I took care of basketball duty tonight and John Blanchette will have a column on the football developments as far as Idaho is concerned. But I was able to sit in on an impromptu press conference with Robb Akey and several players during halftime. Keep reading for quotes and more.
UPDATE: Here is John's column that he filed from Moscow. Tickets go on sale this morning at 8, by the way.
It’s a marriage that made too much sense not to happen. The Humanitarian Bowl is always angling for a regional team to spotlight, and the Idaho Vandals were more than willing to oblige.
The Vandals will play Bowling Green of the MAC in a matchup of two 7-5 teams. Since staging a Halloween thriller against Louisiana Tech to collect its seventh win, UI knew a bowl invitation would come its way. The only real question was which bowl would extend an invitation, and even that seemed clear all along.
Indeed, there are plenty of reasons why Humanitarian officials have targeted Idaho from the outset, the bowl's executive director, Kevin McDonald, said. Perhaps the biggest is that there an estimated 16,000 Vandal alumni in the Treasure Valley, increasing the likelihood of a sellout (or close to it) in Bronco Stadium.
“It’s why we favor the Vandals in the game is we feel like the fan base is energized,” McDonald said. “We feel like it’s a great story with a football team that’s had a great turnaround this year. We feel like those are positive factors for us as we make selections for this year’s game.”
“I think a lot of alums would travel into that area for a game because we haven’t participated in quite some time,” athletic director Rob Spear added last month.
Here are some quotes from Akey and a few players:
- Akey on the situation Idaho finds itself in: "I’ll tell you what, I think it’s a great place for us to be playing. If you consider it’s been a decade since Idaho’s been in a bowl game … what better place than to do it than the Humanitarian Bowl in our state capital. I think that’s a great thing. ... Hopefully it will feel like a home crowd down there. We’ve got a ton of alums in the city down there. A lot of people that I think will be very excited about it and I think we can make this a big event. "
- Akey on getting another opportunity after losing three in a row to finish the regular season: "Certainly to get a chance to go play football again, that’s what I’m very excited about. ... It’s one thing to play in a bowl game, it’s another to go an dplay your tail off and have a chance to win it, an opportunity to smile again.
- Akey on preparation: "This time of the year you don’t want to get into the game plan too early anyway. We’ll save that till late, just about a week prior to the game. ... We get a lot of developmental work at these practices. That’s obviously is one of the best things about the bowl season, you get an opportunity to improve your program. We’re going to get an opportunity to get an extra spring ball."
- Akey on quarterback Nathan Enderle's injury: "I expect Nate to be fine. He did hurt his shoulder again .. but it was not as bad as it was the first time. And we’ve also got quite a bit of time before the game rolls around."
- Receiver Max Komar: "Feels good to know that it’s official and we’re going to be able to go down to Boise where Idaho fans are going to watch us play.... From day one we started talking about how we wanted to go to a bowl game. I’m just really happy that we’re finally able to do it. It’s a big relief now that it’s off our back and to know that we’re actually going to a bowl game. And I’m happy that I get to spend one more game with these guys. This is an opportunity go out on a high note and get a victory."
- Safety Shiloh Keo: "Oh, man, we’ve been waiting for this for so long. You know, it’s my 4th year here. … We’ve been through so much here at the University of Idaho, especially Max. He’s gone through three, four coaches now. I just caught the end of that whole deal. It just shows how much hard work we’ve putting in, and it’s finally starting to pay off."