MOSCOW, Idaho – Before Idaho flew 2,500 miles to face Virginia last fall, Vandals coach Robb Akey wanted to know: Do college football teams that give themselves more travel time before a long trip play better?
The answer, based on Akey and his staff’s research, was an emphatic yes.
So that week the Vandals left two days before their Saturday afternoon game in Charlottesville, Va. – instead of the standard one day – and they nearly upset the Cavaliers.
Today Idaho (0-4) plays at North Carolina (2-2), another ACC opponent, and again it departed for the East Coast on Thursday.
“That will hopefully help … our bodies a little better,” Akey said. “I know it proved to be the case when we played Virginia a year ago.”
This will be the third time in five weeks that UI has played at least two time zones from Moscow. In their trips to Bowling Green and LSU, the Vandals left the day before.
The difference this time: Idaho plays in the afternoon (kickoff is 12:30 PDT) instead of the evening local time. And this will be the longest distance it travels this year.
More than the logistical issues, the Idaho coaching staff has been concerned with keeping the Vandals upbeat after a grueling overtime loss to Wyoming last week.
Akey likes the progress UI has made, particularly in responding to adversity. Yet the team is still looking for a breakthrough.
“(To) the outside world, I’ve got to be the worst coach in the country,” he said. “We’re one of the worst programs that’s ever been created on God’s green earth. That’s not where we’re at. That’s not who we are.”
North Carolina, a 27-point favorite, employs a quick-tempo, no-huddle spread offense under first-year coach Larry Fedora. Quarterback Bryn Renner has thrived in the fast-paced system, throwing for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Tar Heels rank 19th in the nation in passing, and they’re likely to test Idaho’s secondary often.
The Vandals have given up pass plays of at least 42 yards in each of the first four games. UI’s deficiencies showed up most glaringly last week, when Wyoming’s Brett Smith connected on passes of 80 and 73 yards.