Paul Petrino is all too familiar with Missoula.
His wife went to school there.
When he played high school ball in Helena, he played a lot of high school games there.
He was recruited by Montana.
He has friends that live there.
He travels there often to watch his daughter, Anne Mari, play softball for the Griz.
But Saturday will mark the first time he visits Missoula as a head coach, when the Vandals (4-5, 2-3 Big Sky) play Montana (7-2, 4-1) before a likely overflow crowd at 25,217-seat Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
“You get some cranky fans that will yell some (not so) nice things at you,” Petrino said with a smile earlier this week, in his weekly meeting with area media. “It’s a great atmosphere; that’s why you play college football.”
As an assistant under John L. Smith at Idaho from 1992-94, Petrino and the Vandals went 0-3 vs. Montana — losing in Missoula 47-29 in 1992 and 45-21 in ’94, and falling 54-34 in 1993 at the Kibbie Dome.
“There were some high-scoring shootouts,” Petrino recalled. “They had (Dave) Dickenson, we had Nuss (Doug Nussmeier). It was funny — the team that won, the other team went farther in the playoffs.”
That was true — except for in 1994.
In 1992 and ’94, the Vandals lost in the first round of the I-AA playoffs. In 1993, Idaho made it as far as the semifinals.
Montana, under Don Read, didn’t make the playoffs in 1992, lost in the first round in 1993 and made it to the semifinals in ’94.
Idaho is 55-28-2 all time against Montana, though the Griz have won nine of the last 10 meetings — though until last year, the teams hadn’t met since 2003.
“They had a good program — always have, always will,” Petrino said.
Last year, Montana thumped Idaho 46-27 in Moscow.
“Just like with Eastern and Idaho State, they (Vandal players) have a better feel for what the rivalry is than they probably did last year in the first go-round,” Petrino said.
Idaho lost to EWU, ISU and Montana last year. This year, the Vandals have beaten Eastern and Idaho State.
“It’s the same as Eastern and ISU — there’s just a little bit of a chip on our shoulder in this game,” Idaho sophomore center Logan Floyd said.
AFTER MISSING the previous two games due to injury, redshirt freshman Aundre Carter rushed for a career-high 179 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Carter leads the Vandals with 557 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs.
“When we got him, we thought that was one of the bigger recruits we had since we got here,” Petrino said. “We beat South Alabama (a former foe of Idaho in the Sun Belt) on him. He’s just hard to tackle; he just bangs through people. When most backs get 2 yards, he gets 5. When they get 4, he gets 8.”
Floyd is Carter’s roommate.
“So we share a lot of times outside of football, just messin’ around,” Floyd said. “The type of running back he is, running over guys, breaking tackles ... it’s unreal.”