MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho football coach Robb Akey could sense it late last week in his players’ demeanor at practice. The smiles had returned, the energy was more noticeable.
The Vandals were a different team.
“I thought Thursday (last) week the anchor finally fell off,” Akey said.
UI went on to dispatch New Mexico State for its first win since last November. Tonight at Texas State, the reenergized Vandals (1-5, 1-0) have a chance to collect back-to-back Western Athletic Conference victories for the first time since October 2009.
That would be a major step forward after a 0-5 start.
“I refer to us (as) 1-0 right now, and that’s all I know,” special teams coordinator/safeties coach Patrick Libey said. “We’ve got one down and we’re trying to get a WAC championship.”
The Bobcats (2-3) are in their first year as a full-fledged FBS program, and this is their first WAC game. But it will also be the only WAC opener for the school based in San Marcos.
Next season the Dennis Franchione-led program will move to the Sun Belt Conference.
Texas State started the season by pummeling heavy favorite Houston 30-13. But it has lost three of four games since, including defeats the last two weeks to Nevada and New Mexico in which it allowed 273 and 361 rushing yards.
The Bobcats’ suspect rushing defense will square off against an Idaho offense that ranks 122 out of 124 FBS teams in rushing yards per game. Idaho has topped 100 yards on the ground just once this fall.
“We’ve got to stay persistent with it and execute better,” Akey said of the Vandals’ rushing attack.
Texas State runs a spread-option offense that can be tricky to defend because of the different looks it gives a defense – often on the same play. Libey said the goal is to play disciplined football.
Bobcats quarterback Shaun Rutherford is second in the WAC – and 15th nationally – in pass efficiency. He’s also the team’s top ballcarrier.
“(He) will try to draw your eyes in on the option and pull it back with the deception there and gash people down the field,” Libey said. “So we’ve got to be great with our eyes. We’ve got to be great with our assignments.”