Robb Akey Post Game (Idaho vs NIU)

Inside coach Akey discusses the performance of runningback JAYSON BIRD, quarterback Nathan Enderle, the emergence of true freshman wide receiver Maurice Shaw, and the phenominal play of safety Shiloh Keo. Despite the 42-35 loss to Northern Illinois, Idaho's young team made strides, particularly coming back from a 35-7 first half deficit to have a chance to tie - or win - on the last play.

About the game in general: "We spotted them three scores and lost by one. To me, that's the game in a nutshell. They're a dang good football team, they played their tails off and they did a good job making those plays. But, those plays can not be acceptable – we can't let those things happen. That's what I mean when I say that. I'm not talking them down, I've got a great deal of respect for them. They've got a first class coach, and they're doing a first class job over their and they made those plays. Now, we can't let those things happen, so we don't dig ourselves a hole that we need to climb out of. What I do appreciate the most of anything, and where we gained a lot of ground today, was the fact about the way these guys conducted themselves at the end of this ballgame. Battling back where it was a three score situation, to battle back and we got stopped at the 17 yard line. We need to get that in, we need to score to get ourselves into overtime and win the dang game. But if we don't dig ourselves that hole, we're not in that predicament. There's the potential, if that's the case, for that to be a two score victory is what I'm saying. I think we, in some ways, were our own worst enemy a little bit today. Some of that comes from youth, some of that comes from growing up. But I do think – and I say this again – we grew up an awful lot in the second half. To be able to have the mental toughness to throw away the bad stuff, throw away the first half, throw away the bad play, we've got a task right now and this is what we need to have happen. And they battled and did that. The defense got the ball back for them. The offense went down and scored. The onside kick was executed to perfection. We built some opportunities there. We need to build from that – that's where we're at right now. I'm very disappointed that we did not win this ball game, but maybe we gained something from what we had to come back and attempt to do here at the end. That's what we got, and that's what we're going to build off from. I think it says a lot about their character, to not just put themselves in the tank when it's a three score differential and hadn't been performing very well. We started out hot, and they got things stopped. They did a tremendous job with their defense, their safeties came down hill, became very active stopping our running. They started blitzing us. Obviously we had some issues there. There was a question about the time being off for Nate Enderle, but he was getting his tail hit a little bit and pressure around him there, and that has a lot to do with it too. I've got a lot of respect for that young man. There were a couple times where I think he got a little shook up out there, but we got him calmed back down. That kid, he's going to be something, I tell you what. I'm glad he's ours."

How the game changes when a hole gets dug like that: "Well, it changes things in a couple respects. The thing I worry about the most is the mindset of where we're at. Can we throw what was behind us and say ‘Hey this is what we've got to do.' We're in that hole for a reason, and it wasn't because something good happened. Therefore, are we strong enough mentally to be able to overcome that, so that's the first concern. Sometimes its getting guys juiced up, getting them to put that behind them, getting their confidence built up that may be lacking at that point in time, so that's number one. Now, if you're planning to be able to run the ball against somebody, your opportunity to be patient running the football is not conducive to a three score differential. There's more of a need to be able to throw the ball that way. And then obviously, being able to stop the running game because their going to try to run the clock out. That's how it makes the game almost kind of one dimensional in some ways at that point in time. And then to spark something to make a difference on special teams, can we get a return. You know, Shiloh Keo gave us a great spark at the end of the half. If you could have heard me on the sideline I was like, ‘No No No. Go Go Go!' That was a great play. We practiced that all week long. [laugter] He did a great job. I'm gonna tell you what, that kid is a stallion. He is a great, great, great competitor. You're going to see great things out of him throughout the course of his career. He made big differences today, more than just that return today. Things like that, can we get a blocked kick, can we do some things like that. Maurice Shaw, we had a return on and he still gets a partial block and that gives us a shorter field and we needed that when time is not on our side. So, those are things that change the game. Those things come from youth. We're playing a tremendous amount of youth – that's our choice, and that's fine. That youth is starting to grow up a little bit."

About opening the playbook up a bit, throwing to Jayson Bird out of the backfield: "We talked about wanting to be able to help compliment what Deonte is doing. Wanting to get Jayson involved more, because he is a very capable to football player, and we were able to do it both running and throwing the football to him today. He did a tremendous job. Deonte did a tremendous job. We've been challenging the receivers – someone show up! Make some plays for us. Show us what you can do. There's a few more guys listed today. You've got Max Komar with five. Maurice with five. Peter Bjorvik with five. Bjorvik has done a great job of coming along. He became that starter for a reason and he did something with it today. And Jayson Bird with five catches. So, things are starting to show up in that respect. We're growing up some. Maurice Shaw made some veteran type catches today. For a true freshman, he made some veteran type catches I thought today. The first touchdown of his career [a week against Washington State], wrestling something away and keeping his feet in bounds, obviously that helped him grow up. I thought we saw the results of that in today's ballgame. That's where we're at right now, we've got to find measuring sticks. My disappointment is I expected this to be a win today and really wanted to close out the preseason with a win today. I felt like it was a win we could have won. So that does have me very disappointed. But disappointed isn't going to fix anything. I can't fret about where we're at. What I can do is build off the gains that we have made, and pay attention to what we're capable of doing, and that has to be our focus right now."

About Hawaii coming here this week: "They've got a great thing going right now. Their quarterback, I really thought he should have gone to the NFL. [laughter] In fact, I'd be willing to support him if he wanted to go right now. There are probably a few teams that could use him. I think he's a dang good player. Obviously coach Jones does a tremendous job, he's got a great program that he built over there. They've got it rolling. I think last week it was like the 55th play of the game before they ran the dang gum ball! [laughter] We might have about a seven hour game next weekend. They're very explosive, very dangerous. I've got all the respect in the world for their program and what they're doing. They're the ones that are supposed to win the WAC."

About the blocked punt: "We had a miscount in the alignments and we blocked the wrong guy."

About the wild, back and forth of the game: "It was a wild football game. A lot of it goes along the fact that there is a lot of youth playing on this team right now, and on that team too [NIU]. At the same time I also think it shows you that this can be an explosive football team. We've got some guys that are going to be a whole lot of fun to watch. Look what Shiloh did, he provide half the highlights out there today, that was tremendous. The punt return, the interception, that was fantastic. Some of the big throws and the runs we're getting. Things like that. It's not going to be a dull moment in the dome. It's not going to be three yards and a cloud of rubber. We're going to be able to get it rolling. It's going to be an exciting deal. Because we're gaining ground in those things, that's why we're going to get this program back to success."

About Deonte Jackson's injury during the game: "Deonte rolled an ankle. He was available for us at the end of the game. Didn't know that it was necessary, but he should be fine. We'll treat that thing up and he'll be back for us."

About Deonte being back next week: "Yes I do. I put him in there on the onside kick. He was begging to go back in there on the last possession. While he was available, he wasn't 100% and I just thought that I don't need to risk it. We have another back that was capable of getting it done and we didn't need to put Deonte at risk – I expect to have him back next week. Unless something changes between now and then."

About the importance of finishing strong: "It's huge. I don't know if we would have done it a week ago. I wasn't here in the past, but I didn't see this team come back from things like that in the past. I was on the other side, coaching against this team a year ago, we had a strong upper hand on this team and I didn't see this team fight there tails off like they did today. In my opinion, that's huge. That's mental toughness. Mental toughness is something we really put a lot of focus throughout the course of this week. Mental toughness is something that doesn't just happen. It was a huge growing up step, but that's just a step within the fact that we didn't win the ball game. But it made us a lot better, and gave us something we can build off of. It was the first thing I said to them after the game. We can't dig a hole, I have respect for what they did. Showing the moxie to come back and put what was a terrible situation behind them. Now, lets play a whole game like that, and we can all have a better time."

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