In 2009 and 2010, Robb Akey was not a perfect coach, but he took the Vandals to 14 wins in two seasons and just missed out on back-to-back bowl bids.
That might not seem like some epic achievement, but when you put it in the context of a team that had gone 23-82 in the previous nine seasons and had only reached as high as four wins during Dennis Erickson's brief and aborted return to Moscow, that accomplishment gains weight.
Of course, three weeks ago the Idaho Vandals had just finished getting dominated by Arkansas State for the third year in a row, which brought their record on the season to a dismal 1-4, with their lone win coming after a come-from-behind win against FCS Wofford. As if that weren't bad enough, that loss dropped their record to a wretched 6-46 since the end of that 2010 season.
Akey's successes were starting to look more and more like sheer dumb luck than anything else, almost a "what's a guy gotta do to get a win around here" scenario. But then the last two weeks took place.
The Vandals went into their bye week and came out the other side to face Troy. The game wound up either closer than it should have been, but the Vandals pulled out a win. The following week they pulled away from Louisiana-Monroe late and all of a sudden you had an Idaho team with their highest win total since 2006.
If you looked at the rest of their schedule, they were going to be a definite favorite against winless New Mexico State, and then a toss-up at worst against South Alabama and Texas State. This team was legitimately sniffing bowl eligibility. But now Dezmon Epps' temper probably cost Idaho that shot.
From a numbers perspective, this is a huge blow. Observe the following highly scientific table:
|Next Three Receivers||59||693||10.1||6|
Look at those numbers. Epps is responsible for 35% of the catches and 41% of the receiving yards of this Idaho offense. Buck Cowan, Deon Watson, and Callen Hightower combined have equalled Epps' production this season, and Epps didn't play the USC game.
Is Elijhaa Penny a good running back who has continued to grow during his time in Moscow? Yes. Is he good enough to carry an offense that is down its clear #1 option and primary downfield threat at wide receiver? I highly doubt that.
His ridiculous 184-yard performance against Louisiana-Monroe means that he's probably good enough to be the difference in their upcoming game against New Mexico State (0-7 and going nowhere fast) but those remaining games become far less certain without Epps in the lineup.
I know it isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, but this team passed for a whisker over 3,000 yards without him last season, and was within shouting distance of 4,000 this season with their current pace. That's not a small absence to fill.
It is yet to be seen exactly how much time Epps will miss. After two incidents in the summer of 2014, he missed the entire 2014 season. After two fairly similar incidents this past summer, he had only missed one game up until now. It will be interesting to see how adamant Paul Petrino's stance against domestic violence is, now that adhering to it could be the difference between attending and not attending a bowl game.