ROBB AKEY: Western Michigan Game Prep

This week Idaho head football coach ROBB AKEY addressed the media and discussed Idaho's win over in-state rival Idaho State last weekend, the team's preparations this week for Western Michigan of the Mid-American Conference who visits the Dome this coming Saturday at 2:00pm, the importance of getting out to a fast start last weekend, and updates on tailback Deonte Jackson's status.

About beating Idaho State this past weekend: "That was a good thing. Happy to get out and be able to smile coming off of a football field; so that was a very positive thing. I was happy for our players and the way that we responded. I told you last week that it's not what happens in your life that matters. It's how you respond to it. I thought our players responded well. We had a good week of preparation and we were able to put that miserable first game behind us, and came out and looked more like the team that we've been practicing with. We had a little more success. We started fast. The first play of the game was a 77-yard touchdown strike to Maurice Shaw, and the blocked punt by Eric Hunter for a touchdown shortly after that I think really helped spark the confidence and get things rolling. There were a lot of good things that happened during the course of the day. There were also a lot of things that we can still continue to do better. I think we've got the same opportunity to stay on them [the players] about paying attention to detail, being able to correct things and polish things up more. But when you can win a ball game and still be talking about things you can do better, that's a sign of a team that's growing up, and we had I think 10 different guys carry the ball for us. Deonte Jackson had 100 yards again on just 12 carries, and we had four interceptions. Isaac Butts had two, Virdell Larkins had one and Breyon Williams had one. Eric Hunter had a blocked punt for a touchdown. We also blocked a field goal; so there were big plays made. Each of the three phases of the game performed better, and each of the three phases of the game have a lot that we can still do better."

About hosting Western Michigan in the Dome this weekend: "Well, it's going to be…I like the way our non-conference schedule has been put together. We had the Pac-10 opponent in the first week, and then we had one that we're supposed to be better than this past week. Then we've got two from similar conferences to the WAC with Western Michigan coming this week from the MAC, and then we go to San Diego State a little bit further down the line. I think this will be another good opportunity for us to get our team ready for WAC conference play. They had a real good win against Northern Illinois this weekend, and I see a football team that's going to be pretty physical. I see them fly around. They've got a safety that I watched fly around hitting people and had an interception, and they've got a defensive end that looks like he's got a pretty good motor to him and making some plays. I'm really looking forward to getting after ‘em this weekend."

About the health of Deonte Jackson: "He's got a back that just gets tight and seized up a little bit. We had to manage that all through the course of camp and control it. He was able to play in the first game, made it through the game fine. Following the game it seized up pretty good; so his practice time was very, very limited last week. In fact he didn't start the ball game this past Saturday. As soon as he came in we did fine and it felt great. It felt better (Sunday) than it did the previous Sunday; so we're going to work out and find the exact, proper formula and get him enough work done during the week that he's able to perform on Saturday. He's doing a good job also of getting it to the point where it was on Saturday, but that's going to be something we're going to continually manage as the season goes on."

Was that a challenge from the coaching staff to the team to hit the long ball on the first play, since stretching the field is something Coach Axman has been working on since arriving at Idaho: "Well, a lot it had to do with…we felt like that was something that was going to be there, and our offensive coaches I thought had a real good play put together, a real good idea about what they were going to get in each of the scenarios, and that was a way to start the game fast. I do think that that was important, that we were able to do it, because we said a week ago that when the kids walked out of here on Monday we were slamming the door on that previous ball game. You don't always know if you get that completely accomplished or not; so certainly starting with success early in the ball game, a huge play like that, that really got the confidence rolling, and I thought that helped things."

About the confidence builder it is for Maurice Shaw to hit the long ball and stretch the field: "Maurice is capable of doing that, and Nate's capable of putting it there. So for that to happen early in the game, I think it was good for both those guys. It was good for our team. It was good for Nate to hit that home run early and trust our receiver is going to be there and catch the ball; so it was good for both those guys."

About dealing with the lengthy losing streak: [Laughing] "363 days is a long, long time. The hardest thing about it is watching these kids busting their tails and not being able to get rewarded. That was the hardest thing off all. We went through that last season, and I stand in front of ‘em after the games on Saturday, and we had a number of [games last season] that we enabled the opportunity to get close, but we didn't win any of those games, and it's hard to stand in front of them at that point in time. Then Sunday they come in here looking for answers, and we tell ‘em, "Hey, if we take care of this and this and this, that's how we can fix it for next week." Then seeing them work their tails off at it, buy into it, and not be able to win, that was the hardest thing of all. I really felt for them. It's part of growing up. I also realize that. As competitors there's not a patient coach I don't think probably in the country. None of us were accustomed to having experienced anything like that before. That was hard, but the players, that was the deal - I wanted to see them get rewarded, and there were a lot of smiles in that locker room on Saturday, and things done a whole lot better."



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