A blowout home loss at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers has many fans of the Boise State Broncos wondering exactly where the program is headed.
Quick. Who can name the last time the Boise State Broncos had a losing season?
Maybe you know right off the top of your head. Maybe you had to Google it (like I did). Or maybe you consider a losing season occurs when the Broncos “only” win eight games. Whatever the case, the answer happens to be 1997.
That’s one Houston Nutt of a lifetime ago. Many players on the 2017 version of the Broncos weren’t even born yet.
Twenty years. Through Fiesta Bowl victories, head coaching changes, all-time great players at multiple positions, huge upsets and blown opportunities, the Boise State football team has found ways to earn more wins than losses.
It had been 16 years since the Broncos suffered a non-conference home loss of that proportion before Friday night. Not counting a 2005 bowl game, Boise State won 65 straight (conference and non-conference) home games from 2001-2011.
Looking at the college football landscape, 75% of the programs would kill for that type of sustained success. Many find it close to acceptable to get into a bowl game every couple of years.
Guess what? Ebbs and flows are going to happen, especially when you are rebuilding with such a young team. And in 2017, Boise State has exactly that, all while still dealing with the proverbial target on their backs.
A national program with credit to give
Thrust into a national spotlight in January of 2007, the Boise State Broncos have continually sat in the top tier of what is now considered the Group of Five.
The Broncos are provided with national exposure, given prime time slots, and generally still viewed as a national threat. Perhaps we’ve reached the nadir, in which the program lacks the tenacity to rise up every week.
Imagine taking the field–with the program’s resources–on a week-to-week basis knowing that every week the opposing team is going to do whatever it takes to knock you off.
It’s the same type of attitude Boise State used to knock off the Oregon’s, Washington’s and Oklahoma’s of the world.
Opposing coaches and programs see the recognition Boise State gets, they know of the legendary blue turf, and want nothing more to take this team down.
And maybe–just maybe–not enough credit is be given to these teams when they beat Boise State. Instead, we often hear “Boise State blew that one” or “the Broncos let the game slip away”.
These statements are true, to an extent. Winnable games have slipped away. Blame it on resting on their laurels, a lack of preparation or unfortunate bounces. All have had their moments in the last five seasons.
Credit can be given to a Wyoming, who found the right people at the right time in combination with a bad Boise State outing. Or Air Force, who clearly has a mental edge (and yes, Air Force has given the Broncos trouble. Even in the Coach Petersen days).
Washington State, Virginia, Baylor, Oregon State, and BYU have all claimed victory over Boise State in the past five seasons. All winnable games and all losses to teams who aren’t named Louisiana Tech or North Texas (yes. Boise State lost to these teams in the last 20 years).
Should expectations be lowered? No. The dreams of getting back to a big bowl game or beating teams from the power conferences should be in the realm of possibility.
Those possibilities aren’t going to always be there, especially in the wild world of college football. These are young adults out there, still growing and still learning, leading to what can often be the unexpected from week-to-week.
The losses can be frustrating and disappointing especially in games that should have been won. It’s part of the joy and depression of fandom.
There is a standard of winning expected at Boise State. The players and the coaches will be the first to tell you that was not met on Friday night against Virginia. It may very well serve as a wake-up call for a team who finally hit rock bottom of a stretch of games dating back to last season.
Many considered the program to be in disarray following a 3-2 start in 2014. That season ended in a Fiesta Bowl victory. I’m not saying that is on the horizon in 2017 but the Mountain West title is very much in play.
Changes might be in the air. And an attitude and energy shift needs to occur from “who we used to be” to “what we need to do”. If the attitude trends positive, the climb back up the hill is not that far way.
Build up. Bounce back. Get back to basics. And most importantly: bleed blue.