Jan 17

Boise State - The Ascension is Nearly Complete

Posted By:Conor McGrath - Meridian, ID  Tags:

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There really is no way to truly appreciate the changes that have come to the Boise State football program. The Broncos climb to the top of the college football ladder has been accomplished with an acceleration nobody thought possible. Nobody prior to the 2002 season, when Boise State first cracked the top 25 polls knew who they were. As pollsters pulled out their maps to find the state of Idaho when they saw Boise State was in the final rankings, most knew it more than likely be a one year stint, much to the likings of other small name schools such as Marshall or Miami (Ohio). But these Broncos weren't making a quick appearance and bolting back to the little no-name school they were built up to be. Boise State's ascension to college football glory had begun 69 years earlier, and things were just beginning to accelerate.

Let me put this into perspective for you: Boise State Football originated in 1933, when Boise Junior College began their first football season. Lyle Smith, the "father" of Bronco football guided BJC to the 1958 Junior College national championship. Prior to moving to Division 2 in 1968, Boise Junior College amassed a 199-69-9 record. That's a 75.7% winning percentage. 10 years was all the Broncos needed to move up from Division 2 to Division 1-AA (Now the FCS) in 1978. Just three seasons into Boise State's 1-AA career, the Broncos won the 1980 national championship. After numerous other 1-AA tournament appearances, Boise State moved to Division 1-A football in 1996. After playing the role of cupcake in an effort to satisfy the BCS schools weak OOC slate, the Broncos began to make a name for themselves when they completed a 12-1 campaign in 2002, capped by a final ranking 15th and a Humanitarian Bowl victory over Big 12 opponent Iowa State.

Unlike many non-BCS schools during the early 2000's that would find success then drop back to humility, the Broncos kept gunning in 2003, finishing ranked yet again for their 13-1 season and Fort Worth Bowl victory over TCU (Talk about foreshadowing, right?). The 2004 team would do much the same, finishing an 11-0 regular season but losing a heartbreaking 44-40 Liberty Bowl loss to Louisville. The 2005 season is where I began to see a change. Boise State went 9-4 in 2005, with an embarrassing beat down at Georgia, a rough 2-point loss at Oregon State, their first WAC loss since 2001 to Fresno State, and a 6 point loss to Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl. The change wasn't due to the fact that they went 9-4 (a record which many fans would LOVE their team to have. For you, Prozach). It was due to the fact that 2005 was a disaster season for Boise State. People booed QB Jared Zabransky after receiving the MPC Computers Bowl Offensive MVP. After 3 straight seasons of astounding success, the bar had been set so high for Boise State that a 9-4 season seemed like the end of the world.

2006 is where the Broncos got to the point where they just couldn?t get any higher under the current system. You all know the story. 13-0 season capped by a 43-42 OT victory against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, followed by a marriage proposal and a movie release about the 2006 team. The Broncos weren't going anywhere, and if nobody was going to give them any credit, they went out and did everything they possibly could. Yet, I do not believe Boise State will get the opportunity to complete their ascension into college football lore. While the like of Alabama, USC, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and other powers sit at the top of the college football ladder, the BCS resides there with them, and will see to it that Boise State stays on the last rung of that ladder and is not allowed to come to the top.

I'm not writing this article to gripe, even though the last paragraph may make it seem like I am. This article is to commemorate the 2009 Boise State football team. But to TRULY understand and realize how special 2009 was to me and the other Boise State fans that didn?t just jump the bandwagon in 2006, you must understand where Boise State has come from, and what they've accomplished.

Going into the 2009 season, the BSU football team was different, much different. There were two words that I used to describe our team in the offseason: Young and Deep. The thing is, since that Fiesta Bowl victory in 2006, our recruiting has been tremendous. Boise State is not getting guys that would never have even looked twice at playing here 5 years ago. However, one statistic scared the hell out of me: 4 seniors. How the hell are we going to win ball games with the youngest roster in the nation and only 4 seniors? I cannot lie. Going into 2009, I did not predict a perfect season. After all, we were so young, this was not our year. 2010 was poised to be our year, but this season surely belonged to somebody else such as BYU or TCU or Utah (AGAIN!). But then I remembered Boise State has what I believe the best coaching staff in the nation. Chris Petersen is a miracle worker who could probably turn water into wine if he put his mind to it.

The one thing that always dogs Boise State is their strength of schedule. Needless to say, 2009's slate wasn't very good, but at lease the Broncos got good national exposure for their opener against Oregon. The football game turned one-way boxing match was a stepping stone for Boise State. All I hear from January to game day was how Oregon's high profile offense would run Boise State over and how the Broncos didn't have a chance. Well, despite the close look of the final score, Boise State's defense dominated the Ducks, who didn't even amass one first down in the first half. However, just as the 2008 meeting went, the excuses piled up because it was Kelley's first game and Masoli wasn't on yet. Yeah, well it was Boise State's first game as well. And they kicked the dog snot out of the eventual PAC-10 champs. Cry however you want, I'm done listening to it. If you're not going to give Boise credit, go lose the Rose Bowl to Ohio State so I don't have to hear any more of it.

Now, Boise State received a lot of TV exposure in 2009. Unfortunately, our worst games were all nationally televised (save the UC Davis game). After blowout wins over Bowling Green and Miami Ohio, Boise State failed to impress on the national stage twice by allowing Tulsa to take them to the wire. BSU headed back home with a 27-20 win and a lot of work to get done. However, the next ESPN appearance wasn't much better as the Broncos heading into Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech. I wanted to shoot whoever agreed to televise that game because we never play well there. It's a tiny stadium that is never filled and it's a long ways from Boise. The Broncos always struggle there. What better way to paint a bad picture of the team then to schedule that game on ESPN, right? After blowing the game open and letting the Bulldogs back into it, Boise State escaped with a 45-35 victory and left me wondering where the hell the defense that shut down Oregon went to.

After wrapping up the season with a showdown on the Blue against Nevada and blow out wins over Utah State and New Mexico State, Boise State found itself 13-0 for the first time since 2006. However, respect was not on their side. The unveiling of the bowl matchup against TCU (who I still believe is the best team in the country outside BSU and Alabama) brought nothing but doubt and scrutiny for BSU. Nobody was giving the Broncos a chance, and I loved every minute of it. It was the same situation of 2006, when Oklahoma was supposed to dominate Boise State. The Broncos quietly schemed a perfect game plan to beat TCU 17-10 and win their second Fiesta Bowl in 4 years.

Back to my earlier points in the article, Boise State was once again on the last run of the college football ladder to greatness. Once you ascend the entirety of the ladder (a national championship) you can truly be named an elite program. However, as long as the BCS has control over the top of that mountain, Boise State will stay on the last rung. Even with a potential top-5 start in the 2010 poll, I just don't see it happening after all the scrutiny that Boise State receives. I'm willing to bet the BCS will jump a 12-1 BCS team with a September loss over a 13-0 Boise State team gunning for a 2010 national championship.

Rest assured, even if that happens, the BCS will not remain forever. Boise State hasn't climbed all the way from the bottom rung to the top rung to not ever get the opportunity to reach the pinnacle of college football. Boise State will get there one day, I know it. That day could be next year, or it could be in 50 years, but Boise State is not done. They won't be done until they're completed the quest that Boise Junior College embarked on some 77 years ago. Be sure to tune into the 2010 college football season! I guarantee you will see Boise State still climbing with all their might.

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