Enderle finally sees the other side of being Idaho's quarterback
October, 1, 2009
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
For the past two seasons, Nathan Enderle has taken most of the blame for the failings of the Idaho football.
As the team’s starting quarterback, he was often looked at as the reason why Idaho won just three games during his time as starter.
|Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE|
|Idaho Vandals quarterback Nathan Enderle is finally finding success in the win column.|
“Everyone looks at the quarterback and rightfully so because they have so much impact on the outcome of the game,” Enderle said. “That’s frustrating, but it’s something that you have to deal with. It’s an inevitability.”
Enderle admits there were times when shouldering the blame became too much of a burden. He couldn’t understand the vitriol. He thought he was playing well, and some of his statistics backed that up. However, the only number the fans and the boosters cared about were the wins.
“I’m not saying there weren’t times when it was hard, but I think it’s kind of an immature response to say that I don’t want to deal with this,” Enderle said. “That’s kind of running away from the problem rather than just facing it head on and owning up to it.”
Enderle beat back the criticism this offseason and turned it into motivation for himself and his team. The Vandals are 3-1, their best start since joining the FBS and the best four-game start since 4-0 in 1994 when the coach was John L. Smith.
“He was very young and we didn’t have a lot to throw the football to,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said. “We struggled protecting the quarterback a little bit. Those things kind of stayed being the case during his first two years. But you saw things coming along and what I saw in Nate was a very competitive guy that had a great desire to be a good football player. When things didn’t go the way he wanted to, he took things personal because he wanted to be the difference maker.”
Enderle saw flashes of what this team could be a year ago. In the first half of games against Western Michigan, Fresno State and Boise State, the Vandals stayed with their opponents only to come out flat in the second half and end up with a blowout loss.
“It would always be a quarter of just terrible football,” Enderle said. “Things going wrong all over the field on all sides of the ball and it would put us entirely out of the game.”
The Vandals knew they had something and that all it took was finding the consistency to make sure it showed up on a regular basis. So during the offseason, they worked on doing things right. Even simple things like linemen lining up correctly or receivers looking the ball into their hands. The more repetition Idaho spent on the good things, the more they became second nature.
Enderle said it was difficult getting players to buy into the work especially when they weren’t seeing results on the field.
“When there’s no benefits from staying here all summer and you don’t see any real benefits in the win-loss column, it’s difficult to get people to keep working at it day in and day out,” Enderle said. “And so I think that was one of the most frustrating things, people started wondering what the team was getting from working this hard because it wasn't showing on the field.”
But now that the Vandals are winning, Enderle said it’s hard not to want to go out to practice every day. Akey keeps the team motivated and they actually go into every game thinking they’re going to come away with a victory. Even during its only loss -- 43-23 to Washington -- the Vandals never quit fighting and even put up more total yards than the Huskies. That fighting spirit showed again against Northern Illinois last week when the Vandals had a 34-16 lead in the fourth quarter and though Northern Illinois came back, the Vandals didn’t panic and secured a 34-31 win.
Enderle and his teammates didn’t have those kinds of positive experiences to build on last year, and now that they do, they’re using them to potentially a catapult the team to its first bowl berth since 1998.
“It’s gratifying for everyone in the program,” Enderle said. “It kind of gives coach Akey and our athletic director [Rob Spear] some credibility when they say we are doing things the right way and things are going to turn around. When you continually lose, you can say those things and they sound like empty promises. But when you have a few wins, they begin to have a little bit of credibility behind that.”