Given the hot streak his team ended the regular season on, Idaho football coach Paul Petrino wouldn’t have minded his team strapping on helmets and wearing their Famous Idaho Potato Bowl game jerseys a little bit earlier.
The Vandals (8-4) won their final four games of the regular season to gain bowl eligibility for the first time since 2009. Their Dec. 22 matchup with Colorado State (7-5) in Boise comes nearly three weeks after their last game, a 37-12 victory over Georgia State on Dec. 3.
While Petrino has pondered the possibility of his team losing the momentum it built over the last month, the fourth-year head coach and his players are more interested in the opportunity to practice and play in December.
It’s been a while since the program was able to play around the holidays.
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“You probably wish that you could have played right away, but it’s still good,” Petrino said. “It’s a great time of year to be practicing.”
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will mark the third bowl appearance in Idaho history. Before this year’s turnaround, the Vandals had a 6-29 record in Petrino’s first three seasons. The Vandals are 2-0 all-time in bowl games, each taking place at Albertsons Stadium (1998 and 2009 Humanitarian Bowls).
The extra practices this month should be instrumental not only for the FIPB, but for the program going forward next season. Extra time on the field has Petrino excited.
“It’s really going to help our young guys,” he said.
Being the only bowl on Dec. 22 doesn’t hurt his excitement, either.
“I think it should be a heck of a game,” Petrino said. “Only game on TV that night, so it should be a great one.”
The Vandals arrive in Boise on Sunday. Kickoff for the FIPB is 5 p.m. on ESPN.
VANDALS SIGN THREE
Wednesday was mid-year signing day for junior college players around the country, and the Vandals signed three players who Petrino expects to contribute next season, he said.
▪ D.J. Henderson, DL, East Mississippi College, 6-0, 280 pounds: Henderson had six sacks in 2016, helping the Lions finish 11-1 with a No. 2 national ranking in the final NJCAA poll. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Henderson was a teammate of Idaho defensive end Aikeem Coleman at East Mississippi.
“He has a great get-off and has real good moves,” Petrino said. “That was a great get.”
Henderson’s 2015 East Mississippi team was featured in the hit Netflix series “Last Chance U.”
▪ Brandon Brooks, CB, Riverside City College, 6-3, 185: The San Diego native, who had an interception for the Tigers in 2016, has three years of eligibility remaining.
“Really good press, cover corner,” Petrino said. “You see him run people out of bounds all the time.”
Sean Tulette, OL, Long Beach City College, 6-3, 280: Tulette, like Brooks, has three years of eligibility remaining. He was teammates with Idaho running back Denzal Brantley and tight end Joe Wysocki at Los Alamitos High in Southern California. As a freshman in 2016, Tulette helped anchor an LBCC offense that averaged 513.8 yards per game.
“He’ll compete to be a starter,” Petrino said.
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)
▪ Tickets: Available at ticketmaster.com.
▪ Vegas: Colorado State by 131/2
▪ Coaches: Idaho, Paul Petrino (fourth year; 14-33); Colorado State, Mike Bobo (second year; 14-11)
▪ Bowl records: Idaho 2-0, Colorado State 6-9
▪ Series record: Colorado State leads 4-3