MOSCOW, Idaho – It may be October but for Robb Akey and the
Idaho Vandals, it’s a new season. Saturday’s Homecoming football game marks the
beginning of Western Athletic Conference play for the Vandals, which means,
says Akey, a fresh start.
“It’s the last new beginning we have,” said Akey, whose team
takes on New Mexico State at 2 p.m. Saturday. “We’re going into week six
looking for our first win but we’re also 0-0, untied, un-scored upon going into
Homecoming provides the perfect launch into league play for
the Vandals, who have crisscrossed the country to play non-conference games at
LSU, North Carolina and Bowling Green State. Additionally, there were home
outings against Eastern Washington and Wyoming. It’s the Wyoming game that Akey
harkens to when he talks about the potential the Vandals possess.
“A week ago,” he said in recalling the overtime loss to
Wyoming, “we’re talking about making one more play. That’s the same team we
are. We’re going to make that happen this week.”
The Vandals have seen stellar play from all phases of the
game – but at different times. Quarterback Dominique has two 300-plus passing
games in his four outings and, in one, completed more than 80 percent of his
throws. Running back Ryan Bass charged past the 100-yard barrier, which receivers
Najee Lovett and Jahrie Level both have done as well. The young offensive line
didn’t allow a sack at LSU, while the defensive line had three of its own.
Solomon Dixon has two interceptions to his credit and Gary Walker has continued
his steady play as the Vandals’ leading tackler. Punter Bobby Cowan and kicker
Trey Farquhar, with a 53-yard field goal to his credit, have been recognized
nationally for one game each.
The key, Akey says, is every facet sustaining that level on
every play of every game.
“We just need to get ourselves going and play well,” he
said. “What we’ve got to do is find a way to take advantage of what we’ve done
“We need to do it one day at a time, one play at a time, one
game at a time.”
The Vandals are 0-5 and opening Western Athletic Conference play against the Aggies, while the Aggies are 1-4 and 0-1 in the WAC. NMSU opened 2012 with a victory over Sacramento State and lost its WAC opener last weekend to UT-San Antonio.
Robb Akey is in his sixth season as head coach at Idaho. After rebuilding in his first two seasons, his 2009 team won the Humanitarian Bowl and his 2010 team was on the verge of repeating as a bowl team. He is a graduate of Weber State University and coached for his alma mater (1988-94) as well as Northern Arizona University (1995-98) and Washington State University (1999-2006) before taking over at Idaho in his first head coaching job.
DeWayne Walker has been at NMSU since 2009 when he took over as head coach afte three seasons as defensive coordinator at UCLA. Prior to his time with the Bruins, Walker was with the Washington Redskins (2004-05), New York Giants (2002-03), USC (2001), New England Patriots (1998-2000), California (1996-97), Oklahoma State (1995), BYU (1994), Utah Stae (1993) and Mt. San Antonio College (1988-92). He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.
Saturday’s game is the annual Homecoming game. Festivities begin Friday night with the serpentine and bonfire and continue Saturday with the Homecoming parade at 10 a.m. and the Homecoming football game at 2 p.m. Vandal legend Jerry Kramer is the Grand Marshall of this year’s parade and will toss the coin at the beginning of the game.
Idaho has a 13-5 lead in the series, which first was played in 1971, and has seen both teams through three conference changes – Big West, Sun Belt and WAC. Of the 18 games, 10 have been decided by one touchdown or less with two going into double overtime. NMSU won last season at home with the Vandals’ most recent win in the series their home game in 2010.
The game is on the Vandal Sports Network, which is carried regionally on stations in Idaho and Washington, as well as Altitude Sports. Bob Akamian is calling the play-by-play with Larry Polowski providing the analysis.
Tom Morris (play by play) and Evan Ellis (analysis) again are calling the gameday action with KZFN (FM 106.1) as the flagship of the statewide, 14-station network.
Idaho’s captains for the 2012 season are receiver Mike Scott (senior; Palo Alto, Calif.), cornerback Aaron Grymes (senior; Seattle, Wash), and punter Bobby Cowan (senior; Vancouver, Wash.).
ONTO THE FIELD
The Vandals have added a third element to their entrance onto the playing field. Traditionally, they have carried an American Flag and a battle ax commemorating the tradition of the Vandal. This year, they’ve added a flag that honors the memory of former Idaho receiver Ken McRoyal, who died last summer.