MOSCOW, Idaho – In late October two years ago, fans exalted inside the Kibbie Dome after Idaho managed to escape against New Mexico State. It was the Vandals’ first WAC win under Robb Akey, and afterward the coach proclaimed that a “750,000-ton gorilla” had been lifted from his back.
Senior defensive end Aaron Lavarias was reminded of that wild postgame scene this week with the Vandals preparing once again for beleaguered NMSU to cap homecoming weekend.
“They’re going to be fighting,” Lavarias said. “They’re going to be coming for a win. I think it was a couple years ago that New Mexico State was our only Division I-A win.”
Idaho (3-3, 0-1 in the WAC) is in much healthier condition as a program than it was in 2008. Nevertheless the Vandals are just as desperate for victories.
They need four more wins in the remaining seven games to earn an invitation to a bowl, and today’s 2 p.m. contest presents perhaps the best opportunity. UI is a 24-point favorite over the Aggies, whose lone triumph this season came against winless New Mexico.
“We’ve got a football team that’s a little bit of a wounded animal,” Akey said.
No matter the opponent, the Vandals are simply relieved to return to the Kibbie Dome. Their last game at home came 35 days ago, on Sept. 18, against UNLV.
Since then they’ve played in three time zones – as part of traveling between five time zones in a five-game stretch – and sustained two defeats sandwiched between a 20-point win at Western Michigan.
“It’s great to be back in the dome,” Lavarias said. “I mean, I feel like it’s been a season since we played a game in the dome.”
The Vandals put particular emphasis this week on their sputtering rushing attack. Akey said coaches might “tweak the way we run the ball a little bit,” though he offered no specifics.
Deonte Jackson and Princeton McCarty, Idaho’s main tailbacks, have averaged just 88 combined yards per game. The lack of production has come while a revamped offensive line has remained unsettled because of injuries and inconsistency.
“We’ve got to be able run the ball better. We’ve got to consistently protect our quarterback better than we are,” Akey said. “At times, we’re giving (quarterback Nate Enderle) all the time in the world. And other times, it’s not enough.”
Suspended Idaho receiver Maurice Shaw practiced this week, but his status for today is still in doubt after he was arrested for driving under the influence on Oct. 9. … Matt Christian will start at QB for the Aggies after freshman Andrew Manley started last week.