clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Idaho Vandals' Matt Linehan Should Remain At Quarterback... For Now

New, 2 comments

Matt Linehan has led an offensive renaissance for the Vandals in his first two starts of 2014. It may or may not be sustainable, but for now Idaho needs to ride him for the rest of the season to find out.

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

I said it in April and I said it in August. And I'm going to say it again now that it's been shown on the football field. I have been #TeamLinehan since it's been apparent that redshirt freshman Matt Linehan was going to battle redshirt sophomore Chad Chalich for the starting job.

It's only been two games, but this conversation is over.

Linehan has done something in just two starts that no Idaho quarterback has done in a single season since 2010 — Lead the Vandals to two 30-plus point scoring efforts. He's accomplished that by leading Idaho to 31 points at UL Monroe on Sept. 6 and 33 points against Western Michigan this past Saturday. Nathan Enderle led Idaho to six 30-plus point games in 2010, the first six games of the season.

Idaho coach Paul Petrino said Chalich would be in line to get snaps against UL Monroe. That didn't happen, because Linehan was too good. Chalich was an afterthought last week against Western Michigan.

So, has Idaho finally found its first program quarterback since the aforementioned Enderle led Idaho to 14 wins between 2009 and 2010?

Maybe. Maybe not. But Linehan should be given every opportunity, through success and through struggles, to show us if he is.

Linehan has thrown for 686 yards and 6 touchdowns over his first two starts, completing over 60 percent of his passes. More importantly is the points Idaho is putting up. The Vandals eclipsed 30 only twice last season, once with Chalich, once with Taylor Davis.

Unfortunately, the Idaho defense allowed 38 to UL Monroe and 45 to Western Michigan, which didn't allow Idaho to get an elusive notch in the W column. But if Linehan continues to average 32 points per game offensively the opportunity to get wins will present themselves.

Though, struggles will likely happen with Linehan. As manageable as Idaho's schedule is this season compared to schedules of recent seasons, there is still enough quality on it where we can't expect Idaho to shred through them all.

Linehan threw an interception in his debut against ULM's steady defense, which was turned into a Warhawk touchdown drive, a factor in Idaho's 7 point loss. (He also ended the game with an interception on the last play of the game on a Hail Mary, so that doesn't really count). The Western Michigan loss was sealed when Linehan forced a throw in the red zone that was picked off by WMU, setting up a 35-17 deficit Idaho wouldn't be able to overcome. Two interceptions through 87 pass attempts is not a bad ratio, they just came in crucial moments.

But for me it doesn't matter if Linehan has a game where he throws four interceptions. Idaho should stick with him regardless, developing him is Idaho's best opportunity for long-term success. We've seen what Chalich could do last season and nothing we've seen in scrimmages and fall practices suggests he's made significant improvements. He's a guy I'm comfortable with as depth, but he's a sophomore who's as good as he's ever going to be in FBS.

Linehan we know less about but we know he's already better than his competition at the position. Like any freshman quarterback with a ceiling there will be things he can improve on.This season for him could go any number of ways with him. He could continue to thrive and leave no doubt that he is definitively Idaho's option moving forward. He could run into a number of struggles, progress only some and open the quarterback competition back up in the spring.

That's when the very talented Jake Luton enters the conversation in his redshirt freshman season.

Either way, Idaho continues to progress at the conversation with Linehan as the go-to guy, no questions asked, for the rest of the season.

Linehan has the arm to make every throw in the play book, he's got mobility to extend the pocket while keeping his eyes down the field and he's got a command of the huddle that every player on the offense respects.

While that last point may seem like cliche, it's something that anybody who has been around the program the last three years will tell you has been a massive problem with the position.

This season is all about building for the future anyways. Idaho is under a bowl ban, but was looking at no better than a four or five win season anyways. We've got nine more games to see if Linehan will be on the trajectory to live up to the legend his father Scott created in Moscow 20 years ago.