NIU POST-GAME: Akey, Enderle, and Lavarias

The Vandals went into Saturday's road battle at Northern Illinois looking poised and prepared against an impressive Huskie team that had just knocked off Purdue of the Big-10 Conference the week before. Idaho played well in all facets of the game, and withstood a determined fourth quarter NIU comeback for the 34-31 victory. Inside, Coach Akey, Nathan Enderle, and Aaron Lavarias discuss the game.

Robb Akey, Idaho Head Coach

About how Idaho turned NIU around this week compared to their big win at Purdue last weekend: "Well, I think we executed better. They still had some runs against us, that quarterback had some big runs against us. Particularly in the first half. I thought the staff did a nice job of getting some things adjusted, and we handled that better, in regards to handling the quarterback in the running game. I don't know what the third down numbers were, but I do know that we executed better on third down. We got ourselves more third down drive stops, our offense did a better job of converting third downs. That was one of the things I challenged out to our guys. Coming into this game it was going to make a difference. We needed to take care of the football on offense, we needed to make big plays on offense. I felt like we got that accomplished for the most part today.

"On defense, I really felt like we needed to get after a good running game. I still think they made some runs that I wasn't particularly happy about, but I do think our kids responded for the most part in making it be a better effort and handling that adjustment. And then third downs obviously for our defense also, and taking the ball away. We didn't get so much in the takeaways, but either way…the play Butts makes in the endzone. It's a third down drive stop – made them kick a field goal. It would have been nice to have had the interception and not have it be any points at all, but it was a good scenario for our defense getting a stop there, forcing it to be a field goal as opposed to a touchdown.

"I feel like our team, we're growing up there a little bit. But also, I don't like the fact that it went from a three score game to being what it was there. That's a great eye opener I think for our team, to maintain a three score lead and finish someone off. But I think that's a darn good football team we played against today. I don't think it is, I know they are. They're well coached, they play hard, and I'm sure they're going to win a lot more games this fall."

About the poise Nathan Enderle showed today: "I think our quarterback is a pretty darn good player. He's got two years worth of previous experience, and now he can be more of a veteran player at this point in time. I felt like we were able to run the ball pretty well, but we got some big plays in the throwing game, and this guy right here handled a lot of that. Particularly in the very beginning of the second half, to take that drive down there and get points. He stood his tail in the pocket there and delivered the football to some guys that made some big plays. I think that's poise, I think that's toughness and character, and I think that showed coming from Nate today."

About what he thought Idaho could take advantage of at NIU: "What I told you before, those were the points we thought we had to do to have a chance to win this football game. That was certainly the case. They ran the ball right through Purdue's tail last week. They made big plays. The other thing I [challenged] our guys with was our special teams making a difference. We played a little better on special teams today, but I still think that is an area where we need to show some growth. We need to make a field goal when we have an opportunity to. There was a great big return that Shiloh Keo got for us, and that was what I was looking to get more accomplished for our team. Those were the things that we felt needed to be done. I looked at Northern Illinois playing in that Purdue game and they went in there and they just flat out got after them. They took advantage of the takeaways that they got from Purdue, and they played tough, solid defense. That's a tough football team."

About Idaho possibly catching NIU flat after the big Purdue win: "I think that win they had against Purdue last week, I think that gave them more confidence. With that coach over there, he won't let them fall asleep, I'll promise you. Those guys were out there, they were ready to play football today."

About if Idaho changed anything up to catch NIU off this week: "Well, we made plays. We were able to make plays early in the ballgame. And I think we got a little momentum rolling in that fashion. We were able to do some things that way. What we did today is really not much different than what they'd seen us do on film, and they're pretty much along the lines of what we'd seen of them on film – or I guess it's not film anymore, its video. [laughter by the media]

About the field goal at the end of the first half: "Well, it's just...all I know is that the clock showed zero twice. The reason I was concerned about it is because it went to zero, and they put some time back on. And that's their judgment, the referee said that is where he thought it was at, and I've got no problem with that. I wanted to ask him because it went to zero again, and only took .2 of a second to snap the ball, accept the snap, and fire it back into the ground. I just want to, you know - .2 of a second is pretty quick. I was just asking, because it went to zero twice. They've got a tough job to do, and I think the officials did a hell of a job today – I've got no problem with that. It actually might have helped spark my guys up a bit as we closed up the half and got us rolling. And it's our job to have a lead and to keep a lead, so we could have kept it from being down there.

Had he seen a situation like that where the clock is reset three times at the end of the half: "Not like that, no. But it played out that way."

Have you ever had to time a spike like that before: "We practice some scenarios like that. There was a snap like that in the Rose Bowl not too many years ago. It might have given one team an opportunity to throw a ball into the endzone, and it took more than .2 of a second for that clock to run out. [laughter in the background by the media] But I've got no problem with the call at all. I thought that officiating crew did a tremendous job out there today. And again, we don't need to put ourselves in that situation there where they've got the range to kick the field goal. That's up to us to take care of, and other penalties were committed – we need to clean those up."

Nathan Enderle, 6-5, 227, QB
The junior signal caller had one of his best games ever for Idaho, displaying poise and determination under center while compiling 270 yards passing on 18 of 28 attempts. He threw three touchdown strikes and was not intercepted once on the afternoon.

About what he said to the team on the final drive, when NIU got back in the game at 34-31 after dominating the whole game: "I thought we were playing really well on offense, and I told them to just keep doing what we were doing. We were running the ball well, we were eating up some clock, and really we just needed to sustain a drive for the whole time. So I just told them to keep doing what we were doing."

About whether Idaho thought NIU would overlook the Vandals coming off the big Purdue win: "No sir. On film they look like a team that plays real hard, and whenever you have a team like that you can't expect them to be lax mentally. You know they're going to come out every game and they're going to play just as hard and just as sound as they always do."

About whether this was a big win today for Idaho, on the road against a hot team: "Yeah, I think it's a big win for us. I mean, that's a good team out there. They play sound football, and they do what they do well. And I think it shows our growth as a team to do what we did, better."

About the third and three on the last drive where he completed a 26-yarder: "It was huge. We had been throwing back shoulder fades all game long, and they started to play that a little bit better. Our receiver got over the top of it, and he made a big play for us. That's what you ask him to do."

About having a lot of time to throw, despite a Northern Illinois defense that put a lot of pressure on Purdue last week: "I think our O line is playing really well. Getting the ball out and having time in the pocket comes from a couple things. One is O-line, blocking it up right. Two is just trying to get the ball out of your hand as quick as possible, go through your reads faster and faster. Three, your tailbacks checking down is a quick way to get the ball out of your hand. So I think our runningbacks and our O-line did a really good job today in both of those.

The junior defensive end, along with the rest of the Vandal defensive line, had a tremendous game in DeKalb, slowing down a powerful Huskie rushing attack and keeping the pressure on the NIU passing game all afternoon.

About taking the crowd out of this game early and coming out victorious: "There are so many words to describe this feeling right now. I was telling Nate, I mean I can't tell you how many times we've been on the other side of the field in games like this. I just feel great. I feel very confident about the way that this program is moving. I can't wait until next week."

About what Idaho was able to do this NIU running attack that had been tremendous going into this game: "Oh, their runningback is great, and the quarterback is a good runner too. Our defensive staff just made some really good halftime adjustments and we were preparing for them all week. They run that zone read with the QB, and we really just game planned really well for them, and I think it went well today."

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