Robb Akey has had to hold his team back the past few days.
Since arriving in Boise on Christmas for today’s Humanitarian Bowl, his team has been chomping at the bit to get on the field against Bowling Green in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl and finish its strong season on a high note.
“It’s kind of like a team playing in its first game after fall camp,” Akey said.
The Vandals are playing in their first bowl game since 1998, and they’re doing so a mere 300 miles from their campus. Those circumstances would worry most coaches as they try to keep their team from getting too high on emotions. But Akey wants his team to take the excitement and emotion and use it for a fast start against the Falcons.
“I’m not worried about them being too excited, I’m trying to channel that to get the start we’d like to have,” Akey said. “We’ve got a football team right now that really believes it can overcome anything.”
Idaho also thinks it can put the WAC into the win column. Fresno State and Nevada already lost this bowl season and the conference has just one bowl win the past two years. Akey said he’s talked to his players about being the first WAC team with a bowl win this season and that the players have embraced the challenge.
“First and foremost, we have to represent ourselves and the state of Idaho and we’re excited about that opportunity," Akey said. "But I tell you another thing that our football team is proud of is that through our four nonconference games we went 3-1, which was a winning season within a winning season. We’re 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference and we are currently 1-0 in the MAC. Our players have taken pride in that and this is an opportunity for us to represent the WAC against outside competition.”
Quarterback Nathan Enderle said the team has taken this new experience in stride because the whole year has been a series of new experiences. The Vandals haven’t won seven games since 1999 and haven't won more than four since 2000. Idaho has the No. 10 total offense in the country, and Enderle is having his best collegiate season. The Vandals have embraced every moment, and they’re hoping this season has blazed a trail for future teams.
“It’s a different experience and we didn’t really know what to expect,” Enderle said. “We’re enjoying that aspect of it, though. We want to get progressively better year after year. We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan thing. We want this to continue and springboard us into next season.”