Idaho Vandals

Idaho Vandals’ coach thinking bowl eligibility: ‘Three more wins’

Idaho coach Paul Petrino and his Vandals host New Mexico State in the Kibbie Dome on Saturday, the last possible game in Moscow between the two Sun Belt teams for the foreseeable future. The Vandals and Aggies don’t have a football game scheduled beyond the 2017 season after being voted out of the Sun Belt Conference earlier this year. Beginning in 2018, Idaho will transition to the FCS Big Sky Conference, while New Mexico State plans to compete as an FBS independent.
Idaho coach Paul Petrino and his Vandals host New Mexico State in the Kibbie Dome on Saturday, the last possible game in Moscow between the two Sun Belt teams for the foreseeable future. The Vandals and Aggies don’t have a football game scheduled beyond the 2017 season after being voted out of the Sun Belt Conference earlier this year. Beginning in 2018, Idaho will transition to the FCS Big Sky Conference, while New Mexico State plans to compete as an FBS independent. The Associated Press

Don’t look now, but the Idaho football team is favored to win a game.

It’s unfamiliar territory for the Vandals this season.

Idaho (3-3, 1-1 Sun Belt) has played the underdog role in five games (Vegas doesn’t post odds in games between FBS and FBC teams, as was the case for the season opener against Montana State).

Idaho, coming off a 34-31 victory at Louisiana Monroe, hosts New Mexico State on Saturday (3 p.m. MT, KTVB 24/7, Altitude2, 630 AM).

The Vandals are favored by 4 points.

“I think the team’s very focused right now and excited,” coach Paul Petrino said. “One thing I’ve talked to them about … is we’ve had a lot of trials where we’ve had to come back after getting knocked down. Now we’ve got to do a great job of coming back … after knocking somebody else down.”

Idaho should be able to move the ball on New Mexico State (2-3, 1-1). The Aggies rank 126th out of 128 teams in scoring defense, giving up 42.8 point a game.

The outcome might hinge on whether Idaho’s defense can limit a New Mexico State team that scored 32 and 37 points, respectively, in wins against New Mexico and Louisiana Lafayette.

Petrino said he was encouraged by his defense last week, as it created three turnovers.

“They’re playing so much faster. They’re playing so much harder, and they’re running to the ball,’’ he said. “We’re getting pressure on the quarterback and (linebacker) Kaden (Elliss) just has a great knack. He’s long, he sees the ball. He and (safety) Jayshawn (Jordan) each came up with picks.”

Petrino said last week’s game served as a good measuring stick for his defense.

“I think overall, as a whole unit — especially when you look at last year’s game — you think, ‘Man, we looked slow.’ We looked slow on defense when you watch that game last year compared to how we’re playing right now,” Petrino said. “We’re just playing a lot faster.”

And maybe that speed can help the Vandals notch a fourth win.

“We finished the first six games at 3-3, and now we need to make sure we get three more wins (and become bowl eligible),” Petrino said. “But we’ve just got to take it one week at a time and get as many as we can.”

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