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Vandals owe a lot to seniors

by MARK NELKE
Sports Editor | December 2, 2010 8:00 PM

There are some fifth-year seniors, like quarterback Nathan Enderle and safety Shiloh Keo, who were there when Robb Akey took over the Idaho football program in 2007, that opted to stay when it would have been easy to bail.

There are some fourth-year seniors, like linebacker JoJo Dickson, tight end Daniel Hardy and wide receiver Eric Greenwood, who were part of Akey's first recruiting class.

So even though last week's heartbreaking loss means Idaho has no bowl to play for, the Vandals (5-7, 2-5 Western Athletic Conference) still have plenty of reason to get motivated for Saturday's season finale at home vs. San Jose State (1-11, 0-7).

"I've got all the respect in the world for these seniors," Akey said. "They've helped us get the corner turned here. There were some than came in when we got here, and they stuck with us, made a committment to getting this thing turned around, and that is why they came here in the first place.

"We've also got some seniors that came in with us in our first recruiting class, believed in what our goals were and what we said we wanted to get accomplished with this program, and that whole crew has had a lot to do with us turning this thing around, from being a program that didn't have any success at all to (one that) had a bowl championship a year ago and, up until the last seconds of Saturday night's game, was fighting their tails off for a second bowl game."

Plus, Idaho hasn't won a Senior Day game since 2003, when Tom Cable was coach.

"I think we have all got a responsibility - the coaching staff, the players that return - to send these guys out the way that they deserve and that would be with a win against San Jose State in the Dome on Saturday," Akey said.

Defensive end Aaron Lavarias, running back Princeton McCarty, defensive end Jonah Sataraka and linebacker Paul Senescall were all part of the 2006 recruiting class of Dennis Erickson, who left after that season.

Others still around from Akey's first recruiting class include offensive linemen Matt Cleveland and Tyrone Novikoff, defensive tackle Michael Cosgrove, linebacker Andre Ferguson, and defensive backs Quin Ashley and Kenneth Patten.

All told, there are 17 seniors on this year's roster.

"The whole group will be missed and there should be a great deal of respect for what they've done," Akey said. "We're all disappointed that we will not be taking this group to a bowl, but I won't let it diminish what this group has accomplished. ... we have a driven program to make sure next season doesn't end like this."

Until Fresno State scored the go-ahead touchdown with 14 seconds left last Saturday to win 23-20, the Vandals were looking at a second straight trip to a bowl game.

"We felt like it was a done deal," Akey said after the Vandals had rallied from a 13-0 deficit to take a 20-16 lead with 2 minutes remaining.

But the Bulldogs responded with their only offensive touchdown of the night.

"That was a long plane ride coming back from Fresno, California, and that was a quiet locker room after that football game," Akey said. "I want to make sure that the guys that are coming back (next year) sees how bad it hurts this senior group and make sure that they don't want to be in this situation a year from now."

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