September 30, 2011 in Sports

Vandals after more than cash against Virginia

By The Spokesman-Review
 

MOSCOW, Idaho – He’s a bedrock senior and defensive captain, a player who last year exerted so much energy in a blowout loss to Nevada that he was immediately taken to a hospital and treated overnight for dehydration.

Tre’Shawn Robinson, if there was any doubt, is fully invested in the Idaho football program. And in his last go-around at UI, he remains confident the Vandals can shed their inconsistency and still compete for a WAC title.

But the middle linebacker knows the team’s improvement has to start manifesting itself right away – preferably today in Charlottesville, Va.

“I feel a lot of urgency because this is not the way we wanted to start the season,” Robinson said. “So it’s definitely hurting me a lot mentally, because I have high expectations for myself and the team. And I know we’re way better than what our record shows.”

The Vandals are 1-3 entering a cross-country encounter with Virginia of the ACC (12:30 Pacific, ESPN3 webcast). The schools have never met before today.

The Cavaliers (2-2) are the second BCS-conference team Idaho has faced in three weeks. Coach Robb Akey would rather not to play this game – he wants only one BCS foe on the Vandals’ schedule every year – but he understands the financial benefit to UI and the potential upside for his program.

“The best benefit that could from this game would be for us to go out there and play well and get a win against a BCS opponent,” Akey said. “That would bring a lot of charge and a lot of energy to our team and we’ve got to believe to our fan base also.”

Idaho’s payout for today is $700,000 after getting $850,000 to play at Texas A&M on Sept. 17. Next year it will bring in its biggest guarantee – $950,000 – for traveling to play SEC powerhouse LSU.

The checks help keep the UI athletic department afloat, but the Vandals have largely been uncompetitive against big-conference competition in the last decade-plus. Their last BCS-level win came in September 2000 against Washington State. They are 0-22 against such teams since.

“Coaches let us know,” Robinson said of the BCS drought. “But at the same time, we don’t want to get too caught up in everything else that’s going on.”

Virginia, a 16 1/2-point favorite, benched starting quarterback Michael Rocco in last week’s 30-24 loss to Southern Miss after he injured his ribs. While coach Mike London said earlier in the week that Rocco will play today, the Vandals have also been preparing for true freshmen David Watford.

For the second straight week Idaho will be without tailback Ryan Bass, who has yet to be cleared to play with an internal injury in his stomach area.

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