Idaho Vandals

Idaho Vandals football team has six wins, bowl eligibility — and wants more

Idaho football coach Paul Petrino and his team can win nine games in a season for the first time as a program since 1998, when the Vandals were in the Big West.
Idaho football coach Paul Petrino and his team can win nine games in a season for the first time as a program since 1998, when the Vandals were in the Big West. The Associated Press

Buck Cowan is well known for his full-time gig on the Idaho football team. He’s a tight end and a superb one at that.

Those who follow closely are aware of Cowan’s part-time job as a field-goal holder, and it’s possible the Vancouver, Wash., native has assumed a third role with the Vandals: team prophet.

Nearly four months ago, during the blazing days of fall camp, it was Cowan who went on record telling media members big things could be in store for Idaho in 2016. And while most of his teammates were cautiously optimistic with their predictions — “Six wins, a bowl game for sure,” was the general gist from players — Cowan boldly went where no other Vandal would.

“People were asking if our goal was to go bowling, but I said, ‘It’s not just at six. We can go and win eight games,’ ’’ Cowan said. “And right now, we can go and win eight games.”

The Vandals (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt) are bowl eligible, and positioned to win eight games with an opportunity to claim No. 9 in late December.

The Vandals are five-point favorites in Saturday’s home game (1:30 p.m., Altitude and ESPN3, 630 AM) against South Alabama (5-5, 1-5) and will almost certainly be projected to win their finale, another Kibbie Dome contest, against three-win Georgia State on Dec. 3.

So Idaho’s tight end, it turns out, wasn’t going out on such a limb when he made his forecast in early August.

Cowan’s reasoning: “Just a lot of guys back, a lot of guys that have a lot of football experience, a lot of games under their belt. We come out and have a lot of great guys, we give 100 percent effort. A lot of opposing coaches watch us on film and they say how hard we play.”

Having reached bowl eligibility, the Vandals now have to guard against complacency in the final two weeks of the regular season, even if they aren’t playing for a material prize such as a postseason bid or a conference title.

By winning out, Idaho would end up fourth in the Sun Belt standings, which would be an exceptional finish for the Vandals, considering the league’s coaches picked them to wind up eighth.

“We’ve made the goal that we’ve set, but I’m telling you there’s more meat on the bone here now,” offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich said. “We need to stay hungry, because we can accomplish more. And that’s my goal.”

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