Head coach Rob Phenicie devoted countless practice reps towards special teams during Idaho State’s annual summer camp this offseason. It was a clear point of emphasis by the first-year head coach that special teams had to be better than they were in the last couple seasons.
But now with two unavailable kickers who hold the last name of Johnson, Idaho State sent Matt Peterson, a wide receiver, out to kick extra points during last Saturday’s loss on senior day. Peterson was perfect on extra points and nailed his only field goal attempt of the afternoon, a 25-yard chip shot.
“We should have had that guy kicking all year,” Phenicie said after the game.
Peterson, who was an All-State kicker at Blackfoot High School and used his feet, not his hands, to help his team put points on the board.
“We felt Matt was better in practice,” Phenicie explained as to why he chose his wide receiver over his punter Sean Cheney. “We’ll do it again next week.”
After starting the season as the placekicker, Parker Johnson, a redshirt freshman, made 21 of his 23 extra point attempts and missed one of his eight field goals through the team’s first seven games.
But P Johnson suddenly became unavailable after he reportedly pulled himself during the Sacramento State game for an unknown reason.
Idaho State lost its second Johnson kicker two weeks later prior to the Montana State game where Zak Johnson suddenly became unavailable just before kickoff. Z. Johnson, a senior, didn’t dress for last Saturday’s game and was on crutches as he came out for the senior day ceremonies.
Prior to his unavailability, Z. Johnson made all nine of his extra points and was one-of-two on field goals, both of which came against Portland State. Z. Johnson made his season-long of 25 yards, but his other short field goal was blocked.
The lack of available kickers has cost ISU points throughout the season.
The Idaho State offense missed on three fourth downs that were in potential field goal range, leaving a possible nine points on the board in ISU’s 14-point loss in Bozeman.
“It can be frustrating,” said wide receiver Michael Dean. “But I also know that we have the confidence we need on those fourth downs to go for it. When we don’t get it, it’s frustrating, but when we do get it, it’s great.”
Phenicie said that the target yardage for Peterson on Saturday was the 25-yard line, meaning that anything under 42 yards would have been fair game to trot Peterson out there. Phenicie said that the target line was determined in a meeting his staff held on Friday.
“We always have a plan,” Phenicie said. “That way Matt [Troxel] knows when we are in four-down territory. That way Spencer [Toone] know that if we get a fourth down stop the defense has to be ready to go back out on the field.”