Idaho Potato Bowl Preview
Idaho Vandals vs Colorado State Rams
Thanks to some swapping of tie-ins, Idaho stays close to home for the postseason instead of making a trip to Tucson for the Arizona Bowl. They’ll now get to face Colorado State in the Idaho Potato Bowl on December 22nd (Enter Contest).
The Vandals are moving to the FCS level in 2018 but that hasn’t slowed the progress of this program under coach Paul Petrino. After winning just two games from 2013-14, Idaho went 4-8 in 2015 and finished 8-4 this year. It’s the program’s highest win total since 2009. Quarterback Matt Linehan has quietly produced a steady 2016 campaign (15 TDs, 2,803 yards). The Vandals have been opportunistic to help win four games decided by one score or less.
After a 3-4 start, Colorado State finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the Mountain West. The Rams won four out of their last five games, including a 63-31 blowout over San Diego State. Quarterback Nick Stevens returned to the starting lineup after an injury to Collin Hill. He finished the year with 14 touchdowns and 1,491 yards. Receiver Michael Gallup emerged as one of the top targets in the Mountain West, catching 70 passes for 1,164 yards and 11 scores this fall.
ABOUT IDAHO (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt)
The Vandals were dismissed from the Sun Belt effective after next season. They elected to drop down to the FCS level in hopes of enjoying more success and losing less money. Not much was expected from this Idaho squad when it lost consecutive games against Washington and Washington State in September by a combined 115-20 score, but coach Paul Petrino guided the team to a strong turnaround.
Junior quarterback Matt Linehan, the son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, has passed for 2,803 yards and 15 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Aaron Duckworth (615 yards, four touchdowns) and Isaiah Saunders (584, six) share the Vandals rushing workload. Senior tight ends Trent Cowan (46 receptions, 532 yards, six touchdowns) and Deon Watson (36, 555, two) are Linehan’s top targets. The defense held three of its last four opponents to 14 or fewer points and is led by middle linebacker Tony Lashley (team-best 99 tackles), defensive end Aikeem Coleman (team-leading eight sacks) and senior cornerback Jayshawn Jordan (team-high five interceptions).
ABOUT COLORADO STATE (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West)
The Rams are playing in a bowl for the fourth consecutive season. It’s the second-longest streak in school history behind a string of five under Sonny Lubick from 1999-2003. Colorado State averaged an impressive 47.4 points and 520.6 yards over its final five games. Their four victories during the stretch coming by an average of 26.5 points.
Things appeared bleak when standout freshman quarterback Collin Hill (1,096 yards, eight touchdowns) was lost to a torn ACL in his left knee in October. Fortunately, former starter Nick Stevens was up to the task of saving the Rams’ season. The junior tossed 14 touchdowns against just one interception over the final six games. Standout receiver Michael Gallup (70 catches, 1,164 yards) recorded eight of his 11 receiving scores after Stevens regained the job. The defense is led by senior weak-side linebacker Kevin Davis, who posted a team-leading 101 tackles, with middle linebacker Josh Watson (80 tackles) and free safety Braylin Scott (team-high three interceptions) also enjoying solid campaigns.