Once upon a time, in the far away year of 1998, the Boise State football program was in its third year as an FBS (formerly I-A) team. They were four years removed from a Division I-AA (now FCS) championship loss to Youngstown State. It was one year before Boise State would start a run of 15 bowl appearances in the next 16 years.
The day was November 21. Enemy of the State had just opened in movie theaters. Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was number 1 on the billboard charts. It was my 20th birthday and to celebrate, I attended the Boise St. vs Idaho football game.
On that gray November day, 30,000 fans watched as Idaho won 36-35 in overtime after successfully converting a 2-pt conversion. This game marked the last time Boise State was defeated by Idaho in football, each program traveling very different paths since that day.
Boise State fans were disappointed with the loss, yes, but many were optimistic about what the future may hold.
Flash forward to present day. Three Fiesta Bowl victories and multiple conference championships have arrived in Boise. The Martian was the number one movie at the box office, “The Hills” by The Weeknd is dominating the billboard charts, and the Boise State football team is fresh off a 34-14 victory over the Wyoming Cowboys.
This, of course, comes a week after a collective gasp traveled across the Treasure Valley when Boise State was shellacked by Utah State. The victory over Wyoming was Boise State’s sixth, making the program bowl eligible once again.
Eh. Big deal. It wasn’t that inspiring. Wyoming was 1-6. A dismal performance by the Broncos.
Those were all comments overheard or seen online after the victory. A victory that kept Boise State tied for first place in the mountain division of the Mountain West Conference thanks to Utah State’s implosion in the previous night’s loss to San Diego State.
Only one week after many fans declared the season essentially over, Boise State was right back in the thick of things. Dominoes were falling once again in the Broncos direction. Were they taking the first steps back to a New Year’s day bowl game? Probably not but now things were certainly a lot less grim than the week before.
Expectations can be a fickle beast. There were days within the Boise State program that a 20-point victory would be more than enough. Now, it seems, a 40-point victory is expected to happen every game or some fans might very well treat it as a loss.
Did Boise State put together a perfect game? Absolutely not. Perhaps they should have won by 30, but a win is a win. In today’s landscape of college football, where anything is possible, any victory should be considered a positive. The hope is that your team continues to grow, continues to improve. The days of winning every game by 40 or more points is long gone.
They certainly exist, yes. We’ve seen a few this year at Boise State. And keep in mind, being at top of the pecking order for so long, teams are going to give Boise State their best shot every time around. That’s what happens when you’re dominant for so long. Or trying to repeat as some type of champion. Opponents will rise up and perhaps give extra effort when that team is opposite of them on the field. Look at Ohio State this year, for example.
Boise State won. The football program is still on pace to win ten games and still has a shot at playing in the Mountain West title game. Yes, help will be needed for Boise State to get back there. And there’s still plenty of time for that to happen.
Consider this as well. Boise State has yet to have their bye week. “Save your excuses,” you say.
“I’m not making one,” I answer. It’s just when three of your defensive starters are in street clothes, the other team is bound to score a few points. And still, this Boise State defense held Wyoming running back Brian Hill, he of 140 rushing yards per game prior to the contest, to 76 yards on 3.3 yards per carry.
Taking nothing for the granted, the Boise State offense (also banged up on the line), attacked early and then controlled the game with the run. The stats reflected this, with Jeremy McNichols rushing for 166 yards and scoring two total touchdowns. A methodical, if not ho-hum night, for the sophomore and the team.
Broken, battered, and bruised, Boise State soldiers on. A one-game-at-a-time mantra is back in the Broncos lexicon. It probably never left, but is has much more importance now. Just like 17 years ago, the effort of these young men should be applauded. Whether a victory comes via blowout or a small margin, a win is the ultimate goal. It doesn’t matter how the Broncos get there. It simply matters that they do.