We've got lots to share from Idaho coach Robb Akey about last week, this week vs. Nevada, penalties and the Vandals' postseason hopes ("I’m still telling you this is going to be a bowl team this year," he said today). But the biggest news is that the UI-Boise State rivalry will be suspended at least two years after the Broncos filled up their 2011 schedule with Fresno State and Nevada. Their 2012 schedule was previously booked, meaning the series -- if it does start up again -- won't be renewed until 2013 at the earliest.
Click below for more on the Vandals.
First, as we mentioned earlier, tight end Daniel Hardy (leg bruise) and senior safety Shiloh Keo, who was banged up in the loss to Hawaii, are expected to play Saturday when the Vandals host Nevada, Akey said. Hardy, Idaho's leading receiver, was injured in the second quarter and did not return. "Right now I think things look pretty optimistic for him this week," Akey said.
Keo did not finish the Hawaii game, but Akey said there was not one particular injury that sidelined him. "We’re riding that horse pretty hard right now. He’s playing safety, he’s playing nickel. He’s on our punt team as a protector, he’s returning punts for us. He’s returning kickoffs for us also. He’s exhausting himself pretty well.
"These last two ballgames, he’s about dragged himself off the field. He’s banged up pretty hard right now. I think everything is going to be all right. He didn’t finish the game but it was banged up as much than anything. ... "
Often players come on on Sundays to take an ice bath for a specific part of the body that's ailing. But Akey joked that the trainers give Keo a snorkel. "A lot of guys come in there on Sunday, they get the cold tub. They’ll put an ankle in there or there’s a knee. We give him a snorkel and we put his whole body in there. I put we have him feeling good when Saturday rolls around."
Running back Princeton McCarty, who started the season No. 1 on the depth chart, didn't play at Hawaii. Akey said he was also banged up and unable to go.
Akey, who was asked several questions about penalties, said he wasn't overly concerned about a trend that's emerged the past two weeks. The Vandals were flagged 14 times against Hawaii, with a good portion personal fouls, after having nine penalties against New Mexico State. Last week defensive end Aaron Lavarias alone had three roughing the quarterback penalties.
"No, I don’t like the number of penalties I’m seeing," Akey said. "The last two games in particular is where I’m paying a little more attention to it because in the previous parts of the season, I didn’t think much of it."
He went on to say, "Now what I don’t like is the fact that we’re getting some personal foul penalties. ... That’s the nature of the ones that I’m concerned with right now. We had some last week that were called on our guys that if they had done anything less I would have issues with them not playing the game well enough. I disagree with the calls so I’m going to tell my guy to play the game the way it needs to be played.
"There’s a couple of them, I’m telling my guy, ‘Listen, we’re not going to slow down off that.' There was one or two where our guy was absolutely wrong. ... Some of the ones on quarterbacks, those are judgement calls. It’s not frustration, though that could be the perception if you’re just reading it online or the newspaper. I think everybody that knows me, the officials included, they know our team is not going to play a bandit-style of football.
"Am I overly concerned about it? No, I don’t think (so). ... My biggest concern is that it stay consistent and it doesn’t keep biting us in the tail."
Akey said fatigue after an all-night flight back from Hawaii following the game is a concern going into this week. (Last year Nevada put up 70 points on Vandals, who at that point had just played Hawaii -- at home.)
"I think it was 10 o’clock when we got back (Sunday) morning. ... I didn’t bring them in the afternoon. Whether you slept in the plane or not, you’re still up all night. I wanted them to go home and get some rest."
On Sunday night the Vandals went through a stretching session before team meetings. "We talked about some things that I thought as a family we needed to talk about, and then we looked at some things football-wise that needed to be done."
Akey had strong comments on the team's expectations and what he's hearing from people outside the program -- particularly how fans and media view the program.
"(The players have) got great expectancy, I do believe, for what this season is going to be. Some of the sky-is-falling comments that I’ve been seeing or hearing from some folks … we’re not looking at the outside world, so we’re not going to let that upset us too terrible much. I’m going to make sure we pay attention to what we’re capable of doing. We’re a good football team. If you’re a good football team some of the time, you’re capable of being good football all of the time. And that’s what we’re paying attention to."
Later, when asked about being the underdog the next two weeks vs. Nevada and Boise State at home, he added: "We are the underdog right now. I read a story in the paper last week, this was before we played Hawaii, I think our season was over. We needed to quit, be done because we have Nevada this week and I think we have somebody next week. I tell you what, I don’t believe that guy ever played football and he certainly didn’t play football for us. He hasn’t been part of this team.
"A year ago, we were told what we couldn’t do. The outside world, obviously their opinions really don’t matter. Obviously I want our fans to love us. I think they like our football team. They probably get frustrated with us some times. I’m sure I get called some unique things up in the stands, or maybe my offensive or defensive coordinators, they might have some distinct opinions about that. But honestly, it doesn’t matter because we’re the ones that are taking care of these jobs and they’ve been entrusted to us. We take it very, very personal. There’s no way anybody out there anywhere in the world can have stronger goals or desires or expectations than we do. And I’m talking about the coaching staff and these players. Nobody else can have higher expectations. Nobody else knows what we’re capable of.
"As I’ve said the past couple weeks, I’m glad the expectations of our football program are back to being strong once again. That’s a great thing. That’s what I want it to be. I didn’t like it when we weren’t expected to do anything.
"If I had listened to the outside world … I would have never been a college football player myself, I would have never gotten a scholarship, I wouldn’t be a head football coach today. And I know there are some people out there that don’t think I should be, but I fooled somebody and got the dang job."
Akey on center Clell Hasenbank, who started as a walk-on defensive lineman before moving to the other side of the ball: "I think he’s doing a really good job. He’s keeping everybody in line, got them going where they belong to. And I’m keep working on him to have a consistent performance. He got a couple holding penalties that I would like to see him take away. But he’s not the lone ranger in that department."
Akey has seen enough of Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick to know he'd rather not see him anymore. "He’s been there for a very long time. He’s a pretty good player. It won’t break my heart to see him gone. I told him last year he was ready for the NFL. He should have left, but (Chris) Ault got him to stay around for another year. But he’s doing a very good job. ... He’s had more success throwing the ball this year. He’s still got a great complement of running backs in the backfield there. They’ve got a very explosive offense."
The Vandals (4-4) have yet to win two games in a row -- nor have they lost two games in a row. It's gone win-loss, win-loss all season. Asked about the trend, Akey said, "Well, we need to perform more consistently. This is one point in time where I’d like to see that roller coaster stay in effect. That means we’re going to take care of business. I wouldn’t want to be Nevada this week."
Idaho last won a game in November in 2004, during Nick Holt's tenure. But a streak that's more important to Akey is staying above .500 -- which the Vandals have done since the start of the 2009 season.
"... We have not been below .500 since the year 2008 and I do take pride in that. I think our players take pride in that. One of things I’m looking for is consistency of a program. We’ve got the thing turned and I’m still telling you this is going to be a bowl team this year. … But I would like for it to never get below .500 again. That’s something we’ve got pride in that, that’s something that does matter."