MOSCOW, Idaho – Back in mid-August, a week into fall camp, Idaho offensive coordinator Steve Axman surveyed the Vandals’ collection of wide receivers and was encouraged by what he saw. “I think we’re on our way of developing a real nice corps of receivers,” he said at the time.
MOSCOW, Idaho – Trey Farquhar has booted long field goals before – longer than what he faced with eight seconds left on Saturday. That’s why Idaho coach Robb Akey had his arms in the air when Farquhar’s 53-yard attempt started sailing toward the goal posts. “I was confident we were going to make the play,” Akey said.
Trey Farquhar has booted long field goals before – longer than what he faced with eight seconds left on Saturday. That’s why Idaho coach Robb Akey had his arms in the air when Farquhar’s 53-yard attempt started sailing toward the goal posts.
MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho football team hasn’t won since Sept. 10, and even that victory – against lower-tier North Dakota – is of little consequence at this point. But while the 1-6 Vandals have been “as cold as the damn ice cubes in a freezer,” as coach Robb Akey put it, the rest of the Western Athletic Conference hasn’t been turning heads either.
MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho football fans have scrutinized the erratic play of quarterback Brian Reader in recent weeks, and for obvious reasons. But it’s not just the Vandals’ passing attack that is languishing. Running the ball has proven even less fruitful for Idaho through the first half of the season.
MOSCOW, Idaho – The faint sound of boos began early in the third quarter, just a small segment of University of Idaho fans voicing their frustration over the Vandals’ offensive futility. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around Saturday, the jeering was unmistakable – from every corner of the Kibbie Dome.
MOSCOW, Idaho – The quarterback play has been nowhere as efficient. The running game is far less productive. And the daring coaching decisions have yet to pan out like they did two years ago. In almost every respect, this year’s Idaho football team doesn’t stack up to the 2009 Vandals, the gold standard that UI fans use to gauge the health and direction of the program.
MOSCOW, Idaho – The second-floor Kibbie Dome office is large enough for two desks, a mini-fridge, a flat-screen TV that hangs on the wall and not much else. This is the space John McDonell shares with Jason Gesser, the quarterback he helped recruit to Washington State more than 13 years ago. McDonell and Gesser are now members of the Idaho football coaching staff, and often they find themselves talking about the early days at WSU.
MOSCOW, Idaho – He’s a bedrock senior and defensive captain, a player who last year exerted so much energy in a blowout loss to Nevada that he was immediately taken to a hospital and treated overnight for dehydration. Tre’Shawn Robinson, if there was any doubt, is fully invested in the Idaho football program. And in his last go-around at UI, he remains confident the Vandals can shed their inconsistency and still compete for a WAC title.
He’s a bedrock senior and defensive captain, a player who last year exerted so much energy in a blowout loss to Nevada that he was immediately taken to a hospital and treated overnight for dehydration.
MOSCOW, Idaho – By now, it’s more than an occasional occurrence. The Idaho offense slips into hibernation mode, the defense grows frustrated and weary, and the Vandals’ opponent pounces. It happened again Saturday in a 48-24 loss to Fresno State, only this funk was more inexplicable than others through the first month of the football season.
MOSCOW, Idaho – The opening week of conference play, the Dads’ Weekend crowd, the fact that Fresno State will ditch the WAC after this year – all these factors should help make for a lively scene this afternoon in the Kibbie Dome. And if Idaho dispatches the Bulldogs for the first time in nine tries, the Dome will really pulsate.
MOSCOW, Idaho – Robb Akey was scanning through Texas A&M’s offensive formations on film the other day when something caught his eye. Lined up on the outside for the Aggies, where receivers usually roam, was what appeared to be a nimble tight end. Akey stopped the tape and looked at the play again. Only then did the Idaho football coach realize he had been wrong the first time – he had been watching 6-foot-4, 220-pound wideout Jeff Fuller.
MOSCOW, Idaho – Mike Scott looked at the caller I.D. on his phone. It was the day before he was scheduled to leave for Las Cruces, N.M., and Idaho defensive coordinator Mark Criner was calling. This was in July of this summer, long after most college football teams had wrapped up their 2011 recruiting. But Scott, a junior college wide receiver, was still available – or at least he had been.
Deep into the second quarter, with the Idaho sideline in a daze and the Vandals’ season in limbo, the coaching staff decided to change things up. They were going to simplify the offense. No more throws down the field, coaches told quarterback Brian Reader. It was time to go back to what made UI’s passing game hum two years ago.
MOSCOW, Idaho – It wasn’t just a dreadful performance against Bowling Green that Idaho football coaches used the past few days to get the Vandals in the proper frame of mind for lower-division North Dakota. They also pointed to the shocker that unfolded a week ago in Corvallis, Ore.
MOSCOW, Idaho – It wasn’t supposed to go this way. Not in the first game in the spiffed-up Kibbie Dome. Not after Idaho football coach Robb Akey declared his team ready for another march to the postseason. The Vandals, appearing ill-prepared for the start of the season, were steamrolled by Bowling Green 32-15 on the opening night of the college football season.
MOSCOW, Idaho – On the first day of fall camp last month, Idaho football coach Robb Akey approached Brian Reader – a senior who bided his time behind a four-year starter – and supplied a clear message. “I remember the first practice we had out here,” Akey recalled last week. “I said, ‘We gave you the keys (to the offense) back there in the spring and you started driving. I want you to drive the damn thing fast now – and drive it like an Escalade, a fast Escalade.’ ”
MOSCOW, Idaho – Back in Inglewood, Calif., just outside Los Angeles, Benson Mayowa made sure to heed his parents’ words. Stay away from gangs, they reminded him often in high school. And he did – even if many of his friends did not. “It was rough out there,” said Mayowa, who managed to avoid the worst of his crime-ridden hometown.
MOSCOW, Idaho – The defensive line seems capable of withstanding the toll of a 12-game season. The linebackers are battle-tested and, in the words of their coach, can “flat run.” And the cornerbacks are perhaps starting to respond to Robb Akey’s criticism. Does that mean the University of Idaho defense is poised, finally, for a breakthrough? Even defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mark Criner can’t be sure. But he sees progress.