Idaho coach Robb Akey has seen his team improve by leaps and bounds this season. All that remains is to make that one extra play that can seal a victory.
“We need more – and less,” said Akey as he prepared the Vandals to head to Atlantic Coast Conference territory and a Saturday date with the University of North Carolina. “We need to make that one more play to win the game. We need more of the plays that we have made. We need less of the adversity-creating plays.”
Seven turnovers in the last two games – four interceptions at LSU and three lost fumbles vs. Wyoming, are the adversity-related plays he would like to see eliminated.
He wants to see more of the crisp, accurate passing of Dominique Blackman and the catching of a growing cadre of receivers, as well as the sharp, effective running of Ryan Bass, James Baker and Todd Handley – the trio that netted more than 200 rushing yards out of the Vandal backfield last weekend.
That and eliminating the handful of big plays yielded defensively and the Vandals have the opportunity to snap the four-game skid that has marked the beginning of the 2012 campaign. Kickoff at Chapel Hill is 3:30 p.m. – or 12:30 p.m. Pacific. The game is on Fox South as well as ESPN3.
As for UNC (2-2 overall), Akey says keeping pace with its offense is vital.
“They’re trying to get as many snaps as they can,” he said, noting the Tar Heels sometimes have only 10 seconds between snaps. “They’re one of the fast-paced offenses. They do it well.
“They’re (up front) monster big. They’re going to knock out the sun. They’re big. They’re athletic. They make plays.”
Idaho dropped to 0-4 after a heart-breaking overtime loss to Wyoming last weekend, while UNC is 2-2 after beating East Carolina last Saturday. The Tar Heels opened with a victory over Elon before back-to-back losses to Wake Forest and Louisville.
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.
Larry Fedora is in his first season as head coach at UNC and his fifth as a head coach. A graduate of Austin College, he began his coaching career there in 1986 as a graduate assistant. He spent three seasons as a high school coach before joining the Baylor staff (1991-96) and going on to Air Force (1997-98), Middle Tennessee (1999-2001), Florida (2002-04), Oklahoma State (2005-07) and to Southern Miss,where he was the head coach from 2008-11.
This is the first meeting between the Vandals and the Tar Heels but not the first time Idaho has been on the sideline opposite Larry Fedora. Fedora as the quarterbacks/receivers coach at Air Force with Idaho played there in 1997 and he was the offensive coodinator at Middle Tennessee when the Vandals lost a wild 70-58 shootout to the Blue Raiders.
The game is on Fox South with Paul Kennedy calling the play-by-play, Keith Jones the analysis, and Jenn Hildreth as the sideline reporter. It also is on ESPN3.
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.).
COACH TO CURE MD
You might notice our football coaches wearing a special patch Saturday. This weekend is National Coach to Cure MD weekend and our coaches are helping provide awareness. You can help, too, by texting CURE to 90999 to donate $5. More information on the program is available at www.CoachtoCureMD.org.
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.