Depending on your perspective, the Boise State Broncos are either one of the most resilient, hard-working programs around, or they are merely a band of upstarts who are always crashing the party. If you’re part of the latter camp, then chances are you’re simply just unaware of how long and arduous the road to the top has been for the university from the Mountain West Conference.
Before the football squad would take the BCS circuit by storm, first the school itself had to up its game. From 1933 to 1968, they were known as the Boise Junior College Broncos. The team would post an undefeated season in 1947, their first of five such campaigns under coach Lyle Smith, and in 1958, they’d capture the NJCAA national championship. By 1980, the school now known as Boise State University would win an NCAA FCS title at the Division I-AA level, but it wasn’t until 1996 that the Broncos would join the big leagues.
Upon arriving in the land of giants, the university quickly got to work establishing its bona fides. After being accepted as a member of the Western Athletic Conference in 2001, the Broncos won the league crown five years in a row. In 2006, Boise State went undefeated in competitive play and booked a trip to the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Pitted against the vaunted Oklahoma Sooners, the boys in blue didn’t shy away from the national spotlight.
In what has been called one of the greatest college football games ever, the Broncos lost an early lead but fought valiantly to find themselves down by 7 with only seconds left to play. An electrifying 50-yard hook-and-ladder touchdown and go-ahead extra point would knot the score and force the contest into overtime. In the extra period, wideout Vinny Perretta tossed a floater to tight end Derek Schouman for a score that would put BSU down by one. Rather than settling for an extra point that would deadlock the battle, head coach Chris Petersen sent his offense back on the field and called for the Statue of Liberty, a play typically seen in backyard games. The fakeout went off without a hitch as tailback Ian Johnson snuck into the endzone for the two-point conversion, and in doing so, delivered the first BCS win in school history.
A second Fiesta Bowl victory would come to Boise in 2010, but by this point, the team was championed for its playing surface just as much as it was for its on-field accomplishments. The trademark blue turf has become a source of constant marvel for opponents, commentators, and fans alike. To add to the pressure-cooker environment, the Broncos began wearing all-blue uniforms and asked supporters to attend games decked out in nothing but -- you guessed it -- blue.
They may lack the history and prestige of more traditional powers, but when it comes to pure wins and losses, Boise State can look at the NCAA record books and find itself right there next to the all-time greats. Not too shabby for a program that began as a junior college, eh?