MOSCOW, Idaho – In the 22 seconds it took New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker to answer a question Monday about his team’s matchup with Idaho, he described the Aggies and Vandals as “starved,” “aching” and “desperate” for a victory.
For two programs that have had tumultuous seasons – not to mention offseasons – Walker summed up their respective situations well.
Idaho is 0-5. NMSU is 1-4. The only difference between the beleaguered football teams is that the Aggies beat their lone FCS opponent to start the year and the Vandals didn’t.
UI and New Mexico State meet today in the Kibbie Dome (2 p.m., Altitude) in their last Western Athletic Conference opener before both are likely to experiment with FBS independence next year.
Walker and Vandals coach Robb Akey have stressed to their players the need to focus on the rest of the season, not their programs’ uncertain futures. But the fallout from major conference realignment is felt perhaps most acutely in Moscow and Las Cruces, N.M.
After the WAC fell apart, neither school was able to secure a spot in an FBS conference. Now both are scurrying to line up opponents in 2013 and 2014 as independents.
Akey said this week that being in flux has had a “tremendous impact” on his program that has lost 15 of 17 games since the start of last year. Walker, meanwhile, was even more specific in tying the lack of a conference to on-the-field results.
“I think all the teams having success in our conference, they have conferences to go to (next year) and the resources and all those things continue to build,” the Aggies’ fourth-year coach. “Robb and I, we’re in tough situations, but at the same token, the most important thing for both of us is we’re both starving for a ‘W.’”
The Vandals’ homecoming game comes after they were overwhelmed last week at North Carolina in a 66-0 rout. It was the second-worst loss in Akey’s six years – behind a 70-0 loss at Arizona in 2008 – and it wiped out the apparent progress the team had made against Wyoming the week before.
Yet today represents a fresh start for UI in at least one respect.
“It’s the last new beginning we have,” said Akey, whose team is favored by 91/2 points. “We’re going into Week 6 looking for our first win, but we’re also 0-0, untied, unscored upon going into conference play.”