One day after the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl finalized its matchup, Idaho football coach Paul Petrino and Colorado State coach Mike Bobo appeared on the same teleconference.
Both were offensive coordinators in the SEC before taking on their first head-coaching jobs. Petrino made the move to Moscow from Arkansas after the 2012 season, Bobo moved from Georgia to Fort Collins Colo., two years later.
When on that Dec. 5 teleconference, Petrino showed more admiration beyond the usual coaching niceties before a bowl game.
“It’ll be fun to play you. I’ve studied your offense for years,” he said to Bobo.
A former Georgia quarterback, Bobo was the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator for eight seasons from 2007-14, producing NFL players such as quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray, running backs Knowshon Moreno and Todd Gurley, and receiver A.J. Green.
Bobo is known for having highly accurate quarterbacks based around a powerful rushing attack. It has begun to take hold at Colorado State, where in the Rams’ past seven games, they are 5-2 and averaging 41.6 points per game. Their quarterbacks have completed 67.4 percent of their passes in that span, with 17 touchdowns to one interception, while the team is averaging 254.3 rushing yards per game.
“I’ve always liked what they did. I think we’re both more traditional, true college football offenses. We’re not just throwing bubble screens on every single play,” Petrino said. “... Every offseason, we always tried to get all of Georgia’s games when he was there, and I got all of Colorado State’s games last year.”
Idaho’s two leading receivers this season are tight end/wide receiver hybrids Deon Watson (555 yards) and Buck Cowan (532). The Vandals are scoring 36.1 points per game in their past seven, posting a 6-1 record.
Petrino was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2008 and 2009 under his brother, Bobby, and 2012 under former Idaho coach John L. Smith. The Razorbacks and Bulldogs met once in those three seasons, a 52-41 Georgia win Sept. 19, 2009, in Fayetteville, Ark.
“When he was at Arkansas, we always had Arkansas games in the cutups against the opponent we were playing because of the stuff they did offensively,” Bobo said. “It’s hard to find teams that do the things that we do. ... The preparation ought to help both teams. We’re a little bit similar in what we do.”
Not since a three-year stint at Utah State that ended in 1997 had Petrino coached west of Arkansas until he returned to Idaho, where he was an assistant from 1992-94. Bobo spent one year of his life outside of Georgia before taking the Colorado State job.
Now both are coaching in the region’s only bowl game.
It’s quite a leap from the SEC, but both coaches have found success away from their comfort zone, eager to end an already strong regular-season finish on an even higher note.
“You want to play people when they’re at their best, and coach Petrino and his (team) are playing at an exceptionally high level,” Bobo said. “His offenses, over the years, they know how to move the ball, they know how to design plays that are going to be a successful. It’s going to be a big challenge.”
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
- Teams: Idaho (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt) vs. Colorado State (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West)
- Time: 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22
- Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise
- TV: ESPN (David Neal, Matt Stinchcomb, Oliuvia Harlan)
- Coaches: Idaho, Paul Petrino (fourth year; 14-33); Colorado State, Mike Bobo (second year; 14-11)
- Vegas: Colorado State by 13 1/2
- Tickets: Ticketmaster.com