Coach Robb Akey has seen great things from the Vandal defense, from the Vandal special teams and from the Vandal offense. This Saturday, when the University of Idaho takes on Louisiana Tech in a Western Athletic Conference game, he would like to see great things from all three on the same day.
“The bottom line is your team has to get the job done,” said Akey as the Vandals head into their 99th Homecoming game at 2 p.m. at the Kibbie Dome. “Our football team has found out that if we’ll go out and play the way we’re capable, play our tails off, leave it all out there, we have the ability to beat anybody we’re going to line up against.”
The key, he continued to emphasize, is effectiveness from all three phases of the game. Last week at Virginia, special teams came up huge with Daniel Micheletti scoring off a Justin Hernandez punt block, Jesse Davis knocking down a possible field goal, and punter Bobby Cowan averaging a whopping 51.2 yards per kick with a career- best 76-yarder a part of the math.
The defense yielded two scores early then held strong until the overtime session. The running game, with Princeton McCarty covering 90 yards, was effective.
“It’s big that our football team grows from last week,” Akey said. “We have to play effectively.”
The progress Akey did see came in many forms but in particular on defense where the Vandals recorded three quarterback sacks – and continually put pressure on the quarterback. In the four games prior to the Virginia game, the Vandals had a total of just two sacks.
“There are a lot of things our guys can feel good about,” he said.
Louisiana Tech comes to Moscow with a record that matches Idaho’s – 1-4 overall and 0-1 in the WAC. The Bulldogs have the league’s top receiver in Quinton Patton, who also is ranked 18th nationally in catches per game (7.2) and ninth in yards per game (120.2).
“He’s a very talented player,” Akey said. “They have some very good skill players on offense.”
The Vandals counter with a secondary that has six interceptions in five games to go with 18 pass breakups and 13 quarterback hurries. The interception total is, along with Hawai`i, the best in the conference.
Offensively, the Vandals have gone to 11 receivers with junior college transfer Mike Scott the leader with 31 for 402 yards – a start to the 2011 season that was good enough to earn him recognition on the Biletnikoff Watch List, which honors the nation’s best receiver. Of those 11, eight have caught at least six passes.
“We ran the ball more effectively in this last ballgame,” Akey said. “That’s part of the formula. We need that to continue to take place. … Being able to completely execute all those plays is something that needs to be cleaned up.”
· Saturday’s game is the annual Homecoming game at Idaho. The tradition began and, with the exception of 1918, 1942 and 1943 (because of the World Wars), a football game has been part of the annual rite. It caps a week of activities on the Idaho campus.
· The series between Idaho and Louisiana Tech wasn’t played until 2005 when the Vandals joined the WAC. The Bulldogs have a 4-2 lead in the series with each team winning at home the last two years.
· Justin Hernandez, a walkon from Lapwai, Idaho, earned the WAC’s Special Teams Player of the Week honors after blocking the punt that led to Daniel Micheletti’s four-yard TD.
· Bobby Cowan is second in the WAC and seventh nationally in average per punt at 47.2.
· Idaho is third in the league – behind Nevada and New Mexico State, in red-zone defense.
· The Vandals lead the league and are tied for 24th nationally in turnover margin at +0.60, which includes six interceptions and three fumble recoveries compared to three lost fumbles and three passes intercepted.