Vandals open FCS playoffs in Southeast Louisiana

From wire and news services and local reports

At 9:56 a.m. Sunday, the Idaho Vandals’ 27-year FCS playoff football drought officially ended.

As the Vandals (7-4, 5-2 Big Sky) watched the selection special air on ESPNU from the Litehouse Center in the Kibbie Dome, they learned they were heading to Hammond, La., to watch on Saturday (4pm PST) vs Southeast Louisiana , ESPN+).

“Just so lucky for our players,” said first-year Idaho coach Jason Eck. “I told the seniors earlier this year. I have a five-year contract; I wasn’t fired if we didn’t make the playoffs. But this is the last year of our seniors. So it’s just a great accomplishment when they flip that program in a year and go from 4-7 to 7-4 and make the playoffs. I’m so proud of her.”

The Vandals, who finished third in Big Sky, earned an at-large bid into the 24-team playoffs.

Sacramento State secured second overall and Montana State, last year’s runner-up, is fourth; both earned byes in the first round. Weber State and Montana have received open bids and, like Idaho, will play the first weekend.

South Dakota State, where Eck was an assistant for the last six seasons before coming to Idaho, is the leader. Defending champion North Dakota State, winner of nine of the last 11 FCS titles, is the third seed.

The remaining top eight seeds: No. 5 William & Mary (10-1), No. 6 Samford (10-1), No. 7 Incarnate Word (10-1) and No. 8 Holy Cross (11-0) .

The winner Idaho-Southeastern Louisiana plays the next round in Samford.

Other first-round matches: Gardner-Webb (6-5) in Eastern Kentucky (7-4), Saint Francis, Pennsylvania (9-2) in Delaware (7-4), Fordham (9-2) in New Hampshire (8-3 ), North Dakota (7-4) at Weber State (9-2), Southeast Missouri State (9-2) at Montana (7-4), Elon (8-3) at Furman (9-2), and Davidson ( 8-3) at Richmond (8-3).

The Lions (8-3, 5-1 Southland) received the automatic offer in the Southland Conference.

It is the first meeting of the two schools.

It is Idaho’s first playoff appearance since returning to FCS and 12th playoff appearance overall. The last time Idaho appeared in the FCS playoffs was also in 1995 in Louisiana against a Southland Conference team. The Vandals lost to 1-seeded McNeese State in the first round of the FCS playoffs in Lake Charles, La.

Idaho rose to the FBS level the following season and returned to FCS in 2018.

That season, Southeastern Louisiana lost to two FBS teams in Louisiana and Florida Atlantic and dropped a conference game to Texas A&M Commerce. Their only ranking win came against Incarnate Word (41-35), who secured a spot in the FCS playoffs.

The Lions are balanced, ranking 23rd in total offense, and piling up 431 yards per game while holding 374.9 yards per game. SLU is 12th in FCS in terms of turnover margin and seventh on offense red zone. Like the Vandals, they are among the leaders in FCS in terms of ball possession.

The Lions are making the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, winning home games in 2019 and 2021.

SLU head coach Frank Scelfo is 33-22 in his five seasons at Hammond.

“Well, not only do we want to be happy to be there, we want to go down to Louisiana and play our tails and win,” Eck said.

Tickets are available by calling the Southeastern ticket office at 985-549-5466 or by visiting www.LionSports.net.

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