MOSCOW, Idaho - Sure, it was the Silver and Gold Spring football game for the Idaho Vandals. But Friday night really was much, much more.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Championship banner was unveiled in the Kibbie Dome end zone. The seniors from 2016 team received their championship rings and awards were handed out by Vandals from past teams.
Then there were the tugs at the heartstrings.
The Vandals honored teammate Jace Malek, who died last February, by presenting his mom and widow with bowl championship rings and coach Paul Petrino was surprised with appearance of his dad to present him with his Sun Belt Coach of the Year Award.
"It was a very special moment," Petrino said of seeing Bob Petrino come onto the field in a gold golf cart. "He's been my hero my whole life. Between him and my brother (Bobby), they taught me everything I know. It was as special a moment as I've had."
That was just one of many special moments. For the players who stepped onto campus four years ago to see the 30-foot tall banner unveiled is a memory that will stay with them forever.
"It's great seeing what you worked so hard for for three years pay off," tackle Jordan Rose said. "It's a great feeling.
"It means a lot. When I first got here, the 2009 team was the only Idaho football team talked about. We said we were going to change that until we could say we were the best team in the University of Idaho history."
The Vandals definitely made their mark last year and look to do the same again as was evidenced by some of the big-play potential on display Friday night. Quarterback Matt Linehan rarely missed (34 of 38) to an array of targets - but there was a special connection between him and senior receiver Jacob Sannon, who had 10 catches.
Petrino had praise for that connection but he also liked what he saw in the ground game.
"I really liked it when I just ran the ball," he said. "I always like seeing that."
He also likes the progress he's seen this spring.
"We're way better right now than we were day one," he said.
The Vandals open the 2017 season Aug. 31 against Sacramento State at the Kibbie Dome.