If the Idaho Vandals intended to make a statement Thursday night in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, they certainly did their job.
Playing in its first bowl game since 2009, and facing a move to the FCS in the 2018 season, Idaho stood strong against Colorado State in front of an announced crowd of 24,975 fans. The temperatures were frigid, but the Vandals remained hot, scoring 41 unanswered points in the second and third quarters en route to a 61-50 victory over the Rams.
It is the third bowl win in Idaho’s program history, all at Albertsons Stadium. The Vandals have scored 146 total points in their three bowl appearances in Boise.
Idaho (9-4, most wins since 1998) was a combined 6-29 in head coach Paul Petrino’s first three seasons.
“I couldn’t say how proud I am of our players. They just showed character all year. And they’re just a bunch of winners,” Petrino said. “It’s just a great lesson for everybody. ... If you just work as hard as you can, you keep grinding. Maybe it doesn’t happen right away, but if you keep working … good things will happen for you.”
Junior quarterback Matt Linehan was named the game’s MVP after throwing for 381 yards and accounting for five touchdowns, which tied former Fresno State quarterback Paul Pinegar’s bowl record. Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens also tied the record Thursday, throwing five TDs.
The 111 combined points are the most in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl history and tied for third in bowl history. The teams combined for 1,206 yards of total offense.
After starting 1-for-6 for 11 yards in the first quarter, Linehan led the Vandals on touchdown drive after touchdown drive until the very end. He finished 21-of-31 with four touchdown passes and a 7-yard touchdown run.
“It was one of those things where you can’t worry about what happened already. It’s a next-play mentality,” Linehan said. “Football’s a long game. There’s a lot of plays that you have to focus on, and you can’t dwell on the past.”
Colorado State (7-6) scored the first touchdown of the game early in the second quarter on Olabisi Johnson’s 52-yard touchdown reception from Stevens. In between that score and a 36-point surge in the fourth, Colorado State was outscored by Idaho 41-7. The Vandals scored at least 20 points in each of the final three quarters.
“I didn’t think that we handled the elements very well. Not the cold, (but) the field was not in great shape. … I thought it was in our heads a little bit,” Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said. “We had a chance to start fast, and that’s something we’ve done very well most of the season. We did not respond the way I would have liked us to respond.”