I was right. I was right about why the Idaho football team is good this year. Make no mistake about it, this football team is good. We proved it last Saturday night in Las Vegas.
I told you Matt Linehan would propel this team. I said we were going to put up the numbers offensively and carry the defense.
Well, consider the numbers.
In two wins over Montana State (H) and UNLV (A), Linehan is 25 of 57 for 377 yards and 1 touchdown, 1 interception. That’s a perfectly mediocre 6.7 YPA to go with a less-than-50-percent completion percentage.
His numbers in losses to Washington and Washington State? He is 38 of 62 for 359, one touch and no picks.
Linehan isn’t turning heads in the Sun Belt with his numbers through the first four games.
But I’m not wrong. I mean, I might be. I’m sort of wrong. But I’m also not wrong. Because, Matt Linehan is winning football games for the Idaho Vandals.
In both wins, Linehan struggled mightily in the first three quarters of those football games. For some reason his arm has failed him. He was throwing passes in the turf against the Bobcats, and against UNLV continually misfired while on the move and couldn’t connect with guys over the middle.
I was at a loss watching these performances.
It was an adverse situation, you could say.
Adversity used to murder this team. We could be off to a great start, touchdowns on the board, double digit lead. But you get punched in the mouth one time and it’s a knockout. No lead was comfortable for the Vandals, it just took one bit of adversity for this team to fold.
It was this perception which led many to believe it’d be more of the same for Idaho this year. That would make you believe this year wouldn’t end in a bowl appearance.
Consider, after a 17-7 lead and a fumble on the goal line, the way Linehan responded to UNLV tying the game at 20-20 in the fourth quarter. Those who have followed for a long time had the same fears I did.
Damn, this is it. That’s the punch in the mouth.
“Nah, fuck that,” Linehan figuratively said.
Matt, who it’d be fair to say sucked for most of that game, manufactured a 70-yard drive and accounted for all but one yard of it, capping it with a seven-yard run to put Idaho back on top 27-20.
Responding to adversity.
UNLV responded again. 27-27. Overtime.
Damnit, you thought. This is it. Same old Vandals. We’re going to do it again.
“Nah, fuck that,” Linehan said again. Figuratively, of course.
UNLV kicked a field goal to take the 30-27 lead.
Third and 3 from the 18, Linehan decides a field goal to tie isn’t what we’re about. He puts on the jets again and gains eight yards to put us in a first and goal situation. Two plays later he hits a PERFECT pass to Callen Hightower on the crossing route. He hits him in stride, leads him perfectly, so that Hightower’s momentum carries all the way to the end zone.
Forget what you think you thought knew about University of Idaho football. Previous Idaho teams do not win this football game. Previous teams do not have the mentality to win this football game.
Previous teams did not have Matt Linehan. Matt Linehan is 6-5 in his last 11 starts against Non-Power Five conference opponents as a starter.
If you’re scoring at home, 6-5 would be a bowl record. If you’re scoring at home, Linehan is currently 2-0 this season against non-Power Five conference opponents.
Our next eight games? Sun Belt schools. Those are certainly not Power Five opponents.
We’re not going to win all of them. Most, if not all of them will be every bit as difficult and tenuous as the one in Las Vegas took to pull out. Some are very tough, such as the Troy team that took Clemson to a one-possession game and an Appalachian State that took Tennessee to overtime and expects double digit wins this year.
Most are comparable to Idaho. Most could and/or should be beaten by Idaho.
This team has proven it is at least capable of pulling off the magical six wins it will take to (most likely based off the fact college football did not see 80 bowl eligible teams last season) guarantee themselves a spot in the postseason.
This defense has proven the ability to hold. Despite being in a one-possession game with both Montana and UNLV in the fourth quarter, the defense never once let the other team take the lead in the second half of either of those football games.
That’s that magical phrase. “Giving the team a chance to win.”
Use all of the cliches. Heart. Guts. Leadership. Character.
I don’t care what you think about Rob Spear. I don’t care what you think about Paul Petrino, who is known by some in Moscow to be a dick.
This team is rallying around Matt Linehan. Linehan is the leader Idaho football hasn’t seen in nearly a decade. I can no longer point to his numbers to demonstrate why he is why Idaho football has taken the next step.
The scoreboard speaks for him. He’s a winner.