BOISE - It looked like the Potato Bowl had begun a few days early. Players from both Colorado State and Idaho positioned themselves on opposite sides of the arena, settled into their equipment and prepared for a battle of continuous collisions.
Only there were no coaches motioning in signals, very few spectators and certainly no one in the desert was streaming this event live, sipping rum and cokes with a financially based rooting interest.
Bumper cars don't usually generate that type of interest.
This was no official bout, just one of the many examples Monday night of the Rams and Vandals enjoying the arcade games and attractions during the leisure portion of their bowl activities at Wahooz Family Fun Zone in nearby Meridian.
Idaho linemen Darius Peterson, Kato Fawkes and Glen Antoine went bumper-to-bumper with Rams players in motorized miniature cars. Jante Boston flashed his strong right cross at the Dragon Punch station. Armond Hawkins and Russell Siavii were among a handful of defensive backs to display their sweet shooting strokes in the Hot Shot hoops game.
While these images were picture-perfect for future Potato Bowl brochures, the knee-slapper of the week thus far is a scene featuring Paul Petrino. The Idaho coach, bundled in all-black winter gear, launched off a snow slope, went airborne and flipped out of his inner tube Tuesday morning on the Goldrush Tubing Hill at Bogus Basin.
The video itself is worth several replays, and maybe even a submission to "America's Funniest Home Videos," if YouTube's increasing popularity hasn't reduced the television show to cable's version of the wishbone offense. But just the fact Petrino can be seen doing something to remind us that he is in fact a human being is also refreshing. (Petrino is a great offensive mind, but an elite inner-tuber, he is not.)
These type of moments are the memories many student-athletes, particularly those who aren't major contributors on the field, will perhaps cherish most about the bowl game experience, which perfectly exemplifies the mix of business and pleasure.
It's time for business now.
Both teams have held practices the past two days, but from now until 4 p.m. PST Thursday, there are no more tourist attractions, laser tag or trips to the ski slopes. Because even though many of the athletes chronicled the past three days via social media, a loss for either team will undoubtedly serve as the lasting memory.
"We know it's a business trip at the end of the day," Idaho senior Callen Hightower said. "We're having fun but we still know what we have to do out here. It's a cool little experience."
Hightower hit the nail on the head - about as hard as Boston, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound receiver, hit that Dragon Punch bag, which I'm sure wasn't fully functional by the time about a dozen other Vandals were done with it.
All that matters is beating Colorado State. Yes, the Vandals are currently two-touchdown underdogs and the fan base isn't near spoiled enough - unless they've consumed entirely too much PBR - to be dissatisfied with a bowl appearance.
But considering Idaho has sold more than 12 times as tickets as CSU (as of Tuesday night) and the Vandals are 2-0 in this bowl game, it's not unreasonable for fans, administrators and donors to expect a victory.
The team's official hashtag for the season, after all, is #ExpectToWin (though it didn't help in the bowling competition Monday night at Wahooz, because Colorado State won that handily.)
"We always had the goal to get the bowl game, and a couple other things," Hightower said. "Now that we're here we're just taking it like it's another game, like how we treated the rest of the season. To get to this point, it says a lot about us, but we're also here to win, too."
Idaho will transition from fun games to the only game that matters, because it's all fun and games until one team gets mashed in the Potato Bowl.
Dugar is the sports editor of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. He can be reached at (208) 883-4627, by email to email@example.com or on Twitter to @MikeDugar.