|Nick Groff | Argonaut|
|The 2011 Vandal football campaign will start almost exactly as the 2009 campaign ended — with a matchup against Mid-American Conference foe, the Bowling Green State Falcons.The season opener against the Falcons, set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the newly-remodeled Kibbie Dome, gives the Vandals another chance to prove they are a more prepared team, and coach Robb Akey said he is excited to get the chance.
“Everybody wants to win your opening game, so that, I think, just adds to the excitement of what this game is going to be,” Akey said. “They are a football team that is improved from where they were. They had a lot of youth on their team last year, and that youth got to play a lot.”
The youth and inexperience in its previous season held Bowling Green to two wins, but Akey said he is expecting an improved team on both sides of the ball.
“They’ve got another receiver that gets the ball an awful lot and he’s faster than the last one,” Akey said, referring to former Falcon and NCAA single-season receptions all-time leader Freddie Barnes.
Akey said the Vandals are ready to play against a team other than themselves and most of the players that dealt with injuries through the summer and fall will be available to play in the first game.
Akey said receiver Justin Veltung, who is battling turf toe, is likely to miss the first game and receiver Preston Davis, who recently suffered a foot injury, will also not be available for Thursday’s game.
Akey said the team has multiple personnel units, depth and is overall a faster squad than in the past.
“I think this football team is faster,” Akey said. “We’re a faster football team, as a team.”
He also said he likes the way the team’s chemistry is working and the that truth will be exposed in the first game.
Vandal schedule quick hit
Even though the Vandals are not scheduled to make long trips within their WAC schedule, the team will still log significant miles with trips to Texas A&M, Virginia and BYU.
The most difficult test the Vandals will face comes in week three when they head to College Station, Texas, to play No. 8 Texas A&M.
The Vandals are not likely more than a blip on the Aggies’ radar as they take on all ranked Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma later in the season.
But, non-conference opponents BYU and Virginia are not near as strong as the Aggies, and if the Vandals are healthy and play mistake-free football, a win might come from one of these road trips.
Because Fresno State, Louisiana Tech and Hawaii all travel to the Kibbie Dome, it is important Idaho recognizes these games as must-win situations in order to reach a bowl game this year. The three programs are still considered to be in the top half of the conference.
If the Vandals are perfect at home and win one road game, the team will likely be invited to a bowl game.