For all the success the Idaho Vandals had the first time Paul Petrino was in Moscow, as an assistant coach from 1992-94, one accomplishment eluded the Vandals during that three-year span.
They never got to bring home the Little Brown Stein, which goes to the winner of the Idaho-Montana football game.
Montana won each year — 47-29 at home in 1992, 54-34 at the Kibbie Dome in ’93 an 45-21 in Missoula in ’94. Dave Dickenson, the greatest quarterback produced by the University of Montana, was responsible for the last two of those Griz wins.
Petrino will have a chance to finally win the Stein as a head coach, when Idaho (4-5, 3-4 Big Sky) hosts Montana (5-4, 3-3) on Saturday at the Dome.
“I told the seniors (Monday) — what would be a great way to end their senior year is to end up undefeated at home, and walk off the field carrying that stein,” Petrino said Tuesday, in his weekly news conference with area media.
Idaho leads the all-time series with Montana 55-27-2, a rivalry dating back to 1903.
The Little Brown Stein was introduced in 1938, and the Vandals hold a 36-22-1 advantage since then. The Griz currently have the trophy, winning the last four meetings (2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003).
Idaho last won the Stein in 1999, winning 33-30 in Missoula.
At media day in July in Spokane, Petrino and Montana coach Bobby Hauck posed for a picture with the Stein.
Vandal senior running back Isaiah Saunders was at media day as well.
“At first I thought it was a bucket — ‘who brought a bucket with a bunch of writing on it?’” said Saunders, who last week became the 13th Vandal to surpass the 2,000-yard rushing mark for his career.
Griz fans travel well, and Petrino knows there will be a lot of Montana fans in the Dome on Saturday.
“It’s an easy drive — I make it all the time during softball season,” said Petrino, who travels to Missoula often in the spring to watch his daughter, Anne Mari, play softball for the Griz.
Any divided loyalties there?
“No, she’ll be for us in football,” Paul Petrino said. “There’s no divided there. It’s family.”
Montana recruited Petrino out of Capital High in Helena. Mike Van Diest, the current Carroll coach, was recruiting coordinator at Montana at the time, and future Griz head coach Joe Glenn was quarterback coach.
“They even put in the wishbone for me to run,” Petrino said, “but I stayed home to play for my dad (Bob Sr., at Carroll).”