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Vandals welcome December practices as they prepare for Potato Bowl

Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan has missed three practices this week and during that time he spent at least one day in the hospital. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)
Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan has missed three practices this week and during that time he spent at least one day in the hospital. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)

MOSCOW, Idaho – Inside the Kibbie Dome, the transition from football to basketball season has begun. Long black curtains that partition off Cowan Spectrum – the home for Idaho basketball games inside the dome – have been hung and a set of bleachers is ready to be unfurled.

First, though, the Vandals football team has some business to attend to.

On Thursday evening, UI completed its fifth practice to prep for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, where it will face Colorado State on Thursday at 4 p.m. PST.

The Vandals (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt) travel to Boise on Sunday and practice twice at Boise State’s practice facility before holding a walkthrough on Wednesday. They’ll also take part in Potato Bowl activities around the Treasure Valley that range from a winter sports day at Bogus Basin Mountain to a charity bowling event.

Coach Paul Petrino wants his players to enjoy the program’s first bowl experience in seven years, but he also wants them to bring a businesslike approach to the state capital.

“A lot of times that’s what (a bowl game) comes down to,” Petrino said. “What team is really focused and has the passion to practice and do things right and not get caught up in all the other things? So that’s something we’ve got to make sure we do a good job of.”

The Vandals practiced in the snow on Sunday and Monday, their first two bowl practices after a week off to allow the coaches to recruit and the players to rest and prepare for finals. The last few days inside the climate-controlled dome they started to prepare in earnest for Colorado State (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West).

“It’s a different feel, a different vibe,” quarterback Matt Linehan said. “We’ve never been able to practice in December before, so getting that chance and getting towards Christmas break and being able to get ready for this bowl game, it’s really exciting for us.”

Petrino said the team has practiced mostly inside because of the poor footing on its outdoor practice field turf. UI and CSU could be playing in wintry conditions at Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium. The high on Thursday in Boise is forecast for 33, but it will likely feel much colder (and potentially snowier) by the early evening kickoff.

After two practices in the snow and looking at the weather report, “I think there’s a lot of excitement,” tight end Trent Cowan said. “We know that (snow) is a possibility in Boise, so I think we’re just going to embrace it.”

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