| March 20, 2018

Football: Vandals Go Bowling

December 8, 2016

Every gold-blooded Vandal remembers the play.

With Bowling Green leading 42-41 following a Vandal touchdown, former Idaho head coach Rob Akey sent out his offense for a two-point conversion. Quarterback Nathan Enderle went through his reads and fired to receiver Preston Davis in the back of the end zone.

The risky call and impeccable execution earned Idaho the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl victory.

Seven years later, a new generation of Vandals has a chance to repeat history.

Idaho takes on Colorado State in the 20th annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Dec. 22.

Alberstons Stadium in Boise will host Idaho’s first nationally televised game of the 2016 season. This will be Idaho’s first bowl appearance since 2009.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said. “It’s just a whole bunch of hard work and everybody coming together and fulfilling the dream.”

If the Vandals want to hang another banner in the Kibbie Dome, they must fight past a tough Colorado State team. Colorado’s (7-5, 5-3) season was filled with close losses and unexpected blowout wins. In week eight, Colorado State kept toe-to-toe with No. 15 Boise State. The Rams outscored the Broncos 20-7 in the fourth quarter but came five points short of an upset win.

The Rams turned heads in their final game of the season by rolling over San Diego State 63-31. The Aztecs went on to win the Mountain West Championship a week later. The Rams put up 42 points in the first half and held San Diego State to seven in the second.

“They’re a good football team, they’re physical,” Petrino said. “I think they really improved as the year went on.”

Petrino said the Rams use a dual-running back system that can be tough to defend. Colorado running backs Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Mathews lead the running game for the Rams with a combined 1,506 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. The two split the load against San Diego State with over 100 yards apiece.

Petrino has a personal connection to Dawkins. The running back’s younger brother played little league football and baseball with Petrino’s son, freshman quarterback Mason Petrino.

The strong ground game opened opportunities for quarterback Nick Stevens to hit receivers down field. Stevens has 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year with three interceptions. By comparison, Idaho junior quarterback Matt Linehan has thrown 2,803 yards this season, but has been intercepted 10 times.

The Idaho defense, which generated seven turnovers against Georgia State, will look to its playmakers known for disrupting offenses.

“They have a really explosive offense,” sophomore linebacker Tony Lashley said. “So now, we just take this time and gather what we need to do to work hard and get ready for this game.”

Lashley led in tackles against Georgia State and senior cornerback Jayshawn Jordan recorded the most takeaways.

“With our fourth straight win, we’ve got the ball rolling, the confidence is up, and the energy level around here is great.” Jordan said.

Boise houses many Vandal fans that do not usually get to see Idaho play in person.

“We knew playing in Boise, we would have a lot of people come out and support us,” Lashley said. “I was very happy to hear we were playing in Boise.”

Despite participating in an in-state bowl, the players said they were grateful for the chance to make a post-season appearance.

Petrino, who has experienced multiple bowl games against other teams, said there is a single factor that determines the outcome.

“The team that’s most excited to be in the game wins,” he said.

Idaho kicks off against Colorado State 4 p.m. Dec. 22 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise.

Brandon Hill can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill

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