Vandals to open FCS playoffs at Southeastern Louisiana – Coeur d'Alene Press

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At 9:56 a.m. Sunday, the Idaho Vandals’ 27-year FCS playoff football drought officially ended.
Watching from the Litehouse Center in the Kibbie Dome as the selection special aired on ESPNU, the Vandals (7-4, 5-2 Big Sky) learned they were headed to Hammond, La., to play Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday (4 p.m. PST, ESPN+).
“Just so happy for our players,” first-year Idaho coach Jason Eck said. “I told the seniors at the beginning of the year. I’ve got a five-year contract; I wasn’t getting fired if we didn’t make the playoffs. But this is our seniors’ last year. So for them to turn this program around in one year, and go from 4-7 to 7-4 and make the playoffs is just a great accomplishment; I’m so proud of them.”
The Vandals, who tied for third in the Big Sky, earned an at-large bid into the 24-team playoffs.
Sacramento State earned the No. 2 overall seed and Montana State, last year’s runner-up, is seeded fourth; both earned first-round byes. Weber State and Montana received at-large bids and, like Idaho, will play on the first weekend.
South Dakota State, where Eck was an assistant the last six seasons before coming to Idaho, is the top seed. Defending national champion North Dakota State, winners of nine of the last 11 FCS titles, is the third seed.
The rest of the 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 Idaho-Southeastern Louisiana winner will play at Samford in the next round.
Other first-round games: Gardner-Webb (6-5) at Eastern Kentucky (7-4), Saint Francis, Pa. (9-2) at Delaware (7-4), Fordham (9-2) at 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) earned the automatic bid in the Southland Conference.
It is the first meeting of the two schools.
It is Idaho’s first playoff appearance since returning to the FCS and 12th playoff appearance overall. The last time Idaho made an appearance in the FCS playoffs was also in Louisiana against a Southland Conference team in 1995. The Vandals lost to No. 1 seed McNeese State in the first round of the FCS playoffs in Lake Charles, La.
Idaho moved up to the FBS level the following season, and returned to FCS in 2018.
This season, Southeastern Louisiana lost to a pair of FBS teams in Louisiana and Florida Atlantic, and dropped a conference game against Texas A&M Commerce. Their lone ranked win came against Incarnate Word (41-35), which earned a seed in the FCS playoffs.
The Lions are balanced, ranking 23rd in total offense, racking up 431 yards per game while holding 374.9 yards per game. SLU is 12th in the FCS in turnover margin and seventh in red zone offense. Like the Vandals, they are among the leaders in the FCS in time of possession.
The Lions are playing in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons and won home games in 2019 and 2021.
SLU head coach Frank Scelfo is 33-22 in his five seasons in Hammond.
“Now, we don’t just want to be happy being there, we want to go down to Louisiana and play our tails off and get a 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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