There’s no rest for the weary. For the last three weeks out of four, the Idaho football team is forced to hit the road, this time to the east coast to face the North Carolina Tar Heels. The trip to Chapel Hill will be the longest of the year for Idaho and accentuates the grueling road schedule the team has to face in 2012, with seven of 12 games on the road.
“They call stuff jetlag for a reason, and that’s for people that aren’t going to play a physical game,” coach Robb Akey said. “But that’s where the game is going to be kicked off and we have to get our butts there on time, and we will.”
Unlike the first two road trips, which were also more than 4,000 miles round trip, the team will be leaving Thursday instead of the typical Friday departure. Idaho did the same last season when it took on Virginia — something Akey said helped the team considerably.
“We put a lot of research in to whether that was worth it…the research came out that was the right thing to do,” Akey said. “It was very obvious that was the right thing to do, I could see that the way our guys carried themselves.”
A Thursday departure helped the outcome of the game itself, when the Vandals took their ACC opponent to overtime only to lose by one after failing to convert on a two-point conversion.
The rationale for leaving a day early is to give the team an extra day to prepare for the time zone change. Kickoff in Chapel Hill this Saturday will be at 3:30 p.m. EST, which would be 12:30 p.m. in Moscow.
While the change doesn’t sound very drastic, considering most Idaho home games kick off at 2 p.m., the team has to account for the flight and the time lost while in the air.
“Getting up four hours before the game to have their pre-game meals, you have to get up an hour before that and add three hours on that. We would be getting up at 4 a.m. (PST),” offensive line coach Gordy Shaw said. “It’s not quite that bad, but it’s close. You want to get there so you can get up a second morning on their time.”
Prior to coming to Idaho, Shaw coached the offensive line at Hawaii, a notoriously jet-lagged program.
“To be honest, I thought it was brutal,” he said.
Hawaii would have to fly out every Thursday night, even for games on the west coast, and would not return home until Sunday morning at times.
“You’re gone four nights, two of them sitting in an airplane seat, two of them in a hotel room. So you’re gone four out of seven days of the week, and it was brutal,” he said.
Shaw thinks the players he coaches now are handling the situation well.
“The routine is pretty good. They don’t get away from school much — just Fridays,” he said. “It would be nice to have one more home game, but we don’t.”
Idaho won’t have it quite as bad as Hawaii, though the team still has a trip to Texas and a second one to Louisiana on tap before the team gets a break with a few trips to Utah. By the end of the year the Vandals will have about 19,000 total miles behind them.
Cornerback Aaron Grymes has been with the Vandals through trips to Nebraska, Texas A&M, Virginia, La. Tech, Hawaii and the road trips this season. He said the distance of plane rides isn’t what necessarily gets to the team, but the environment.
“It’s all mental really, just the fact that we get to get there, get used to their time zone, get used to the environment, the air. A lot of things are different,” he said. “We’re hoping that going in on Thursday we’ll be adjusted to that time.”
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org