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Bowl hopes vanish for Vandals

| November 28, 2010 8:00 PM

FRESNO, Calif. — Idaho’s hopes of a second successive bowl game were dashed in the most heart-breaking, gut-wrenching of fashions Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium.

A.J. Ellis dove into the end zone from 1 yard out with 14 seconds left, lifting Fresno State to a 23-20 victory over Idaho.

Idaho (5-7, 2-5 Western Athletic Conference) took a 20-16 lead on Deonte Jackson’s 4-yard run with 2:01 left in what had been a classic defensive battle on a rain-drenched field.

The Vandal defense, which had come up stop after stop in the second half as well as a fistful of turnovers, bottled up the Bulldogs on their final possession until Ryan Colburn teamed with Jamel Hamel for a 24-yard catch-and-run to take the ball to the Idaho 1. A.J. Ellis pushed over on the next play to, with the successful PAT, give Fresno State (7-4, 5-3) the 23-20 lead.

“They finished the last drive,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said. “I’m very disappointed in the outcome of this game. I’m sick to my stomach for these seniors — that we couldn’t get them another bowl game.”

In a game of oddities, neither team scored an offensive touchdown until the waning moments. Jackson’s TD run was Idaho’s first offensive score and Ellis’ was the first for the Bulldogs. Otherwise, it was a game of field goals, defense and special teams. For Idaho, the special teams’ moment was Justin Veltung’s 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 6:29 left to pull Idaho to within 16-13 and set the stage for the final dramatic minutes.

Defensively for the Vandals, Robert Siavii recovered two fumbles, while Shiloh Keo and Matthew Harvey had eight tackles each.

“They fought their tails off,” Akey said of the Vandals. “But we didn’t close it out. They finished it better than we did.”

Idaho trailed just 6-0 at the half despite a total of minus-5 yards of total offense. Fresno State had 239.

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