HOMECOMING 2008: Idaho hosts New Mexico State

Saturday afternoon the Vandals return to the friendly confines of the Kibbie Athletic Center to battle New Mexico State in Idaho's Homecoming game. This is the first of a four week homestand for Idaho, as EDDIE WILLIAMS and the Vandals prepare to rebound from a rough 1-7 start to the season. The Aggies bring a 3-3 record into the Dome, buoyed by one of the best offensive attacks in the nation.

Saturday's game between the University of Idaho Vandals (1-7, 0-4 WAC) and New Mexico State (3-3, 1-1 WAC) marks the 15th meeting in the series. The Vandals are holding steady as one of the bottom ten worst teams in division one football. A flat performance against LA Tech has Vandal fans on the brink of jumping off a college football cliff.

So let's take a moment Vandal fans.

The famous clock tower of the Admin Building

In honor of Homecoming, let's recognize the University of Idaho for what it is; the state of Idaho's premier University. A classic college town tucked away in the rolling hills of the Palouse, the U of I's prestige is in its campus, education, arts, alumni and research. It's the best educational experience the state of Idaho offers; and it has the alumni and awards to back that statement.

It's all about tradition.

The new J.A. Albertson Building (College of Business)

Now, in Idaho's 114th year of playing college football, this year's Homecoming opponent is New Mexico State. The two schools have split the last six games, and the games always prove to be close and exciting. Last year was no exception with lots of scoring and the Vandals unable to keep up with the Aggies high powered offense. Expect Coach Hal Mumme's Aggies to still be high octane. This should have the Vandal faithful wondering how many points the Aggies put up. The Aggies enter the Dome in a must win situation if they want to be in Bowl contention.

Aggies High Powered Offense

The Vandals haven't had much luck in stopping anyone this year, so this weekend's challenge is steep. Led by senior quarterback Chase Holbrook (6-5, 246), the Aggies will go down the field early and often as they probably have the best receiving core in the WAC. Not to mention, NMSU lines up with four receivers and let's Holbrook throw down field all game long. Seniors Chris Williams (5-5, 163) and AJ Harris (6-0, 210) along with Marcus Anderson (5-8, 166, Jr) and Wes Neiman (5-10, 190, So) provide a full resume of dynamic play makers who can stretch the field. Williams will go down in the NMSU record books as their most prolific receiver so he is an obvious threat, but all three of the receivers can score at any given time. Neiman will miss this week's game but eh Aggies have plenty of depth. Running the ball will be junior Marquell Colston (5-9, 205). He leads the Aggies in rushing with a 4.8 yard average. The offense has moved the ball on everyone they've played so the Vandals will have their hands filled with the passing attack that has made Holbrook a national name on the college quarterback front.

Aggies on Defense

Senior linebacker La'Auli Fonoti (6-4, 253) has moved from an outside linebacker spot to the defensive line. Fonoti has responded by giving them much needed pressure from their defensive front. In fact, Defensive Coordinator Joe Lee Dunn has moved more than Fonoti from linebacker to defensive line. Justen Alford (6-2, 227. Jr.) and Chris Nwoko (6-1, 228, Sr) have also made the transition, manning the defensive end positions and it's working out of the Aggies. New Mexico State senior safety Derrick Richardson (5-11, 190) provides the big hit ability in the defensive back field and the leadership for the entire defense. The entire defensive backfield is experienced with seniors. Cornerbacks Marvin Betts (5-9, 180, Sr.) and Vince Butler (5-10, 188 Sr.) shore up the backfield and offer two capable cover corners. The Aggie defense isn't the biggest up front, but their athleticism more than makes up for it. The Aggies are playing their to date.

What the Vandals have to do to WIN

The University of Idaho is holding strong at the bottom of division one football, but that doesn't mean there isn't hope for the Vandal Nation. The games between these teams are notoriously close, and it is Homecoming. It's time for the Vandals to lay it out on the line and play for pride. But this year's Vandal football team has been a Jeckyl/Hyde type team. They show signs of improvement one week, and then it all disappears the next week. Now the season has boiled down to gaining the experience necessary to compete next year, and hopefully upsetting a team along the way.

One of the bright spots on the Vandal football team include the nation's leading punter T.J. Conley, who repeatedly booms the ball deep down the field. Conley added more to his resume by throwing a TD last week to Eddie Williams on a fake punt, only for it to be stolen away by incompetent refereeing. On offense, Nathan Enderle (6-5, 223, So.) and Eddie Williams (6-2, 240, Sr.) continue to be the one true connection while freshman receiver Preston Davis (6-1, 194) continues gaining valuable experience as Enderle's other go to receiver. On defense, junior Virdell Larkins (5-11, 190) continues to play strong in his safety spot but more importantly he's filled in for Shilo Keo as an on field leader. Youth and inexperience is what plagues the Vandals, and you can't change that overnight, but this experience will bode well for the 2009 Vandals.

In Summary…

Vandal fans can't help but drown their sorrows in online venting via suggestions, opinions and antidotes, most of which border on the ridiculous and insane. A program that has endured four coaching changes within the decade, along with a purging of players with character issues has to be given time to rebound. It's been a year and a half and already Vandal fans have run out of patience. Now every armchair AD and coach seems to have the perfect solution to the University of Idaho's athletic woes. This can be more difficult to endure than the season itself.

Coach Akey's vision was to come in and clean house, find the right character guys and turn this losing program into a winning program. Akey has had one honest recruiting season, as he was hired late with little time to bring the players he wants to the U of I. So far, he's landed some promising recruits, and their talent has been showcased early in their college careers. Akey's plan is in effect. Only one thing remains; winning.

But the Vandal Nation must trudge on, and there is no weekend like Homecoming to reflect on why the University of Idaho is so important. With this reflection, Vandals will find their memories stretched throughout the years they spent on that beautiful campus, and a moment of clarity and peacefulness will set in. It is then, and only then, when Vandal football fans will realize that change takes time, and there's a surplus of that, and if they want it done right, they will have to be patient.

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