Vandals eager to get back on track
MOSCOW, Idaho – It wasn’t just a dreadful performance against Bowling Green that Idaho coaches used the past few days to get the Vandals in the proper frame of mind for lower-division North Dakota.
They also pointed to the shocker that unfolded a week ago in Corvallis, Ore.
“You ask Oregon State what they thought of Sacramento State going into that ballgame?” UI coach Robb Akey said of Sac State’s 29-28 upset of the Beavers. “Sacramento State is a 1-AA team going against a Pac-12 team, and they went in and beat their butts in Corvallis last weekend.
“North Dakota would love nothing more to come in and do the same thing to us.”
The Vandals pummeled UND 45-0 last year in the Kibbie Dome – it was the program’s only shutout in the last 14 seasons – and they’ll host the Fighting Sioux again Saturday afternoon (2 p.m., SWX).
North Dakota, an FCS program based in Grand Forks, returns the bulk of its roster from a year ago. So Akey and his staff are familiar with UND’s personnel – and that includes first-year quarterback Joey Bradley, a native of Issaquah, Wash.
In 2008, Bradley helped Issaquah High reach the 4A state championship against Skyline. Akey watched the game and took note of Bradley’s feisty play at QB.
“His competitiveness shone through,” Akey said. “It was very impressive.”
But rather than focus on Bradley and the Fighting Sioux (1-0), Idaho has spent most of the last nine days trying to fix issues that cropped up in Week 1 – an ineffective offensive line and leaky secondary, among other things.
UI will again be without senior wide receiver Preston Davis (leg), while junior Justin Veltung – the team’s marquee wideout – said earlier in the week that he was “iffy” with a lingering turf toe injury. The absence of the team’s top receiving targets clearly had an impact in the 32-15 loss to Bowling Green.
“We’re both pretty big playmakers,” Veltung said, “but we have everything we need to win.”
Veltung noticed the offense’s confidence sank in the season opener after a string of short-lived possessions in the first quarter. Idaho gave up 30 consecutive points to the Falcons in the first half, and afterward Akey chided the team for not handling adversity well.
But this week, the fifth-year coach has picked up on a different vibe.
“What I do like in our guys’ response is the fact that they’re hungry to do things right and they want to have that success,” Akey said.
Akey hinted that he might shake up one or more starting spots in the interior of the offensive line, particularly with right guard Jordan Johnson nursing an injury. Backup guards A.J. Jones and Bilal Liggins could both see playing time today.
The Vandals will wear helmets with a red, white and blue American flag background on the I-Vandals’ logo to commemorate Military Appreciation Day. Members of the military and their families can purchase general admission tickets for $10.