Friday, Aug. 31, 2007
Lumbala faces daunting senior season start
By Michael Preston
What is the toughest game on the college football opening weekend schedule? USC on the road of course - and the daunting prospect of visiting the Los Angeles Coliseum awaits Canadian tight end Rolly Lumbala and the Idaho Vandals on Saturday.
The Trojans might be the reigning national champion and the top-ranked team in the polls, but that does not stop senior Lumbala and his teammates from dreaming of an opening day upset.
"It is great to be going there to play," said the former St Francis High School (Calgary, Alberta) standout, who helped his team win a Provincial Championship before heading to the US college ranks. "The team is looking forward to it. We understand that we're facing the number one team in the nation, but we will play hard and try to win the game. That is all we can do."
Lumbala has faced some of college football's traditional powerhouses in previous years, coming up against Oregon in his freshman year and Michigan State in 2006. He sees the game against a Trojans team that Idaho has never beaten in seven previous meetings as an opportunity to set the right tone for the new season. The Vandals posted a 4-8 record last fall.
"We understand that we have to earn the respect of USC and if we do that we'll earn the respect of other teams," he added. "We're focusing on what we are doing and not on how tough our opponent might be and hopefully can get some success.
"Really, it is just exciting to be back into the routine and finally playing again and we'll see what kind of a team we have."
Idaho is under the guidance of new head coach Robb Akey, the school's fourth coaching change in five years. Lumbala admits the lack of continuity has been a distraction, but not a hindrance.
"At first was difficult to deal with change, but you adapt as quickly as you can and just get on with things," he explained. "We have a different offense now, but at the same time it is similar to what I've been used to. The important thing is that we improve on our record from last year and take one game at a time. We have a great group of leaders in the pack.
"Our coach is a disciplinarian and makes us work hard, but he is also attending to our needs. Guys want to play for him."
Luambala, who was born in Gabon and moved to Canada when he was five years old, was originally recruited by Cal-Berkley, the University of North Carolina and UTEP, before he committed to Idaho.
He scored six rushing touchdowns as a true freshman in 2004, then generated 689 all-purpose yards while lining up at full back in his sophomore year. In 2006 Lambala played in all 12 games as a junior as part of the backfield and H-back rotations, had 21 carries for 95 yards and caught one pass for nine yards. Making the most of his 6 foot 2, 241-pound frame, he excelled as a blocker in short-yardage situations.
He now lines up primarily at tight end and admits he still has much to learn about the position.
"I am definitely trying to get a hold of the tight end role and get my technique better," he said. "Every day I learn something new. I am working on my run block, but more importantly I'm focusing on helping the team win. That is the most important thing right now; helping turn this program around."
The revival and Lumbala's senior season starts in the Los Angeles Coliseum this weekend (10.15pm ET, FSN).