NO. 3 BOISE ST. 37 NO. 24 OREGON ST. 24
Broncos beat another quality foe, but playing in their weak conference could erode title chances.
The Broncos pick up another big win, but now they’re out of chances to make a statement.
It wasn’t a perfect effort, something you’d enter in a footballplaying contest, but Boise State did what it had to do Saturday night.
It won, against a ranked opponent from a major conference, for the second time in three weeks — on national television.
Boise State’s 37-24 victory against No. 24 Oregon State on the Bronco Stadium blue turf was the bookend piece to Labor Day’s 33-30 victory against Virginia Tech.
Now, though, there might be nothing left to prove.
“It’s like we were playing an NFL team,” Oregon State star defensive tackle Stephen Paea said of the Broncos.
All the equity Boise State (3-0) has built up to now, however, may get eaten away by playing the rest of its schedule.
The third-ranked Broncos are bucking history in trying to become the first team from outside the six-conference power structure to play in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Boise State is also up against a coaches’ poll stacked with voters from power conferences, television analysts who played for traditional powers and the ridiculous notion that a team from the Western Athletic Conference should be automatically disqualified.
How important, in two months, will Saturday’s victory still be? Will it still resonate?
Can Boise State move off its current No. 3 tree stump and get to the top, or has it met the impenetrable bubble?
Broncos Coach Chris Petersen doesn’t dare look past the end of his nose, because he knows:
“You can get tripped up,” he said. “and lose focus. And all it takes is once.”
No one who can focus their eyes can deny this is a special team, even if Boise State’s special teams weren’t on Saturday.
The Broncos made the game closer than it should have been. They allowed Oregon State jitterbug Jacquizz Rodgers to wriggle for 54 yards on a first-quarter punt return.
Then, late in the third, in position to put the game away, Titus Young fumbled a punt, leading to an Oregon State touchdown that trimmed the Broncos’ lead to 31-24. Boise State settled it with two late Kyle Brotzman field goals.
Some truths, even in football’s partisan prism, are self-evident.
The win over Oregon State was Boise State’s 57th consecutive regular-season win at home.
The Beavers, for the record, are a quality opponent — you could say dam good. They are the only team to have finished third or better in the Pac-10 each of the last three years. Only Civil War losses to Oregon denied Oregon State Rose Bowl appearances the last two seasons.
So it means something that Boise quarterback Kellen Moore completed 19 of 27 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think we all know Kellen’s got a lot of God-given skills,” Petersen said.
It means something that Doug Martin rushed for 138 yards and Young finished with 136 yards receiving.
This was also a game against an opponent from Oregon that didn’t end with a punch and postgame brawl.
Also true: it’s going to be a long, grueling and exciting season for Boise State fans.
Everyone tailgating in the parking lot before Saturday’s gameknew that a loss by No. 1 Alabama at No. 10 Arkansaswould give Boise State a chance to crawl a heartbeat closer to the top.
Arkansas, though, squandered a 20-7 lead and lost to the defending national champions.
Everyone in the parking lot also knew that there are going to be Saturdays like this as long as their beloved Broncos keep winning.
Boise State, in many ways, does not control its fate: Its hopes are inextricably tied to results announced in stadiums nationwide.
UCLA’s defeat of Texas helped because it likely knocked the Longhorns out of national title contention.
The “Nevada is leading BYU” score, later conveyed by the public address announcer, drew a rousing response. Nevada ended up winning, and Boise State needs Nevada to keep winning in hopes of setting up a collision-course meeting in Reno in November. Every little bit counts:
Virginia Tech’s winning at Boston College, 19-0, proved the Hokies may yet recover from that loss to James Madison.
Oklahoma’s struggling to a 31-29 victory at Cincinnati meant the Sooners, if they keep winning, may have to account for an opening close call against Utah State, a WAC member, and the close win at Cincinnati, a team WAC member Fresno State handled easily.
Really, though, there’s not much Boise State can do now except win and wait.
Oregon State Coach Mike Riley has lost to both Texas Christian and Boise State this year.
“They’re similar teams,” he said. “I’m not going to be the one that separates them.”
Boise State probably needs to convincingly win every game left on its schedule, but Petersen said he will not run up scores. “We will never go that direction,” he said. “We will just play as hard as we can. I think all that stuff works itself out at the end of the year.”
Boise’s next seven games are against New Mexico State, Toledo, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii, Idaho and Fresno State.
But hey, didn’t Toledo beat Purdue on Saturday?
Like we said: every little bit helps.
BREAKING AWAY:Chris Butler
Boise State’s Titus Young, who had five receptions for 136 yards, beats Oregon State’s Brandon Hardin (17) to score on a 49-yard pass from Kellen Moore in the second quarter.