Idaho football coach Paul Petrino isn’t unfamiliar with the way Wyoming coach Craig Bohl is running things in Laramie.
It’s largely in the same vein as the M.O. of the late Bob Petrino Sr., Paul’s father and an NAIA Hall of Famer during his 28 years of success as the coach at Carroll in Helena, Mont.
“They play really good defense ... they run the football, they don’t hurt themselves,” Paul Petrino said. “I really respect it; that’s how my dad played football.
“They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
The Cowboys (2-0) seek to weary and overpower their foes. They did so in Week 1, with a 37-31 comeback win against highly favored Missouri of the SEC.
They boast a sizable and physical O-line, a three-faced rushing attack; a motion-heavy, sack-inclined defensive front and, in general, a defense predicated on forcing miscues. The Cowboys already have tallied six turnovers.
“The first thing they’re gonna try to do is run the ball and win the time of possession, and win field position,” Petrino said. “Defensively, I’m not sure they care about yards as much as they care about just not giving up points.”
It’s a kind of “bend but never break” mentality managed by Bohl, the sixth-year coach and the former longtime top man at North Dakota State (2003-13), where he instilled a dominant, power-based culture that hasn’t slowed in the slightest since he’s been gone.
Petrino and Co. sense the parallels between a Football Championship Subdivision program whose successes they’re trying to replicate and a Football Bowl Subdivision team they once faced semi-yearly as a WAC team. The parallels are pretty apparent: Bohl’s got a half-dozen former NDSU assistants on his staff and like Bohl’s Bison days, the Cowboys are in a steady upward trend. They’ve bruised their way to two bowl games in the past three years.
“They’re going to play good, fundamental football,” Petrino said. “That’s how they won all those championships at North Dakota State (three), that’s how he was successful there.”
If UI can get past Wyoming’s physical advantages, it hopes it’ll be able to match up, given the Cowboys’ toils in defending short and intermediate passes and a prevalence in grinding out yardage with inside runs — where UI’s defensive line has been adequate — according to Casper Star-Tribune writer Davis Potter.
Overall, the Wyoming program shares some parallels with Idaho. Vandals defensive coordinator Mike Breske held the same position in Laramie from 2003-08 under coach Joe Glenn. Breske’s blitzy 2006 defense ranked ninth in the country.
UI receivers coach Tony Spencer also spent time with the Cowboys (2003-04), but as a grad assistant helping with the offensive line.
The style of this year’s Wyoming team is not a far cry from the one under Glenn’s leadership, and “anytime you have some familiarity with where you’re going and how things are, I think that always helps,” Petrino said before recalling a Laramie tale from his days as a receivers/special teams coach at Utah State in the mid-1990s.
The Aggies staff had their van tipped.
“It depends on the wind,” Petrino said when asked if passing offenses are augmented at the thin-aired War Memorial Stadium. “We all got in a van, our offensive staff, to go visit (coach Joe Tiller). ... Just driving down the road, no one near us, and the wind just blew the van right on its side.
”Sometimes that wind can be blowing so much, you might not be able to throw it from me to you (five feet).”
That leads into the next earthly challenge — Laramie is situated 7,165 feet above sea level. It’s the highest elevation in all of D-I football, and it’s 1,885 feet higher than Denver.
It’s not only tough to face a team that prides itself on being just that. To make do, the Vandals have put a premium on hydration and rotation.
“The elevations hits different,” said running back Roshaun Johnson, who played some away games in high school in 6,909-foot Flagstaff, Ariz. “It’s a different type of animal. You just gotta prepare for it day in and day out.”
For Petrino, the prep for a game like this invokes a slight smile. He was taught to be a hard-nosed football enthusiast — UI fared well in those bouts in 2018.
Laramie’s also not a mystery; it’s just a question of how the Vandals react to a rugged environment against a rugged opponent at 2 p.m. Pacific on Saturday (ESPN3).
Colton Clark may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.