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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Crunch time for Vandals

Idaho tries to keep bowl hopes alive

MOSCOW, Idaho – Fresno State, after consecutive losses, is trying to avoid a late-season meltdown. Idaho is eyeing back-to-back wins to all but assure the first back-to-back bowl trips in program history.

On both sides of tonight’s Western Athletic Conference clash, the implications are clear. But when it comes to determining which team needs a win more, Robb Akey – in full playoff mode – said the answer is obvious.

“We’re playing for our lives; we’re fighting for our bowl lives,” the UI coach said. “We’ve got to win this week and we’ve got to win the following week to get that bowl opportunity.

“In my opinion, we’re playing for more than they are.”

The Vandals stand at 5-6 after one of their strongest performances of the year last week at Utah State. They knew before meeting the Aggies that they had to win three straight to clinch a second consecutive bowl bid, and they’re presented with an equally urgent task this week.

If they upend Fresno State (6-4), a victory next week in Moscow over last-place San Jose State will give the Vandals a winning record.

“It’s drilled into all of our minds that this game will make or break our season,” senior running back Deonte Jackson said. “It’s not our last game, but if we don’t win it, it’s our last chance at getting our big goal – that’s making another bowl game.”

Akey liked how UI responded a week ago in what he dubbed the team’s first postseason elimination game. But tonight the Vandals will square off with a far more polished opponent.

Fresno State’s Robbie Rouse is 12th in the nation in rushing (113 yards per game), headlining an offense that averages 31 points per game. The Bulldogs also have the second-best pass defense in the WAC and a pair of defensive linemen, Chris Carter and Logan Harrell, with nine sacks apiece.

The Vandals, 10.5-point underdogs, haven’t claimed a victory over an opponent with a winning record this season. When Akey was told that this week – apparently for the first time – he said jokingly, “Don’t tell me stuff like that. I was feeling good when I came in here this morning.

“I look at it this way,” he added, “we’ve got an opportunity to become a better football team. We’ve got two opportunities to do that and if we can do that … we’ve got a chance to get to that third opportunity.”

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