Isaiah Taylor as two of the players who shoplifted merchandise from the VandalStore last month.
The school and football program previously declined to identify the players, and said punishment would be handled internally. The campus bookstore had security video of the incident.
Epps, one of the team’s top players who also has a long history of disciplinary issues at Idaho, played in the opener against Ohio and remains with the team. Taylor has been dismissed, according to a statement released from Petrino on Friday.
“Dezmon Epps and Isaiah Taylor made a serious error in judgment on August 16. Their behavior was not acceptable and completely contradictory to what our team and coaches stand for,’’ Petrino said in the statement. “We took immediate disciplinary action in addition to imposing strict daily behavioral requirements for them to meet. ...
“Isaiah chose not to comply with our requirements and is no longer on the football team. Dezmon thus far has met our requirements and has complied with the sanctions we imposed. As long as he continues to abide by these requirements, there is a place for him in the Vandal family.’’
Epps has been suspended for the USC game, according the various media reports. The senior caught 15 passes for 160 yards in last week’s 45-28 loss to Ohio.
Taylor, a junior, was one of the Vandals’ top cornerbacks who was expected to see significant playing time this season.