The turnaround season by coach Robb Akey at Idaho will be capped with the Vandals' first bowl game in more than a decade, and in their home state.
The Vandals (7-5) were invited Sunday to play Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise on Dec. 30. It's Idaho's first bowl appearance since beating Southern Mississippi 42-35 in the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl and just its second postseason trip since making the move to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1996.
"I think it's a great place for us to be going," Akey said on a conference call Sunday night. "I can't think of a better place to be going than our state capital. I think there will be a lot of people excited about it."
The 2009 season has been about restoring excitement in Idaho football. The Vandals bolted to a 6-1 start, with their only loss coming at Washington, and taking advantage of a soft schedule to open the season. But they also picked up road wins at Northern Illinois and San Jose State and edged past Colorado State at home.
When the obstacles in Idaho's schedule arrived later in the season - road games against Boise State and Nevada, and home to Fresno State - the Vandals were already in position for bowl eligibility.
"Common sense told you probably where we were going to end up. All I was concerned about was were we getting invited," Akey said. "It's nice to know it is official. It's nice to know who your opponent is going to be. It makes it more of a reality and we can go to work on it."
Bowling Green, from the Mid-American Conference, fills a spot originally held for the Mountain West. But the MWC failed to get a sixth bowl-eligible team, and couldn't fill its reserved spot in Boise with TCU headed to the BCS - and a date in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State.
It's the ninth bowl appearance overall for the Falcons (7-5) and first since the 2007 GMAC Bowl where they lost 63-7 to Tulsa. Bowling Green has won four of its last five postseason games.
The Falcons started this season 1-4, including losses to Boise State and Missouri, before turning the corner at midseason. Bowling Green closed with six wins in its final seven games, the only setback coming against MAC champion Central Michigan. Two of Bowling Green's victories were by one point, while losing by seven points or fewer three times.