Idaho safety earns Big Sky honors

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Idaho safety Jalen Hoover was named the ROOT Sports Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week, the league office announced Monday. Hoover blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown as Idaho erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat North Dakota 31-27 Saturday at the Kibbie Dome.

With 8:16 left in the game and the Vandals facing a 27-17 deficit, Hoover stormed a Fighting Hawk punt attempt and laid out to block the kick. The bounding ball was scooped up by Connor Whitney and returned for a touchdown.

“I went up to coach after the first one we tried and they blocked me,” Hoover said after the game. “I told him ‘I can go get it. Just let me go.’ He said ‘OK, I trust you.’ Right when he called it I knew it. Like he said, believe you’re going to go get it. That was my mindset. I went to go get it.”

Idaho seized the momentum and went on to win the game on a go-ahead touchdown pass from Mason Petrino to Jeff Cotton with 27 seconds left. North Dakota entered the game ranked No. 25 in the AFCA FCS Coaches’ Poll. It is Idaho’s first win since 2007 over a team ranked in either poll (media or coaches) in either the FCS or FBS.

It was Hoover’s second blocked punt of the season. His first block, against Portland State, was returned for a touchdown by Lloyd Hightower. Hoover also logged three tackles against North Dakota, including one on a punt return.

The award is Idaho’s second Big Sky Player of the Week honor this season – both of the special teams variety. It is Hoover’s first career weekly award. Cade Coffey was named the special teams player of the week on Oct. 22.

Also honored by the Big Sky Conference were Montana State running back Isaiah Ifanse and Idaho State linebacker Christian Holland.

Ifanse set a Montana State freshman record of 227 rushing yards in the Bobcats’ 49-42 win over Cal Poly. He had 22 carries for an average of 10.3 yards per rush and scored three touchdowns.

Holland made key plays in the final minutes of Idaho State’s 48-45 road win at Portland State. He had 10 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery in the victory. Holland’s sack and fumble recovery came in the final three plays of the game to help ISU preserve the win.

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