“Orange-headed stepchild” no more — Bengals crush Vandals 62-28
POCATELLO — If any of the 11,015 fans at Holt Arena looked away for a second, they may have missed something.
Idaho State’s offense was that prolific.
The Bengals rewrote their record books Saturday in a historic 62-28 win over in-state rival Idaho, beating the Vandals for the first time since 1995. Quarterback Tanner Gueller set career and program records with 492 yards passing and eight touchdown tosses, as ISU rolled up 754 offensive yards and scored the most points against a Division I opponent since Holt Arena’s opening game — a 64-34 win over UNLV on Sept. 26, 1970.
The win puts Idaho State at 4-1 and 3-0 in Big Sky Conference play — good for a tie atop the league standings. The last time the Bengals started their conference slate 3-0, they won the 1-AA national title (1981).
“ISU’s here. We’re ready to play,” Bengals offensive lineman Dallen Collins said. “We’re not the little red-headed stepchild — orange-headed stepchild — anymore. … We’re happy to play anybody who wants to play us.”
Collins and ISU’s front paved the way for Gueller and the offense, who nearly matched the school record for single-game yardage. The 2014 Bengals own that mark with 770. ISU found the end zone on nine of 14 possessions, including four in a row between the first and second quarters to score 28 unanswered points and erase Idaho’s 7-0 lead.
The Vandals (2-3, 1-2 Big Sky) didn’t get closer than 41-28 after that. ISU kept its foot on the gas and closed the game on a 21-0 run.
While ISU’s running game has garnered attention in recent weeks, it was the air attack that devastated the Vandals. Wide receivers Mitch Gueller (184), Michael Dean (156) and DeMonte Horton (113) all went over 100 yards receiving, and Dean tied an ISU single-game record with four touchdown grabs.
Tanner Gueller’s 492-yard effort is ISU’s first 400-yard passing performance since Michael Sanders threw for 427 in 2015 at North Dakota.
“They loaded the box,” ISU coach Rob Phenicie said. “We’ve been waiting for this to happen by virtue of our running game. We needed to have the ability to throw the ball.”
Idaho State’s offense churned out 10.9 yards per play to Idaho’s 6.1. While the Bengals ripped up the turf, stitching together six scoring drives that lasted less than 2 minutes, Idaho grinded out series. The Vandals rotated quarterbacks Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson and fed their running backs, struggling to find a rhythm until Richardson led back-to-back scoring trips in the third.
ISU answered both of those touchdowns to shut down any hope of a comeback.
“They went up and down the field at will,” Vandals coach Paul Petrino said. “We just got our butt kicked, bottom line.”
Tanner Gueller sprayed touchdown passes to Dean (four), Austin Campbell (two), Mitch Gueller (one) and Horton (one). ISU’s fifth-year QB also led the Bengals’ ground attack with 81 yards on 11 carries, giving him a total of 573 offensive yards for the night — more than Idaho’s 541.
James Madison rushed for 74 yards, and Ty Flanagan added 59 as part of the Bengals’ 236 yards rushing — which were quietly accumulated as Tanner Gueller executed his passing barrage.
A week after ISU scored six rushing touchdowns against Northern Arizona, the Bengals shifted gears and passed for eight against Idaho.
“That’s the way this offense should work,” Phenicie said. “Whatever they give us is what we should take advantage of.”
Christian Holland led ISU’s defense with 10 tackles. Safety Jayson Miller, who started while Adkin Aguirre served a one-half suspension from last week’s targeting penalty, matched Joe Martin with nine tackles. Paea Moala had ISU’s lone sack of the day, and Caleb Brown intercepted his second pass of the season.
Richardson completed 13 of 20 passes for 191 yards, two TDs and one pick. Mason Petrino was 11 of 22 for 81 yards and added a rushing touchdown. Isaiah Saunders led the Vandals’ ground attack with 144 yards, and David Ungerer was UI’s top pass-catcher with 10 grabs for 111 yards.
Idaho’s last trip to Pocatello was in 1997, and the Gem State rivalry was fairly one-sided over the years. ISU rebooted the rivalry with a bang and controls its own destiny into the heart of its season.
The Bengals haven’t been 4-1 since 2000.
“We were able to end the game on our terms,” Collins said. “... It puts us on the map.”
- Tanner Gueller moved into second on ISU’s career passing touchdown list. He has thrown 58 and is six behind Justin Arias.
- Gueller nearly matched the Big Sky’s single-game record of nine TD passes. Portland State’s Drew Hubel set the record in 2007.
- James Madison moved into eighth on ISU’s career rushing yardage list with 1,633.
- Michael Dean’s receiving yardage (156) and receiving touchdowns (four) are both career highs.
- Saturday’s announced attendance of 11,015 is the largest for an ISU game at Holt Arena since 2003, when the Bengals beat Montana in double overtime in front of a crowd of 11,434.
- Linebacker Aren Manu was ejected for targeting after the first play of the game. He is the third ISU defender to be flagged for the penalty in two weeks. Manu started in place of Kody Graves, who was suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game for the same penalty. Becasue Manu’s infraction happened in the first half, he will not miss any of next weekend’s game at UC Davis.