Idaho football interim coach Jason Gesser and Athletic Director Rob Spear discuss the replacement of former coach Robb Akey, expectations for the remainder of the 2012 season and the Vandals’ coaching outlook in the future.
Idaho football coach Robb Akey has been terminated effective immediately and Offensive Coordinator Jason Gesser will take over as head coach on an interim basis, the athletic department announced Sunday.
“The President (Duane Nellis) and I believe it is important to make this move now so we can immediately begin the process of hiring a new coach for the 2013 season,” Athletic Director Rob Spear said. “We appreciate Coach Akey’s enthusiasm and dedication to the University of Idaho but this is the right move at this time.”
The termination comes on the heels of Akey’s 70th game as coach of the Vandals, a 70-28 loss at La. Tech. Akey is 20-50 in his five-and-a-half seasons with Idaho and 1-7 this season.
Spear said a search for Akey’s replacement will begin immediately.
News conference audio —
Akey signed a contract extension in June 2010 following the Vandals’ Humanitarian Bowl victory. The extension was set to extend through 2014. Per terms of the agreement, if terminated, Akey would receive his base annual salary of $165,796.80 per year “until the terms of this agreement ends or until (Akey) obtains employment, which occurs first.”
In Akey’s third season with the Vandals, he led the team to a 8-5 record which included a Humanitarian Bowl victory, Idaho’s second ever bowl victory.
Notable players to play under Akey include San Francisco 49ers left guard Mike Iupati, Houston Texans safety Shiloh Keo and former Chicago Bears quarterback Nathan Enderle.
Idaho starting quarterback Dominique Blackman along with other Vandals took to Twitter following Akey’s termination to express their feelings.
— #itsallforKEN#⃣3⃣ (@vandalsQB3) October 21, 2012
Akey was the glue that held us together. I can say as a team we played for him. Not even for ourselves.We love Akey we need Akey #akeyarmy
— Taylor J Elmo (@TjMO81) October 21, 2012
Wishing nothing but the best for Coach Akey. Great coach/mentor who truly cared for his players. Still a lot of coaching left in him I hope.
— Nathan Enderle (@nenderle) October 21, 2012
Wish Coach Robb Akey the best. Idaho won bowl game in 09, Vandals became our “official” team. Been a rough stretch for a good guy. #Nolte
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) October 21, 2012
Gesser, who has been on the Idaho staff for two seasons, spent time as a quarterback in the NFL and Canadian Football League after playing his college football at Washington State. Before coming to Idaho, Gesser coached the Eastside Catholic High School Crusaders from Sammamish, Wash., for two seasons.
There wasn’t a ton addressed this Monday at the news conference, following a 38-7 loss at Texas State which lacked any real storyline from the Vandal perspective. Idaho appeared to get out of the game without any injuries of note, as well. Since this was a shorter news conference than most the format for this post will change a little bit, and we’ll just jump right in to the comments from Akey.
On the game itself, it was missed opportunities and the inability to string together consistency in all three phases in the game is what Idaho coach Robb Akey lamented about Saturday’s blowout loss at Texas State. Idaho had gone in to the half down 14-7, scoring the last touchdown of the half. Texas State then scored 24 unanswered in the second half.
“It was a game of opportunity we had plenty of,” he said. “It was a one score game for a long, long period of time. That tells me we had opportunities in all three phases of the game to match the score and put ourselves up. That’s what we didn’t get done.”
It wasn’t quite ideal, it wasn’t perfect, and it surely wasn’t pretty, but dangit, it was a win.
That’s about the attitude Idaho coach Robb Akey had Monday when addressing the media about Idaho’s 26-18 victory over New Mexico State Saturday at the Kibbie Dome.
“There’s so much more that we can do well. We’re going to finish things better…You’re going to continue to have the ability to grow and build,” Akey said.
New Mexico State is a pretty bad team, and they played like it. Now six games through the season the Aggies are the only team in the WAC without a victory over an FBS school, providing both Texas-San Antonio and Idaho with WAC-opener victories.
Idaho also took advantage of playing the struggling Aggies to push the ball down the field in the passing game with varying success. Idaho quarterback Dominique Blackman said after the game the plan was to open the playbook up because the team felt the North Carolina game exposed Idaho’s over-use of the short passing game.
Welcome back to the hundreds, or thousands, of University of Idaho alumni making the trek back to the Palouse for the weekend. The weekend festivities will be plenty, though the one that we all specifically have our eyes on is of course the football game on Saturday.
Though, it may be safe to say that the football program saw better days while some of those alumni were in Moscow.
The Idaho football team that will greet the Homecoming crowd sit at an embarrassing 0-5. Getting blown out of the water in two money games, losing at home to an FCS school and relinquishing a fourth quarter lead to Wyoming to lose in overtime accentuate how the season has gone. Oh, yeah, there is that whole conference-less thing Idaho has going for it as well.
There is good news, however! That news comes in the form of Idaho’s opponent, the 1-4 New Mexico State Aggies, on a four game losing streak after winning their opener against Big Sky Sacramento State. They also are without a conference next season.
All throughout the fall the emphasis of this Idaho football team was supposed to be finish. From the t-shirts, to throwing four fingers in the air during the fourth quarter of every game, and practice for that matter. Akey even said he used the word over 700 times during his media sessions at WAC media days.
But it was the same song and dance for the Vandals, relinquishing a fourth quarter lead to the Wyoming Cowboys and falling in overtime. Quarterback Dominique Blackman’s fumble on the one yard early in the fourth quarter seemed to be the turning point. It turned an opportunity for Idaho to go up two touchdowns in to an opportunity that Wyoming seized to tie the game.
With Idaho sitting at 0-4 for the first time since Nick Holt was the head coach (2005) it would imaginably be hard to stay positive, but that’s what Robb Akey is choosing to do.
“We’re one outcome of a play away, one inch away and I got to make sure our guys see that. I’m sick for our players to not have the win coming out of that game…We played that game well,” Akey said. “You look at the growth that our team has made and that’s what I’m going to focus at.”
Those positives Akey focused on was mainly on the offensive side of the ball. The offense totaled over 500 yards of offense and scored a season high 37 points, which is more than Idaho had scored the previous three games combined (30).
Those positives will need to continue for Idaho from here. They’ll play on the road at North Carolina next week before coming home to face New Mexico State at the Kibbie Dome during Homecoming weekend.
For 30 minutes last Saturday night in Baton Rouge the Vandals seemed to be, somewhat, going tit for tat with the No. 2 (or No. 3, depending on your preferred poll) team in the nation. Twice the Vandals pulled to within a touchdown in the first half after LSU had ample opportunities to put the game away. Twice the Vandals battled back and made a statement. Both the 94-yard interception return from Gary Walker that set up Dominique Blackman’s first touchdown pass of the game to make it 14-7, as well as the seven-play 81-yard drive capped off with a 22 yard touchdown pass to Jahrie Level that made it 21-14.
Unfortunately for Idaho, football games are sixty minutes.
Idaho went in to the half down 28-14, but 35 unanswered second half points from the Tigers gave everybody the game that was pretty much expected.
“There are things within the game that we’re going to build from. Battles within the battle that if you can do it part of the time I think you have an opportunity to do it all the time,” coach Robb Akey said. “I’m not big on saying ‘this was great’ because if it was great the score wouldn’t have read like it did.” Continue reading
It’s anybody’s guess on what will terrify the Vandals most Saturday night when the team walks out of Tiger Stadium’s visitors tunnel – The 450-pound live Bengal tiger caged up on the sideline staring them in the face, or the No. 2 team in the country that demolished the Pac-12’s Washington Huskies by 38-points last week.
In the heart of the Bayou they call it Death Valley, where teams that come in dreaming of upsets and victory often leave mauled and demoralized. LSU has won 19-straight at Tiger Stadium.
Regardless, the Vandals are well aware of the challenge that awaits them there.
“Everything we do has to be another notch higher, another speed. That’s what they’re really good at, speed,” center Mike Marboe said. “That’s the biggest thing preparation wise, everything they do…is so much faster than anything we’ve ever seen.”
Speed, indeed. That speed kept the usually potent Washington offense touchdown-less and held quarterback Keith Price to 4.4 yards per passing attempt. The beat down of the Huskies moved LSU to 2-0 on the year, and 2-0 at Tiger Stadium with an average margin of victory of 32.5 points.
“They call it Death Valley for a couple reasons,” coach Robb Akey said. “I think a lot of people have lost a game before they ever go in there, and that’s talking about SEC teams.”
The Vandals are off the practice field Wednesday, the last one open to the public and media before the team flies down to Baton Rouge on Friday.
Not a ton to report, they were pretty standard practices. The mood around practice was pretty relaxed and fairly business oriented. Perhaps the reality of the situation that they will be playing at LSU Tiger’s Stadium on Saturday hasn’t set in yet, or maybe they’re trying to keep their excitement leveled for such an opportunity.
Two loud speakers were present at both Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice to simulate crowd noise and at one point Jason Gesser and Dominique Blackman walked over to signal that they wanted it louder.
After the practices we were able to talk to some coaches and players on the match-up, and we’ll have other notes from the week below that.
Just about everything about Idaho’s performance against Bowling Green last Saturday night was a drastic improvement over the week one 20-3 loss to Eastern Washington – except for the final result. The Vandals left with a 21-13 defeat and are now 0-2 on the year. Not the kind of start that coach Robb Akey probably envisioned, considering that the next three games consists of two BCS Conference teams and a Mountain West bowl team. So don’t be surprised if at the end of the year this game is one that the Vandals look at thinking ‘what if’.
Down 14-6 with 3:36 left in the third quarter it was an ill-timed Dominique Blackman interception that spurred Bowling Green on a touchdown drive to make it a two possession game. After drawing back within one score Idaho WR Jahrie Level fumbled with 3:41 left in the game giving the Falcons an opportunity to run out the clock.
“We did things better, we competed better, our football team united better, we responded to adversity better. We still need to win the damn game that we had an opportunity to win,” Akey said. “Not the finish we wanted, not happy with that. Did we grow? Yes. Do we have room to continue to get better? Yes. And that’s what we’re going to pay attention to. I saw life, I feel like we have grown.”
It won’t get any easier from here. The Vandals will now travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to face an LSU team that dismantled Washington 41-3 last Saturday.
“We’ve got nothing to lose, we’re gonna go pin our ears back, get after it,” Akey said.
More on nothing to lose below. Here are the rest of our notes from Monday’s news conference with coach Akey:
Take a good look at that picture. That is Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant hauling down an interception in the endzone to seal a 30-27 victory over Eastern Washington for the Huskies at Husky Stadium last year. The interception put an end to a nightmarish development for the Huskies, who legitimately looked like they could lose to the Big Sky program in the 2011 season opener for both teams.
Make no mistake about it, the Eagles played well enough to win that game. They looked the part of a team that was capable of going in to an FBS stadium and winning, and in all likelihood it’s the mindset the team had.
So how aware of that are the Vandals as the Eagles prepare to make the drive down from Cheney? Continue reading
Update (8/13/2012 5:30 P.M.): Dominique Blackman named starting quarterback
We first broke on twitter earlier this afternoon a tweet from Dominique Blackman that proclaimed he had been told he’s been named the starter for the season opener against Eastern Washington. Now it appears that that has been made official.
The decision is not one that is surprising in the least bit. Blackman was the better performer during the spring game and the first two scrimmages of the fall, throwing for over 360 yards and six touchdowns combined over the two scrimmages.
Blackman appeared to be the favorite for most of the fall considering the performances that Taylor Davis put up last year when he had the opportunity to play in place of Brian Reader. For that reason it’s fair to say that coaches had a pretty good idea of what Davis would be capable of and what his ceiling is going to be. Blackman on the other hand hasn’t started a game at the Division I-FBS level in his career, having transferred to Idaho from Old Dominion after a stint at Los Angeles Harbor College.
It’s been a week now since Idaho football kicked off fall pre-season practice. Since Thursday’s opening practice the team has gone through its first couple of practices in full pads, had a couple two-a-days and played the first of three scrimmages. The scrimmage took part last Saturday afternoon in the Kibbie Dome, and was the first chance that coaches had an opportunity to really evaluate the two quarterbacks competing for the starting job.
Statistically, Dominique Blackman had the edge throwing four touchdown passes and 181 yards on 16 completions out of 21 attempts. Taylor Davis was 6 for 14 with 75 yards. Reps between the two haven’t fluctuated much from the start of fall camp, though it would be hard not to think that Blackman hasn’t at least created some separation in the competition. There is a long way to go in the competition with Akey not likely to name a starter until after the third scrimmage on Aug. 16.
The real storyline from the scrimmage is more than just the two quarterbacks. The entire offense clicked with all five quarterbacks leading touchdown drives, with significant contributions at the skill position spots from Junior College transfers.
Coach Robb Akey made the final addition to his staff yesterday bringing on experienced running backs coach Wayne Moses. Moses coached last year at UCLA and has had stops with the St. Louis Rams, Stanford, USC, Washington and California.
“Coach Akey and I go way back in terms of recruiting against eachother. I have a lot of respect for who he is as a coach, so when this opportunity came up I was excited about it,” he said of the opportunity.
Idaho is a bit of a different environment than what Moses has been used to, but having played and coached at Washington he has familiarity with the pacific Northwest. He doesn’t seem to think there will be much of a difference being at a smaller school.
“It’s football. Field is 100-yards long, we run the power play here the same we ran it in the Pac-12,” he said.
Oh, and President Duane Nellis was at practice today. That was neat.
As for day two of practice, we know everybody wants to know about the quarterback battle so we’ll get right in to it along with other notes from the offensive side of the ball.
Finish. Finish. Finish. Finish. Say that word about 755 more times and you will arrive at how many times coach Robb Akey said that he used the word, or that theme, last week at WAC Media days in Las Vegas.
So come time when the Idaho football team hits the practice field for the first time in the fall, guess what the theme will be?
“I used the finish 759 times just in the media day alone, for an hour and a half. That was talking to cameras. So you can imagine what it’s going to be like talking to these players,” Akey said. “I’m gonna blow a horn they’re gonna know when the last quarter of practice begins for the next 29 practices. They’re gonna finish their dinner plates. We’re gonna finish everything.”
As he did during media days last week, Akey once again compared last years team to the 2009 version that won the Humanitarian Bowl. Last season the Vandals lost four games by one possession or less, four games that if swung the other way could have made Idaho bowl eligible. In contrast, in 2009 the Vandals won four regular season games by a touchdown or less. Five including the bowl victory.
“We made the play in the bowl season, we didn’t find a way to make the play last year. That is the bottom line. There is that fine a line between winning and not winning. That is a lot of what we’re paying attention to,” he said.
Idaho will hit the practice field on Thursday, Aug. 2 with their first scrimmage slated to happen on Tuesday, Aug. 7 and there should be story lines galore to follow, including the hotly contested quarterback battle and the health of the offensive line.