Tight finish expected for Rockets, Aggies; Potato Bowl in Boise known for featuring close contests

Toledo safety Jermaine Robinson returns an interception for a TD against Central Michigan. Robinson said the Rockets are mentally prepared to play Utah State.
Toledo safety Jermaine Robinson returns an interception for a TD against Central Michigan. Robinson said the Rockets are mentally prepared to play Utah State.

BOISE — Using recent results as a forecast, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl figures to be undecided until the final minutes.

Six of the last eight match ups in this game played on Boise State’s blue turf were decided by seven points or less — including three one-point affairs — and today’s tilt features opponents whose regular seasons were dotted with heart wrenching finishes.

“It will probably come down to the last five minutes,” Utah State cornerback Will Davis predicted.

No. 18 Utah State and the University of Toledo, who will kick off at 4:30 p.m. from Bronco Stadium, have walked a tightrope to the postseason. The Western Athletic Conference champion Aggies (10-2), who are a 10.5-point favorite, captured two wins in overtime and lost twice by a combined five points. Seven of Toledo’s games were decided by seven points or less, with the Rockets coming out on top of four.

“We’re mentally prepared to go all the way,” Rockets safety Jermaine Robinson said. “We’ve been in a lot of tight games. We’re built for it.”

This bowl, which began in 1997 as the Humanitarian Bowl, has produced a number of notable affairs. Utah State was involved in one of them last year when Ohio scored a touchdown with under two minutes to go to notch a 24-23 victory.

Two years earlier Idaho rallied for a touchdown and a two-point conversion with four seconds left to upend Bowling Green 43-42.

It will not be a shock if Toledo falls in line behind its Mid-American Conference brethren today and gets locked into a narrow battle.

“We understand that football games bring a lot of different highs and lows,” Rockets coach Matt Campbell said. “The thing that I’m really proud about our football team is we’ll consistently play with great attitude and effort for 60 minutes, and I think we’ve proved that over the football season.”

DANTIN TO START: Rockets senior Austin Dantin is expected to start at quarterback over Terrance Owens. This will be Dantin’s third start of the season and the 25th of his career. 

He threw five touchdown passes against Akron in the final regular season game when Owens was sidelined with an injury. Campbell said this week that he expects both quarterbacks to play.

I’LL ANSWER THAT: Davis, a first-team All-WAC performer, has quite an impressive streak going, having intercepted a pass in five straight games.

A reporter this week asked him if he has a prediction on extending that mark.

“No,” USU coach Gary Andersen interrupted, drawing laughter.

A marquee battle within the game will be Davis and Toledo receiver Bernard Reedy, who earned first-team All-Mid-American Conference accolades after wracking up 1,051 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

“I have the utmost respect for him,” Reedy said of Davis.

“He’s really talented. We’ll see what he brings to the table and what I bring to the table.”

USU COACH LEAVES: Aggies assistant coach Mike Sanford accepted the head coaching position at Indiana State on Friday.

Sanford, who works with USU’s running backs and tight ends, coached one season with the program.

POTATO DONATION: The Idaho Grower Shippers Association will donate three potatoes to the Idaho Foodbank for each fan that attends today’s game.

With an anticipated attendance of 30,000, the donation could be more than 90,000 potatoes or up to 42,000 pounds.