ROBB AKEY: Western Michigan Prep, Part II

Idaho head football coach ROBB AKEY addressed the press this week to discuss the team's preparation for this week's home opponent Western Michigan (Mid-American Conference). WMU holds a 1-0 lead in the all-time series, with the only game between the two back in the mid-70s.

Q: How much of the problem is the lack of pass rush within the pass defense?
RA: Well, that was a big part of it on Saturday that I was disappointed in I think… and there were too many throw attempts for too few sacks and pressures on the quarterback… and I think that's something that we can get better with technique and you know… Also, we did not go after them a whole lot, but we don't need to have to go after people. We need to not have to go after people to be able to pressure the quarterback. So, I think a pass rush would help that a tremendous amount. Then there were some opportunities that we could have handled some route combinations a little bit better also. If you're going to pick one or the other right now, I want to see the pass rush improve a little bit more.

Q: Obviously you said you don't want to go have to add pressure. You'd like to do it with the four-man rush. Is that group capable of getting it done or are you going to have to start sending some backers, a safety… and corners?
RA: Well, I didn't say I don't want to not blitz people either. We'll go after folks. I didn't think that was what we needed to be paying attention to in the second half of the Idaho State game. That's what I meant by that comment. No, I want us to be aggressive, and we're going to go after people. We're going to mix that up. We need a front four to be able to pressure a quarterback when we don't blitz, and then I don't want to be too heavy in the blitz. I want that to be able to be blended out. Can that group pressure a quarterback? I think within that group somewhere I can find some guys that can pass rush a quarterback, and that's kind of what we were able to work a little bit on Saturday was the opportunity to play a lot of those defensive linemen to be able to find what situation might fit some of those guys a little bit better than others. So, not only will we be able to keep guys fresh by running them in and out of there but maybe be able to do it a little bit better by situation.

Q: It was a tough one to rebound from a week ago. What was it like to come in for the film session this time?
RA: Well, it was obviously… there were bigger smiles on the faces and they had to be the same as what it was a week ago, though: Come in and enjoy it, but it needs to be history. We're working on Western Michigan now. We can't be looking back. It was good to have a victory under our belts and to see things get executed better out on the field, but there are also plenty of things that we can continue to do better. So, that's what our emphasis is going to be today… taking the things that we're going to do as we attack Western Michigan… make sure that we're cleaning up the ways that we go about doing those things. In that respect we need to keep things neat.

Q: You mentioned on Saturday there were things that needed work…after watching the tape what kind of jumped out at you?
RA: Well, the thing that stood out… that I want to get cleaned up… while each of the three phases of the game played better, there are still things that we need to …that I want to get changed. There were some things I was not happy with during the course of that ball game. We need to be able to close out the first half better. We had an opportunity to put points on the board and close out the first half with a little extra momentum and we didn't get that done. I need to see our pass rush be more effective. I need to see our pass protection be more effective. We were better in the kicking game, but we still can do better with our coverage, both kick and punt coverage, and those are emphasis points that we're going to pay attention to this week.

Q: Talk about what Western [Michigan] brings to the table.
RA: I think Western's a good football team. They had a slugfest with Northern Illinois this last weekend. You know I look at them on defense; they've got a secondary that's got a pretty good amount of experience. They fly around pretty well. The corner, Fryar, is an All-American candidate. The safety, #9, (Louis Delmas), that's a guy…boy, he stands out to me. I watched him in both those games and he's got speed, he's a physical guy, he gets after it pretty good, and then, they have a defensive line that is a physical group. They play with a good motor and they also hit people. On the offensive side of the ball the quarterback (Tim Hiller) is a pretty good player. He's got a strong arm and quick release. He's pretty mobile. I look at the running back. He's (Brandon West) got good speed and shake and they've got another back that has good speed. I think actually the two of them have pretty good speed. One of them is a big old kid… he's 6-2, 234 pounds. Then the other that's got good speed is also big and they've got a tight end that's got really, really, really good hands. They do some things with their offense that are…you'll see some of the option and gun-read things that are similar to what we're doing… and they're getting in a tight end set and some different things like that. I think it's going to be a physical game.

Q: The way you guys handle Deonte [Jackson}, holding him out for a couple of series, kind of easing him into the game. Is that something that you might have to happen throughout the season or is it going to be take it game by game or what?
RA: Well, with Deonte we're going to have to deal with the fact [his back] throughout the course of the season. We've got to be able to manage him, and a lot depends upon how that back is, and he might have been able to go earlier in the week and he got a little more loose… the course of the week… and we get into the stadium that afternoon would have started the game rather than come in. We're going to have to handle it really by feel. I know this. I know he's a tough son of a gun. He's a warrior, and he'll play and it's a matter of if he's got it loose he's going to start, if not we'll get it loose and we'll go about it that way, if nothing else happens to that back… until we get it to the point where we'll be able to manage that.

Q: Can you talk a little about Isaac Butts?
RA: I tell you what. It was fun to see Isaac and then have the success that he had on Saturday, and that's…he had a good camp. He's really been playing well, and he's been covering very well throughout camp. He's definitely been in couple of ball games… he went and got another one [interception], and he pretty near had a third interception in that game, but he's paid a lot of attention to the way that he plays. He's worked hard at his technique, and he's starting to see some results coming from that. That was a good thing, and then on top of it to be honored as conference player of the week.

Q: Has he always been a corner?
RA: Yes. He came to us last year, and he played some as a corner and a special teams player as a true freshman last year.

Q: The loss at Arizona as possibly the worst day of your life could you describe the atmosphere of the locker room and emotion?
RA: Well, it was…everybody was smiling after we got done with this one on Saturday, and that was a good thing. We talked about it before. You get judged based on the afternoon you're out there, the 13 Saturdays is what you live the other 350-how many days it is of the year, and really it's not even a whole day. It's a four-hour period of time. We were able to enjoy that period of time while we're out on the field, and then coming in afterwards, you know, the fact is it had been a long time since this football program won a ball game. It was a relief. It was fun. I think you couldn't wipe the smile off anybody's face at that point in time, and that was a good thing, but I think it's also where we're at, where we're growing and understanding. OK that's great. We won the game like we expected to, but now we need to go about, when it's time to find out what kind of streak can we put together. Can we put two of them? Can we put back-to-back wins together? That's what the next goal has to be. Improving off last week's performance again. That's what this week's goal has to be. Clean up the things that we didn't like from the previous ball game. Like I said there are plenty of things that need to get cleaned up to go on, but it was good to see everybody having fun again.

Q: Any particular part of that game impress you most… defense had a great game, very efficient, Jackson had a hundred yards, defense, special teams?
RA: Well, that was I think what I was probably the happiest about. The fact that we improved in each of the three phases of the game… played better. Each of the three still have work to get accomplished. We had 10 different players carry the football for us in that ball game. We had five different guys throw the football for us in that ball game. We had six different kids score touchdowns in that ball game. We had 23 different kids tackle somebody in that ball game, and none of those guys had to be offensive players. That was a good thing too. We didn't have to tackle anybody on offense. We had three different guys get interception, Butts had two, and Larkins almost had a second one on the botched PAT. We had two different guys block kicks. We had four takeaways. We had two blocked kicks, and we only turned the ball over one time, and that was up to whatever anybody's opinion was… so, I thought that was a great thing, that that many different kids could make plays in the game. We executed better like we had been doing in camp. We could take practice out to the field and make those things happen. That was what he hadn't done in the previous ball game. Just paying attention to ourselves… nothing to do with whoever our opponent may have been. That was one of the things that I was the most happy with, and then we continue to grow. I told you a week ago we had nine first time starters. Well. We just added three more first time starters in this ball game with Corey White starting at running back in the second college football game of his life. Michael Cosgrove started at defensive tackle in the second college football game of his life, and (Andrew) Blevins started for JoJo (Dickson) at outside linebacker. There are still more guys getting in there. A lot of guys got opportunities. There's a lot of growth that had an opportunity to take place on Saturday, and I was very happy about that.

Q: In just introducing our readers to Idaho football, definitely not an opponent that pops up a whole lot here (Western Michigan). Just kind of focusing in on the program. I guess my first question to you now, being the head coach is Idaho, seems to be kind of unique as far as geographical location, What sort of…I guess is there any adversity, any barriers that you face as a head coach in sustaining a successful program in that location in a very competitive conference like the WAC?
RA: Well, I think we've got an outstanding conference. We've got a great opportunity to build something here. This is my second year, this staff's second year running this program. We're getting something built that…there was a lot of success here a period of time ago, and there's hadn't been. There have been a lot of transitions; so if there were any barrier it was just getting some consistency built up and getting minds back up again how to win and that kind of thing, and that's what we're working on right now. We're building a program.

Q: Talk a little bit about your personal investment in this program. You're obviously very dedicated to turning it around. I guess what drives you, what drives you to get behind this program so strongly and just really show both the players and the community alike that you are really personally invested in turning this program around?
RA: Well, maybe the easiest way to explain it to you is that if we win, I get to keep my job and I can feed my wife and boys. If we don't, I'm not going to be here anymore; so I think that says it all. This IS my life. It's the only thing that matters in my life, this and my family. I don't think you can have much more of a commitment than that. That's the same thing that's true with my assistant coaches, and I'd say the same thing holds true for these players that are here. It's all about football, and getting their degrees.

Q: Adam Shamion – is he no longer on the team or what's up?
RA: Adam is not playing football right now. He's taking care of some schoolwork and is not on the football team this fall.

Q: Does it have anything to do with his injuries or is it a school thing?
RA: I would say that that was a private deal for Adam to deal with. Get his school work fixed up a little bit, and when he gets things taken care of we're going to welcome him back.

Q: So you hope Adam's back?
RA: Oh yeah. Absolutely I do. He's a good kid, he's good family, and we'd love to have him back with us if he's able to make it work.

Q: Coach, any chance Big Mike (Iupati) makes an appearance?
RA: There's a possibility of that, but I think it's maybe coming closer to being next week, but he's going to practice more in team settings today and find out how that shoulder progresses, but we've had good progress, and I'd be hopeful for that, but I'm kind of expecting it to be more next week.

Q: How about the other guys who have been out?
RA: Those other guys are going to be back today. I'm expecting to have (Tyrone) Novikoff and (Aaron) Lavarias available for this week unless something happens during the week of practice. I've got (Peter) Bjorvik back. He's gonna go today. We'll find out…you know his is a hamstring; so we'll find out how that feels that's he's running, but I anticipate having him back. I'm hopeful that we'll have JoJo Dickson back this week also. We'll see how he does at practice today, though that may be a little closer to the end of the week before I'll know an answer on him.

Q: Is Charles Smith feeling better?
RA: Yeah. Yeah. I expect Chuck to be fine. There was a little flu-type deal running around there for a little bit, and that's about what he was dealing with.

Q: And is T.J. Taylor – is he further back than Mike is?
RA: Yeah. That would be a true statement. He's progressing well but we'll see Big Mike before we see TJ.

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