Idaho's hopes of ending a six-year bowl drought hinge on junior Matt Linehan, who is one of the top quarterbacks in the Sun Belt Conference.
First glance: Idaho Vandals.
When/Where: 2 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium (Pac-12 Networks, 1000 AM, 97.7 FM).
Coach: Paul Petrino is 7-29 in his fourth season with the Vandals. In 2013, he took over an Idaho program that had 12 losing seasons in the previous 13 years. He managed just two wins his first two seasons before winning four games in 2015 – their most wins in five years. Petrino is the younger brother of Bobby Petrino and served as his offensive coordinator at Louisville (2003-06) and Arkansas (2008-09). The younger Petrino was also the OC at Illinois (2010-11) and again at Arkansas (2012) before taking the Idaho job.
Last season: The Vandals (4-8) finished in a five-way tie for fifth-place at 3-5 in the 11-team Sun Belt Conference.
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Record/Last week: Idaho (1-0) beat FCS upstart Montana State 20-17 at the Kibbie Dome, handing former UW assistant Jeff Choate his first loss as head coach. The Vandals scored 17 points in the first quarter and led 20-10 at halftime before holding on to the win. Idaho racked up 353 yards, 225 on the ground.
Early line: N/A.
Notable: In March, the Sun Belt voted to rescind Idaho’s membership in the conference following the 2017 season. The Vandals decided to move down to FCS and return to the Big Sky starting in 2018. The Vandals will have to reduce scholarships from 85 to 63 before the transition. … Idaho returns 14 starters (8 offense, 6 defense) from a team that ranked fourth in the Sun Belt offensively in points per game (30.3) and ninth in points allowed (42.1). … Idaho plays at Washington State on Sept. 17.
Star players: Quarterback Matt Linehan, a 6-3, 214-pound junior, is the son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who was on the Washington Huskies staff (1994-98). The three-year starter was named preseason second team All-Sun Belt. He passed for 2,972 yards, 16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions last season. He completed 63.1 percent of his attempts. Last week, Linehan managed just 128 yards on 8-for-22 passing, including an interception. He also carried seven times for 43 yards. … Receiver Callen Hightower, a 5-10, 177-pound senior, and tight end Trent Cowan, a 6-3, 224-poud senior, were voted preseason second team All-Sun Belt. Hightower is was second on the team with 57 catches and 749 receiving yards. Cowan had 48 receptions and 624 receiving yards. Receiver Deon Watson, a 6-4, 222-pound senior, led Idaho with 67 receiving yards on two catches last week. He finished with a team-high seven TD grabs last season along with 42 catches and 551 receiving yards. … Running back Aaron Duckworth, a 5-8, 201-pound junior, was a backup last season who ran for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 3.6 yards per attempt. Last week, Duckworth carried Idaho with 108 yards rushing on just 14 carries, including a 43-yard score. He also had a 1-yard plunge in the end zone and averaged 7.7 yards per attempt. … Linebacker Kaden Elliss, a 6-3, 216-pound sophomore, was second on the team last year with 83 tackles. He’s the leading returning tackler. … Cornerback Jayshawn Jordan, a 5-9, 185-pound senior, is a three-year starter who missed last nine games in 2015 due to a season-ending injury. The former O’Dea High standout is one of four returning starters in the secondary. … Punter Austin Rehkow, a 6-3, 208-pound senior, is s one of two players in the country on the Ray Guy (punter) and Lou Groza (kicker) preseason watch lists. He averaged 45.7 yards and had a net of 39.2 last season.
By the numbers:
15.8 – Points Idaho averaged in 2012, the year before Petrino’s arrival. The following three seasons, the Vandals have averaged 18.2, 25.0 and 30.3 points.
59.2 – The average points Idaho has allowed against the five Power 5 conference teams it has played in the past three seasons. The Vandals are winless in those games, including a 59-9 loss last year at USC.
87 – Combined starts among four returning offensive linemen (LT Jordan Rose, LG Mason Woods, C Steven Matlock and RT Calvin White) who collectively average 6-5 1/2 and 307 pounds.
2009 – Last time the Vandals visited Husky Stadium they lost 42-23 despite a 412-374 edge in total offense. Coincidentally, it’s also the last time Idaho played in the postseason – a 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl.
$825,000 – UW’s payment to Idaho for Saturday’s game.
(This post has been updated due to errors in the previous edition).