MOSCOW, Idaho – In his four years as Idaho football coach, Robb Akey has made his stance clear many times – he doesn’t want a playoff in major college football, largely because he thinks it would zap the tradition and joy out of the bowl season.
But Akey still sees the value in his team operating with a playoff-like urgency. That’s especially been the case since last week’s loss to Boise State nudged the 4-6 Vandals into must-win territory.
If they are going to repeat as bowl participants, they can’t afford another slip-up.
“Like Coach Akey was saying, we’ve got to treat (the rest of the season) like the playoffs now,” defensive tackle Michael Cosgrove said. “We’ve got three games, and you’ve got to win all three to get to go to a bowl game, so that would be like our championship.”
First up for Idaho in its postseason quest is a WAC game at Utah State today. Kickoff is noon Pacific at the Aggies’ Romney Stadium.
The Vandals have dropped three straight games and four of their last five. But perhaps most disconcerting for their bowl hopes is that they’ve yet to string consecutive wins together.
After today, they finish up at Fresno State – which is 6-3 and in fourth place in the WAC – and home on Dec. 4 versus last-place San Jose State.
“We need to start a three-game (winning) streak so we can have a four-game streak,” Akey said. “And we’ve got that opportunity in front of us, and that’s the way it needs to be looked at it.”
Utah State has had a similarly frustrating season as the Vandals. Both have talented senior quarterbacks who have been forced to carry more of the load from a year ago because of injuries.
Diondre Borel threw for 369 yards in last year’s 52-49 upset of Idaho in the final week of the regular season. But he has lost the best skill players around him to season-ending injuries, notably running back Robert Turbin and receiver Stanley Morrison.
“They do a lot of the same things as last year, but they just have some new guys in,” Cosgrove said of the Aggies. “They have had a lot of new guys, a lot of young guys trying to step in.”
The Vandals, already missing middle linebacker JoJo Dickson and standout tight end Daniel Hardy, will be without fifth-year senior safety Shiloh Keo for the first half as he serves a suspension from the WAC for a flagrant hit last week. Running back Deonte Jackson (ankle) missed most of the BSU game and was listed as day-to-day earlier in the week.