MOSCOW, Idaho -- Idaho has been a thorn in San Jose State's side in recent years.
The Spartans have lost three straight to the Vandals -- all by four points or fewer. SJSU scored the game's first 20 points last season but lost 32-29. That was Idaho's only Western Athletic Conference win and a defeat that helped keep the Spartans a victory shy of bowl eligibility.
"We're doing well this year. We thought we were doing good against them last year, and then they came back to win," senior defensive end Travis Johnson said. "There's never a time we can let down, especially knowing that I've never beat them and no one on this team ever has."
SJSU (6-2, 2-1 WAC) knows what is at stake. A win makes the Spartans bowl eligible for the first time since 2008, when they earned eligibility (but didn't receive a bowl invitation) with a win in Moscow.
A victory doesn't necessarily clinch a bowl. That notion helps keep SJSU on task as it faces a team in shambles. Idaho (1-7, 1-2) has struggled on and off the field. Interim coach Jason Gesser will make his debut after replacing the fired Robb Akey. Quarterback Logan Bushnell starts after Dominique Blackman was kicked off the team a week ago.
The Spartans are ignoring those issues and focusing on reversing the trend against a team they've struggled against.
"Our kids remember getting beat at Idaho a couple years ago. They remember the heartbreaker last year," SJSU coach Mike MacIntyre said. "Idaho is a good football team that definitely believes they can beat us and we know they can."
The Vandals aren't running away from their distractions, which Gesser concedes have had an effect on his team. But a bye week gave his players time to adjust, and Gesser said they're on schedule in their game preparations.
"There were those distractions on the side that obviously have taken a toll on everybody," Gesser said. "At the end of the day, I think these guys are responding so far. I think these guys are doing the right things right now, and they're ready to get back into a workweek."
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