Akey's won here before


POSTED: Friday, November 21, 2008

Although Idaho closes out another rough season tomorrow night, coach Robb Akey isn't exactly taking a “;nothing to lose”; attitude into the Vandals' game against Hawaii.





Idaho (2-9, 1-6 WAC) at Hawaii (5-5, 4-3), 6:05 p.m. tomorrow, TV: Oceanic PPV Ch. 255; Radio: KKEA 1420-AM.


Rather, he prefers to focus on what can still be gained out of the season-ending trip to Honolulu.

“;I think this is a very important game for us,”; Akey said.

“;I want to be able to send the seniors out with a victory in their final go in a Vandal uniform, and for the rest of us coming back it would be a great launching pad going into our offseason and to help us continue in our building process.”;

The Vandals (2-9, 1-6 Western Athletic Conference) will complete the program's ninth straight losing season when they visit Aloha Stadium. Idaho has won just six league games in four years of WAC membership and saw two captains knocked out by injuries this season.

But judging by the verve in Akey's voice, the trials of his first two seasons in Moscow haven't sapped his enthusiasm.

“;We've got a good family atmosphere amongst them, they're working hard, they're paying attention to getting better,”; said Akey, who brings a 3-20 record into tomorrow's game.

“;That has kept everybody going and that's the way we're working to handle this ballgame, paying attention what we can accomplish. That way things are more optimistic and you see what's there for you opposed to just focusing on the fact that it's the end.”;

While Hawaii (5-5, 4-3) was resting up during its bye week, Idaho suffered a 45-10 loss to Boise State last Saturday and yet another key injury.

Tight end Eddie Williams—the Vandals' top receiver by far this season with 54 catches for 687 yards—suffered a torn ACL against the Broncos. Idaho had already lost safety Shiloh Keo, a preseason All-WAC pick, to a shoulder injury in September.

“;Eddie's been doing everything for us,”; Akey said. “;That means some other people are going to have to step up and make some of those catches and blocks and runs he was making for us.

“;Our football team has responded to those things. Any time opportunities open up you can't ask any questions, you just have to run and make sure it closes shut behind you. That's kind of the challenge we put out there to them.”;

Youth has also been a theme for the Vandals this season.

With cornerback Breyon Williams and safety Shelton Myles, both starters, suspended due in part to an off-field incident, the Vandals are expected to start six freshmen and sophomores on defense tomorrow.

The offense is led by sophomores Nathan Enderle at quarterback and Deonte Jackson at running back. The Vandals' second-leading rusher (Princeton McCarthy) and receiver (Preston Davis) are freshmen.

“;They're learning under the gun and those lessons get learned hard,”; Akey said. “;But I think you also get paid back for those growing pains.”;

When Akey took over last season, he became Idaho's fourth head coach in a five-year span. Although wins remain hard to come by, Akey sees progress in the Vandals' season.

They were in contention late at Fresno State, snapped a 17-game WAC losing streak by beating New Mexico State, saw a rally come up short in a 30-24 loss to San Jose State, and stayed with Boise State in the first half last week.

“;At halftime it was a whale of a football game, and unfortunately we didn't play well in the second half,”; Akey said. “;That was an emotional deal, but there's also a lot of emotion when you're talking about playing the final game of the year and for some guys the final game they're going to play here.”;