NCF Nation: Nathan Enderle

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

January, 24, 2011
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Here are some notes from the non-AQs that you may have missed from this past weekend:

-- Utah hired Norm Chow to be its offensive coordinator. Hopefully you have already seen my take on this.

-- Todd McShay filed a stock up/stock down off the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando. You need an insider subscription to read it, but I will give you a few highlights. McShay lists Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle in his stock up section and writes:
Enderle had the most consistent week of any of the QBs. He has the strongest arm of the group and can make all the NFL throws. But the thing we liked best was that he got better every day as the week progressed.

McShay still lists Enderle as a mid- to late-round pick. Here is some more from the in-game blog. The East ended up beating the West 25-8.

-- Fullback Alexander Teich and defensive end Jabaree Tuani were elected Navy team captains for the 2011 football season by their teammates. Teich rushed for 863 yards and five touchdowns on 147 carries and caught seven passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns this past season. Tuani has been a three-year starter for the Mids and is coming off his best season, leading all defensive linemen with 72 tackles, recording a team-high 15.5 tackles for a loss and finishing second on the team in sacks with 5.5.

-- Four former Central Michigan football players are headed to the Super Bowl, tied for the most of any college program in the country. The foursome: Cullen Jenkins, Frank Zombo and Josh Gordy are with the NFC champion Green Bay Packers, while Antonio Brown is in his rookie season with the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Among other non-AQ players in the big game: Packers defensive back Jarrett Bush (Utah State), Packers running back James Starks (Buffalo) and Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders (SMU).

-- Tulsa rounded out its coaching staff. Brent Guy will serve as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, Adam Blankenship as defensive ends coach and Holmon Wiggins as running back coach. In addition, Clint Rountree was promoted from graduate assistant coach to director of high school relations and graduate assistant coach James Kilian will coach the quarterbacks.

-- Sean McGowan was hired as an assistant coach for defense at Temple. McGowan has served the past four years as the defensive coordinator at New Hampshire.

Other non-AQ bowl misses

December, 15, 2010
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Earlier today, I had a breakdown on why Houston missed a bowl game this season. Now here is a breakdown of several other 2009 bowl teams that missed out in 2010.

Bowling Green

What happened: The Falcons had one of the youngest teams in the country going into the season and they had big shoes to fill with the departure of quarterback Tyler Sheehan and receiver Freddie Barnes. The offense struggled all season, especially the run game, which ranked last in the nation. The Falcons also lost four games by three points or fewer.

Bowling in 2011? Plenty of players return, so they should have the experience, but a big question is whether Matt Schilz can take the next step at quarterback. He already has his go-to target in Kamar Jorden.

Central Michigan

What happened: It's never easy to replace one of the best players in school history in Dan LeFevour, who led the team in rushing and passing last season. Ryan Radcliff held his own at quarterback, but threw way too many interceptions (17 TDs and 17 INTs). The Chippewas struggled to find consistency with their offensive line, failing to protect the quarterback (33 sacks allowed) or establish a decent run game. They also had problems taking care of the football, ranking as one of the worst in the country in turnover margin.

Bowling in 2011? It all depends on the development of Radcliff, and a big-time replacement for linebacker Nick Bellore.

Idaho

What happened: Quarterback Nathan Enderle may have thrown for more yards this season than last, but that is because he had way more attempts. The reason? Idaho could never get its running game going, averaging 88.5 yards a game. The offensive line was a problem because it also failed to protect Enderle -- Idaho gave up 45 sacks this season, third worst in the country. Enderle also saw his completion percentage and yards per attempt drop, and his interceptions go up (from nine to 16). The Vandals were also one of the most penalized teams in the nation.

Bowling in 2011? Leaning no. Idaho is losing Enderle and a lot of senior leadership in defensive end Aaron Lavarias, linebacker JoJo Dickson, safety Shiloh Keoh, tight end Daniel Hardy and receiver Eric Greenwood.

Marshall

What happened: Inconsistency at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the kicking game. Marshall struggled to run the ball, ranking No. 113 in the country and averaging 97.2 yards a game. Much of that was because of a young offensive line. The scoring suffered, too, as the Herd only averaged 20.8 points a game.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on what happens with the quarterback and offensive line. Brian Anderson is gone, leaving A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan as the lone returners with experience.

Temple

What happened: The Owls were bowl eligible at 8-4, but were not chosen to go bowling, thanks in part to two straight losses to close the year to Ohio and Miami (Ohio). Turnovers hurt in the loss to the Bobcats, and the offense just never showed up against the RedHawks. Leading rusher Bernard Pierce was banged up all season, though Matt Brown did a nice job filling in. The Owls also made a quarterback change midway through the season, finishing up with Mike Gerardi because Chester Stewart was too inconsistent.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on who Temple hires to replace Al Golden. There is talent here. Can the new coach continue to build on what Golden did the last two seasons?

Wyoming

What happened:A brutal schedule is what happened. After opening against Southern Utah, Wyoming played eight straight bowl teams, including nonconference games at Texas and home to Boise State. The offense took a step back, ranking No. 116 in total offense and 107 in scoring offense. Despite speculation that he may transfer, quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will return. The Cowboys also dealt with tragedy early in the year when freshman Ruben Narcisse was killed in a car accident Sept. 6.

Bowling in 2011? It is going to be close. Wyoming has an easier out of conference schedule, but it does play two FCS schools. That means the Cowboys have to get to seven wins. They get Nebraska and TCU at home, but Air Force, Boise State and San Diego State on the road.

NU secondary ready to see Jones again

December, 1, 2010
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Nebraska's secondary won't see the same Landry Jones on Saturday, but Jones won't see the same Nebraska secondary, either.

"Last year when we played him, he was a young quarterback just learning the system and everything," defensive back DeJon Gomes said. "One of the biggest things we took away from that game is he’s a competitor and he’s going to do the best he can to get his team into a situation to win."

And one more thing.

[+] EnlargePrince Amukamara
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesPrince Amukamara and the Nebraska secondary have had success against Oklahoma in the past.
"He also likes throwing the ball. That’s good for our secondary," Gomes said.

No kidding. Jones has racked up 527 pass attempts in 2010, in part because of Oklahoma's hurry-up offense and in part to find more success as a sophomore passer.

No quarterback in the Big 12 has more than 500, and Dominique Davis at Eastern Carolina is the only quarterback in America with more attempts than Oklahoma's Jones.

The Blackshirts picked off Jones five times in Lincoln in 2009 -- including three by departed safety Matt O'Hanlon -- though Huskers coach Bo Pelini tossed a wet blanket on talk of that game having any relevance over a year later.

"It's a different time, different place, different offense, new challenges," Pelini said. "The furthest thing from my mind is what happened in that game last year."

What does matter is what's happened this year. Nebraska has put together the No. 2 pass defense in the country, allowing just 144 yards a game. Jones averages almost 330 a game, good for No. 3 nationally.

"It’s going to be an exciting game, especially with them having one of the top offenses in the country and us priding ourself on defense," Gomes said. "It’ll be a fun one to watch."

If history repeats itself, it'll be a lot more fun for Huskers fans than Oklahoma fans when it comes to passing the ball. On the way to that No. 2 ranking, the Nebraska secondary has ruined the days of a handful of good quarterbacks. A sampling:
Only Iowa State's Austen Arnaud, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M managed decent days against the secondary. Part of Weeden's success was in finding receiver Justin Blackmon, one of the nation's best, for 135 of his 283 yards and both touchdowns. Only Tannehill got a victory with his success, however moderate (19-29, 172 yards).

Jones has another of the nation's best receivers, Ryan Broyles, to throw to, but even Broyles could only manage eight catches for 74 yards in 2009, one of his lowest outputs of the season while healthy.

"They have a trigger man who can get the ball to everybody," Pelini said of Jones. "They stretch the field on you. It's a good challenge for us."

It could be an even bigger challenge for Jones.

Non-AQ helmet stickers: Week 5

October, 3, 2010
10/03/10
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Yes, Hawaii is still playing, but we are going to give out our non-AQ
helmet stickers anyway:

Temple running back Matt Brown: Brown started in place of Bernard Pierce, who missed the game with a sprained ankle, and had a career day. Brown ran for a career-high 226 yards on 28 carries and added a career-high four touchdowns to help Temple come from behind to beat Army 42-35. His four rushing TDs tied the Michie Stadium record first set by Tony Dorsett in 1975. The last time a Temple player had four rushing touchdowns in a game was Walter Washington against West Virginia in 2003.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. The Falcons broke a seven-game losing streak to Navy with a 14-6 win to put them ahead in the race for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy. It was Calhoun's first win over Navy, and broke the Midshipmen's 15-game service academy winning streak. Air Force held Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs for the first time in his 17 starts.

SMU linebacker Ja'Gared Davis. Davis had a blocked field goal returned 77-yard for a touchdown in a 42-31 win over former Southwest Conference rival SMU. It was his first career touchdown. Davis also had a sack and has six this season. He has had at least one sack in each game this season.

Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle. Enderle completed a career-high 30 passes on 49 attempts and threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-13 win over Western Michigan. Enderle hit 10 different receivers, and his TDs went for 30, 24 and 4 yards. The Idaho defense stepped up, too, with three sacks, four tackles for loss, six pass breakups, four quarterback hurries and two turnovers.

Louisiana defensive lineman Jermaine Rogers. Rogers blocked an extra point with 31 seconds remaining to help the Ragin' Cajuns hold on to defeat North Texas 28-27. Louisiana nearly blew a 28-14 fourth-quarter lead but have Rogers to thank. Quarterback Chris Masson had 310 yards passing and two TDs in the win.

Nevada running back Vai Taua. Taua ran for a season-high 188 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-26 win over UNLV. It was his fourth straight 100-yard game, and his highest rushing total since gaining 263 yards against Fresno State on Nov. 7, 2008. Taua also added a 22-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter.
A winning season has done little to make people believe in Idaho, outside those who live in Moscow.

There is little reason to have faith, after all. The Vandals have not posted consecutive winning seasons since 1998-99, and have only been to two bowl games in the program’s history.

That second bowl appearance, of course, came last season, when Idaho became one of the biggest surprise teams in the country. The Vandals finished the season 8-5 after a win over Bowling Green in a thrilling Humanitarian Bowl.

[+] EnlargeNathan Enderle
Steve Conner/Icon SMINathan Enderle threw for 311 yards and a pair of TDs in last Thursday's win over North Dakota.
Now they understand they have to prove they can win consistently. A big test looms Saturday on the road at No. 6 Nebraska. Coach Robb Akey has already stressed to his team that it must play loose and not get uptight in such a hostile environment.

“If we go into it feeling that way, it’s like a golfer trying to putt with his hands around his throat,” Akey said. “I broke the news to the guys -- I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings but nobody’s going to pick us to win this game this week. So there’s no way we can go in there and screw it up.

“What we need to do is take the next step forward. Let’s pay attention to us. If we go in there and play as fast as we can, as hard as we can, if we execute things better, if we give ourselves an opportunity, we’ll see what the score [is] at the end of the ball game.”

The score has not read particularly well for Idaho in road nonconference games against teams from automatic qualifying conferences. Last year, the Vandals lost at Washington 42-23. In 2008, they lost 70-0 in the opener at Arizona. When asked what he could learn from those two games, Akey said he had erased the game against the Wildcats from his memory. He added the Washington game helped his team “because we felt like we missed out on an opportunity.”

One of the biggest reasons Idaho improved last season was the play of 6-foot-5, 227-pound quarterback Nathan Enderle. In his first two seasons at Idaho, he threw a total of 30 touchdowns, 35 interceptions and completed less than half of his passes. But last season, he threw for 2,906 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Completion percentage -- 62 percent.

His improvement has him rated as one of Mel Kiper’s top senior quarterback prospects for the NFL draft.

“I’m the type of player, I have to understand the game in and out and understand the defense,” said Enderle, going into his fourth year as the starter. “I was so much more comfortable last season. Playing this long, I’ve seen a lot of defenses. It allows me to really understand what’s going on, and helped me play quicker.”

The Nebraska game has special meaning for Enderle, who grew up in North Platte, Neb., as a Cornhuskers fan. Nebraska didn’t recruit him, so he ended up going to Idaho. He will have family and friends in the stands, and tried to downplay the significance of the game. It wasn’t lost on Akey, who said to him earlier in the week, “I don't have to worry about you wigging out on this game, do I?”

One of the biggest keys to watch is how the Idaho offensive line protects Enderle. With four new starters, they gave up four sacks in the opener against North Dakota. It’s safe to say the offensive line will be going against a slightly better defensive front in Nebraska.

The development of the line will continue to be a story to watch as the season goes on and Idaho tries prove it can win consistently.

“We didn’t have any success my first years here and it was really easy to get down in the dumps,” Enderle said. “For the guys who’ve been here for so long and dealt with three different coaching staffs and all the hardships, to have that many wins, it was really good for everybody on the team.

“I know a lot of people thought last year we might be a flash in the pan, and they don’t really expect us to have the same type of success. But as a team, learning that type of winning mentality, we have higher expectations for ourselves.”
NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has an updated NFL draft prospects list for 2011. This time, he is listing the Top 5 seniors at each position.

Several non-AQ players are featured.

- Idaho QB Nathan Enderle is listed at No. 3 behind Jake Locker at Washington and Christian Ponder at FSU.

- Tulsa FB Charles Clay is ranked No. 3 at his position and Troy WR Greg Little ranked No. 4 among receivers.

- Nevada OLB Dontay Moch is ranked No. 3 at his position and is one of several defensive players featured.

Check out the entire list here.

Spring superlatives: Idaho

April, 28, 2010
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The 2009 campaign was certainly a season to remember for Idaho. Not only did the team win eight games, including a thrilling Humanitarian Bowl victory over Bowling Green, it surpassed all expectations and began to believe that the Idaho program could regain the form it once had. The Vandals don’t lose much from last year’s squad and have a chance to have yet another special season in 2010.

Here’s a look at the strongest and weakest positions for Idaho this spring:

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Key returners: Senior Daniel Hardy (39 catches, 691 yards, three touchdowns), senior Maurice Shaw (32 catches, 666 yards, six touchdowns), junior Preston Davis (33 catches, 460 yards, one touchdown), senior Eric Greenwood (32 catches, 401 yards, three touchdowns), junior Princeton McCarty (11 catches, 202 yards, two touchdowns)

Key departures: Max Komar (63 catches, 1,052, 11 touchdowns)

The skinny: Idaho returns almost every weapon from a passing offense that ranked 12th in the country. The only loss is Komar, who led the team in receptions and yards, but players such as Hardy, Shaw and Davis came on and will continue to be top targets for starting quarterback Nathan Enderle. Another key contributor could be junior college transfer Armauni Johnson, who had seven catches for 103 yards during the spring game.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Key returners: Junior left tackle Matt Cleveland

Key departures: Left guard Mike Iupati, center Irvin Stevens II, right guard Adam Juratovac, right tackle Bryce Sinclair

The skinny: The offensive line, which was a strength for the Vandals last season, was almost entirely gutted by graduation. Cleveland is the only returning starter, though Tevita Halaholo and Tyrone Novikoff both have experience. All of the backups are back, including Guy Reynolds and Clell Hasenbank, and the Vandals have brought in some new faces such as Sam Tupua, a junior college transfer, Kyle Salm, a grayshirt, and Mike Marboe, an early enrollee. The offensive line was the key to the Vandals' success last season and is really the only area of the team that will be almost entirely new this year.

What to watch in the WAC this spring

February, 25, 2010
2/25/10
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Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Boise State Broncos
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" All starters but Kyle Wilson return in 2010. Jerrell Gavins, who started at Wilson's outside cornerback position during the Fiesta Bowl (Wilson moved to safety) likely will slip into that starting slot.

" With so many players returning and few questions to answer, the Broncos can really start working on the 2010 season. This will also be a good time to sort out the offensive line (10 O-linemen had at least one start last year) and looking for some redshirted playmakers that could find their way into the lineup this season.

" Defensive line coach Pete Kwiatkowski steps in as the new defensive coordinator for Justin Wilcox, who went to Tennessee, but don’t expect any major changes to the defense. Kwiatkowski was Wilcox’s mentor and the two shared the same vision for the Broncos defense.

Fresno State Bulldogs
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Fresno State lost three top backs in Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding and will spend the spring looking for a replacement. Robbie Rouse is the top returning back, but he’s a smaller back than the ones the Bulldogs lost. Look for Michael Harris to get a chance this spring.

" With Seyi Ajirotutu, Marlon Moore and Chastin West gone, the Bulldogs will be looking to fill their receiver depth to help starting quarterback Ryan Colburn. Coach Pat Hill noted on signing day that he wants to spread things out this year and he’s looking forward to some speed joining the team in the fall. In the meantime, sophomore Rashad Evans, redshirt freshman A.J. Johnson and sophomore J.J. Stallworth will work for playing time with Jamel Hamler and Devon Wylie.

" The defensive front, which struggled late against the running game (most notably Nevada and Wyoming), will be a focus this spring. The Bulldogs return nine starters from the bowl game, including All-WAC first team defensive end Chris Carter and linebacker Ben Jacobs.

Hawaii Warriors
Spring practice starts: April 1
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

" The offensive line was a question heading into the 2009 season and will be again in 2010. The Warriors lose four senior starters, including center John Estes. Backups Kainoa LaCount, Matagisila Lefiti, Andrew Faaumu, Bronson Tiwanak, Clayton Laurel and Adrian Thomas will be among those competing for starting roles.

" Bryan Moniz finished the season as the starting quarterback and will go into spring ball as the leading candidate to start in 2010, but Shane Austin, who played some in 2009, will challenge for the starting role this spring. Moniz finished the season completing 57 percent of his passes for 2,396 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

" The Hawaii defense struggled some last year, but should be better if star linebacker Brashton Satele receives a sixth season. The Warriors will be looking for a new right tackle as well as a couple of starting linebackers, but the defense, which improved as the season progressed, should be a pleasant surprise in 2010.

Idaho Vandals
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:

" The top priority this spring will be reloading the offensive line. The Vandals lost four starters on the offensive line, including All-American guard Mike Iupati. The only returner is left tackle Matt Cleveland. Guy Reynolds Jr. was Iupati’s backup, and players such as Clell Hasenbank, Tevita HalaHolo and Tyron Novikoff will be competing for starting roles.

" The offense carried the team last year, especially the passing game, but starting quarterback Nathan Enderle will have to work out three new receivers this spring. The biggest loss is slot Max Komar, who made key catches all season, including in the Humanitarian Bowl win over Bowling Green.

" The Idaho defense was one of the worst in the country allowing 433.23 yards per game and 36.00 points per game. More often than not, the Vandals were trying to outscore their opponents instead of stopping them defensively. Eleven players with starting experience from last year’s bowl team return; the only loss is strong safety Jeromy Jones. But with the way the defense played last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of those positions open this spring.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Spring practice starts: March 17
Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

" The loss of running back Daniel Porter and tight end Dennis Morris takes out a lot of the offense and scoring the Bulldogs had in 2009. New head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will spend the spring looking for playmakers to fit their wide-open offensive style.

" Wide receiver will be a key competition this spring for Louisiana Tech’s new spread offense. Tennessee transfer Ahmad Paige and LSU transfer Tim Molton are both eligible and will join RP Stuart, Cruz Williams and Phillip Livas in the receiving corps.

" Louisiana Tech will be looking for some consistency in the punting game after Cade Glasgow struggled last year. Overall, the Bulldogs punting game averaged 32.91 yards per game, which ranked last in the WAC. The Bulldogs didn’t recruit a punter, so expect some potential walk-on help.

New Mexico State Aggies
Spring practice starts: April 5
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

" Second-year coach DeWayne Walker was unhappy with the team's scoring, especially in the second half of the season, which prompted him to replace his offensive coordinator and running backs coach. His main priority this spring is finding some consistency at quarterback. Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls return and redshirt freshman Tanner Rust and true freshman Andrew Manley will challenge, but junior college transfer Matt Christian is the favorite to be the starter.

" The running game was the one bright spot for the offense last season with Seth Smith rushing for 1,016 yards, but he had just one rushing touchdown. Redshirt freshman Marquese Dunn will get a look this spring and will challenge for playing time as Walker looks for playmakers.

" Shoring up a total defense that allowed 423.62 yards per game and 31.62 points per game will be Walker’s project this spring. The Aggies return some key players, but Walker said most of the help on the defensive line will come in the fall.

Nevada Wolf Pack
Spring practice starts: March 5
Spring game: April 3

What to watch:

" The running game is Nevada’s bread and butter and it should stay that way with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and star running back Vai Taua returning. However, the Wolf Pack need to spend this spring working on depth with players such as Lampford Mark, Mike Ball and Stefphon Jefferson.

" The offensive line needs to replace Kenneth Ackerman and Alonzo Durham this spring in order to keep the running game effective. Center Jeff Meads and tackle Jose Acuna are the primary backups for those two spots. The Wolf Pack also will look to build offensive line depth across the board.

" The Nevada defense will spend the spring learning a slightly altered 4-3 defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Andy Buh. The defense has been the weak link of the Wolf Pack for the past few years, so shoring that up this spring will be a high priority.

San Jose State Spartans
Spring practice starts: March 12
Spring game: April 22

What to watch:

" For the second consecutive season, San Jose State had trouble producing offense mostly because of inconsistent play at quarterback. Jordan La Secla returns as the incumbent, but junior college transfer Matt Faulkner, who enrolled in January, will challenge this spring.

" For as much as the passing offense struggled, the rushing offense was worse. Lamon Muldrow, who led the team with 592 yards and three touchdowns last season will be counted on in the running game, but the Spartans signed three running backs for 2010, including Forrest Hightower, who will challenge in the fall.

" Most of spring practice will be spent learning the new coaching staff and the new offensive and defensive schemes. The Spartans are transitioning from a spread offense to a more traditional style that will incorporate an H-back and a tight end. The Spartans also will move toward an attacking style defense, but will stay in a 4-3 base that will feature both man-to-man and zone coverage.

Utah State Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" The primary concern this spring will be finding running back depth after star Robert Turbin suffered a torn ACL during winter workouts. All eyes will be on Michael Smith, Derrvin Speight and Kerrwynn Williams as they try to pick up the slack.

" Second-year head coach Gary Andersen is showing his commitment to defense after shuffling several players on that side of the ball. Nathan Royster is moving from defensive tackle to end, Junior Keiaho and Devin Johnson are moving from end to linebacker, wide receiver Cameron Sanders has moved to defensive back and the Aggies are hoping to get some defensive contribution out of Page Clifford, a transfer from Utah.

" There should be some good competition at wide receiver this spring with Matt Austin returning from injury and Travis Van Leeuewen coming off a redshirt season. Mid-year signees Xavier Martin and Dontel Watkins also will challenge for starting roles. Utah State had a good passing offense with 246.75 yards per game from starter Diondre Borel.

Idaho loses QB coach

January, 8, 2010
1/08/10
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Idaho quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith is leaving the Vandals to become the offensive coordinator at Montana under newly named head coach Robin Pflugrad.

Smith is credited with the development of junior quarterback Nathan Enderle, who finished fifth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing efficiency this season. Enderle completed 192-of-312 passes for 2,906 yards and 22 touchdowns in 11 games.

Smith is the first coach to leave Idaho, which finished the season 8-5 and went to its first bowl games since 1998.
The Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl was billed as an offensive shootout that would be won by the team that had the ball last, and that’s exactly the way the game unfolded. Idaho mounted an unbelievable comeback in the final seconds and took the lead with a two-point conversion to give the Vandals their first bowl win since 1998. It also gave the WAC its first bowl win of the season. While it’s not a BCS bowl game, the Humanitarian Bowl likely will be one of the most memorable games of the bowl season.

[+] EnlargeRob Akey and DeMaundray Woolridge
Brian Losness/US PresswireIdaho running back DeMaundray Woolridge and coach Robb Akey celebrate the Vandals' win Wednesday night.
How the game was won: With 32 seconds remaining and Idaho down 42-35, quarterback Nathan Enderle threw a 50-yard pass to Preston Davis to get to the 16-yard line. Enderle then found receiver Max Komar in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. With momentum swinging the Vandals' way, they decided to go for two, and Ederle completed the conversion to Davis for the 43-42 win.

Turning point: Idaho was all but counted out after Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan found receiver Freddie Barnes for a 51-yard touchdown with 32 seconds remaining. But Enderle’s 50-yard heave to Davis gave the Vandals new life. Coach Robb Akey's decision to go for two instead of kicking the game-tying PAT ended up being the right move.

Stat of the game: Bowling Green and Idaho combined for 990 yards of total offense and 12 touchdowns.

Player of the game: Davis finished with four catches for 119 yards, but no two receptions were bigger than the 50-yard grab that set up the Vandals’ final touchdown and the two-point conversion that ultimately gave them the win (which isn't an official reception). Prior to the game, Davis had not had more than 53 receiving yards in a single game.

Best call: Even if the two-point conversion had failed, Idaho coach Robb Akey still would have been praised for trying to capitalize on the Vandals’ momentum. Akey believed in his team and it paid off with a big bowl win. Akey already was in contract negotiations with Idaho, and this should move them along quickly.

Record performance: Idaho’s heroics will undoubtedly overshadow a spectacular performance by Barnes, who became the NCAA record-holder for single-season receptions with 155, including what looked to be the game-winning reception with 32 seconds remaining. Barnes finished with 17 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns, his second 200-yard game of the season.
Robb Akey has had to hold his team back the past few days.

Since arriving in Boise on Christmas for today’s Humanitarian Bowl, his team has been chomping at the bit to get on the field against Bowling Green in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl and finish its strong season on a high note.

“It’s kind of like a team playing in its first game after fall camp,” Akey said.

The Vandals are playing in their first bowl game since 1998, and they’re doing so a mere 300 miles from their campus. Those circumstances would worry most coaches as they try to keep their team from getting too high on emotions. But Akey wants his team to take the excitement and emotion and use it for a fast start against the Falcons.

“I’m not worried about them being too excited, I’m trying to channel that to get the start we’d like to have,” Akey said. “We’ve got a football team right now that really believes it can overcome anything.”

Idaho also thinks it can put the WAC into the win column. Fresno State and Nevada already lost this bowl season and the conference has just one bowl win the past two years. Akey said he’s talked to his players about being the first WAC team with a bowl win this season and that the players have embraced the challenge.

“First and foremost, we have to represent ourselves and the state of Idaho and we’re excited about that opportunity," Akey said. "But I tell you another thing that our football team is proud of is that through our four nonconference games we went 3-1, which was a winning season within a winning season. We’re 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference and we are currently 1-0 in the MAC. Our players have taken pride in that and this is an opportunity for us to represent the WAC against outside competition.”

Quarterback Nathan Enderle said the team has taken this new experience in stride because the whole year has been a series of new experiences. The Vandals haven’t won seven games since 1999 and haven't won more than four since 2000. Idaho has the No. 10 total offense in the country, and Enderle is having his best collegiate season. The Vandals have embraced every moment, and they’re hoping this season has blazed a trail for future teams.

“It’s a different experience and we didn’t really know what to expect,” Enderle said. “We’re enjoying that aspect of it, though. We want to get progressively better year after year. We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan thing. We want this to continue and springboard us into next season.”
This might be the most offensive game this bowl season, and that’s meant to be a compliment.

Both Bowling Green and Idaho both have dynamic offenses and play little defense, which will make this game a fun shootout. Idaho is playing in its first bowl game since 1998 and is angling to get the Western Athletic Conference its first bowl win this season. Bowling Green won four straight games at the end of the season to get into a bowl game and first-year coach Dave Clawson was the only new non-AQ coach to finish the regular season with a winning record.

WHO TO WATCH: Freddie Barnes, WR, Bowling Green

Barnes, a Biletnikoff finalist, leads the country in receptions (138) and touchdowns (16) and is third in receiving yards (1,551). He needs just five catches to break the NCAA mark of 142 in a season, which was set by Houston's Manny Hazard in 1989. What’s even more impressive about Barnes’ numbers is that he’s spent the bulk of the season fighting off double and triple teams. In the last seven games, he averaged 158.1 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.

WHAT TO WATCH: Will either team play defense?

For as good as both offenses are, Bowling Green and Idaho's defenses are two of the worst in the country. Bowling Green allows 393.75 yards per game and 26.17 points per game. Idaho allows 424.50 yards and 35.50 points per game. Idaho allowed 146 total points in its final three games of the season. While both of these teams have shown the ability to play in a shootout, the one that steps up and plays any semblance of defense likely will come out ahead.

WHY TO WATCH: Offense, offense, offense

There’s no greater selling point for this game than the offenses. Idaho didn’t score fewer than 21 points in any game this season. Quarterback Nathan Enderle has thrown for 2,666 yards, the most ever in his career, and was second in the WAC in passing offense and passing efficiency behind Boise State’s Kellen Moore. The Vandals rank 10th in the country in total offense. Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan and Barnes are the best quarterback-receiver duo in the country. The Falcons have scored at least 30 points in each of their past four games.

PREDICTION: This is one of the toughest games to predict because of the lack of defense. But Bowling Green has played better defense this year, and while Idaho has faced some better offenses, I’m giving the nod to Bowling Green’s experience. Bowling Green 45, Idaho 38.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

Idaho starting quarterback Nate Enderle will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s matchup with No. 6 Boise State.

Enderle, who missed last week’s loss to Fresno State, is still recovering from a rotator cuff injury he suffered a couple of weeks ago.

“We’re not going to know on Nate until game time at the earliest,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said during the WAC coaches' teleconference. “He’s progressing, his shoulder’s getting better. We’re hopeful to have him, but it’s going to be a day-by-day thing. If the day by day goes well, if he progresses, then I could be happy by the time Saturday goes around.”

Sophomore Brian Reader started against Fresno State and nearly led the Vandals to a come-from-behind victory. He threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the game. He also rushed four times for 11 yards and a score.

Akey has said all season that the competition at quarterback is something that has pushed Enderle to be as good as he’s been this year and that the team has total confidence Reader if he is the starter.

“Our guys believe in him; I believe in him,” Akey said of Reader. “We’ve got two good quarterbacks. We‘ve been fortunate in that respect. We’ve got a hell of a starter and a hell of a backup. And Brian, for example, he came in and took us on the drive to win at San Jose. And he made some great plays and throws [against Fresno State]. He was the guy leading our offense in the rally in the second half. Our football team did not operate as if there was any difference. They had confidence that Brian was going to get the job done.”

Idaho midseason review

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
2:40
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

IDAHO VANDALS (6-1, 3-0 WAC)

The story of coach Robb Akey serving his team out of bowls this fall camp to get them thinking about the postseason is one that will become part of Idaho lore. After combining for just three wins during Akey’s first two seasons, the Vandals have won six of their first seven games and are one of only two teams in the WAC with a winning record. What started out as just getting bowl eligible has turned into challenging for the WAC conference title and earning a better bowl than anyone on the team thought possible. In terms of record, the Vandals have had the greatest turnaround of any team this season and don't appear to be slowing down any time soon.

Offensive MVP

Max Komar, WR: Komar doesn’t look like a prototypical slot receiver, but his big bruising body has probably been his greatest asset. He’s muscled defenders off the ball to lead the team with 33 catches for 538 yards and two touchdowns. He’s been Enderle’s go-to receiver all season.

Defensive MVP

Shiloh Keo, DB: Keo was supposed to be the team’s best defender a year ago, but a season-ending injury cut his year short. He’s come back with a vengeance to lead the Vandals with three interceptions and 64 tackles. He’s been integral in preserving leads in close games such as 31-29 win against Colorado State.

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.”

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