Nine Idaho Vandals Earn All-Big Sky FootBALL
Nine Vandals were recognized by the Big Sky Conference on Tuesday, earning All-Big Sky recognition. Idaho took two first team honorees, with Christian Elliss earning the nod as an outside linebacker and Nick Romano making the squad as a kick returner.
Jeff Cotton, Noah Johnson, Cutrell Haywood and Tre Walker all earned second team honors, while Lloyd Hightower was a third team selection. Mason Petrino and Cade Coffey earned honorable mention accolades.
Elliss recorded 9.5 tackles per game, the sixth best mark in the league. He also recorded 12.5 tackles for loss, the fifth best total in the Big Sky. Elliss stepped up in conference play, averaging 11.2 tackles per game, and finished with 10.5 tackles for loss in just eight games.
Romano finished second in the league in kickoff return average at 27.0 yards per return. His biggest moment came against Weber State, when he ran back the first kickoff return for a touchdown by a Vandal since 2012.
Cotton had a season for the ages. He led the nation in receptions per game, averaging 8.8 catches over his 10 games played. He also led the Big Sky and finished second in all of FCS with 114.1 yards per game. Cotton closed the season with a program-record 18 receptions at Northern Arizona, tying the most by an FCS player this year. Cotton was the only Big Sky student-athlete to average over 100 yards receiving per game. Despite playing only 10 games, Cotton led the conference in total catches and finished second in total yards.
Johnson, a first-team All-Big Selection a season ago, was the steady leader of the offensive line. Johnson started all 12 games for the Vandals, and appeared in 45 of a possible 48 games over his four-year career. Haywood finished second in the Big Sky in punt return average at 9.1 yards per return, but upped his average in conference play to 9.5 yards per return.
Walker finished second in the Big Sky with 138 total tackles, averaging 11.5 per game. Walker led the conference with 74 solo tackles. Hightower finished the season in the top-10 in the conference in passes defended. He had the game of his career against Idaho State in the ICCU Battle of the Domes, when he scored a pair of touchdowns, on an interception and a fumble recovery, to help lift the Vandals to victory.
Petrino was the only quarterback in the league this season to be responsible for seven touchdowns in a single game, against Northern Arizona to close the season. Petrino closes his career with the highest completion percentage in program history.
Coffey averaged 42.8 yards per punt during the season, the seventh best mark in the conference. He led the league with 20 punts of at least 50 yards. In conference play, Coffey led the Big Sky at 44.8 yards per punt, while dropping 17 punts over 50 yards.