By Brian Murphy
SALT LAKE CITY — Idaho football coach Robb Akey entertained (as usual) during his annual meeting with the Western Athletic Conference media, cracking one-liners and bringing enthusiasm to the sometimes-droll meetings.
Idaho went 8-5 last season (4-4 in the WAC) and won a thrilling Humanitarian Bowl against Bowling Green.
“The challenge is out there to outdo what last year’s team did,” Akey said he has told his team.
Idaho was picked fourth by the media and sixth by the coaches in preseason voting announced Monday by the WAC.
Last year, Akey said, all of the outside pundits predicted Idaho to finish near the bottom of the league. This year, those predictions are more mixed, he said.
“Hey, the Vandals have come back around,” he said. “We’ve got to prove it. Let’s go prove it. We need to keep that chip on our shoulder and show that we’re not just a one-shot wonder kind of team.”
In order to do that, the Vandals will have to improve defensively. Idaho allowed 36 points per game last year. The Vandals return 10 starters from last year’s defense. With improved depth across the unit, Akey said he saw a change in the defense’s demeanor during spring practice.
“I saw the defense develop a bit of confidence and swagger,” Akey said.
Here are some further highlights from Akey’s meeting with the media:
— "The publicity we received from that (Humanitarian Bowl) game has been priceless. When was the last time you saw the University of Idaho be the lead story on SportsCenter? And for two days that went on — and (ex-Vandal and ESPN analyst) Mark Schlereth did a great job of keeping it alive for us."
— Akey says Boise State rivalry should continue and should be home and home, like many such rivalries around the country. "It will come down to the two universities and maybe the governor saying, 'Hey, this is an important game that needs to be played and needs to be played home and home or not at all."
— On Boise State leaving: "I think they're just trying to get away from us. They saw the Vandals getting better. 'We better go to the Mountain West before they get too good.' "
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