- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
His alarm was set for nine on the morning of the biggest home game in the history of Boise State football, but Kellen Moore woke up closer to eight last Saturday. Was the junior quarterback anxious about taking on No. 24 Oregon State? Was he worried about extending his winning streak as a starter to 17 games? Perhaps the pressure of the Broncos' quest to become the first team from a non-BCS conference to play for the national championship cut short his sleep?
"Actually," explained Moore, "one of our neighbors has a rooster."
"All animals are created equal," observes George Orwell in Animal Farm, "but some animals are more equal than others." In the menagerie of college football, Boise and its non-BCS brethren are decidedly less equal. That makes the Broncos' lofty aspirations this season either noble and heroic, or naive and delusional, depending on your point of view.
A 37--24 beating of the Beavers last Saturday night merely confirmed Boise State's status as the most polarizing program in the nation. The third-ranked Broncos are either a collection of a) can-do overachievers worthy of a berth in the BCS title game (provided they run their cupcake-filled table) or b) lightweight pretenders who would presume to keep a more qualified team (Nebraska? Oklahoma? Oregon?) out of the national championship. As the Broncos continue to steamroll opponents (their only remaining danger game appears to be at Nevada on Nov. 26); as the BCS standings fluctuate; as antitrust lawyers and, possibly, the Department of Justice get into the act, each camp will only get more firmly entrenched.
The anti-Boise contingent heeds the words of Alabama coach Nick Saban, who believes in the sanctity of "strength of schedule" and "body of work." These members of the SOSBOW party, not surprisingly, are clustered in BCS conferences. To them, gearing up for two or three tough games then gliding through the rest of the season on autopilot does not a title game participant make.
Imploring those traditionalists to open their minds (they usually don't put it that politely) are those with a genuine interest in discovering the identity of the best team in the country, regardless of conference or tradition. Their stance can be summed up by Boise State safety Winston Venable, who cautions doubters not to be overly influenced by the decal on the side of the helmet. "Every college football game is a bunch of guys, 18 to 22 years old, going up against a bunch of 18- to 22-year-olds," Venable says. "It's college athletics, man. Anything can happen."
Neither side gained or gave ground on Saturday. Forced to overcome its first adversity of the season, Saban's top-ranked Tide rallied from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to defeat No. 10 Arkansas 24--20 in Fayetteville. Moore was masterly against Oregon State, sidestepping pressure, hitting receivers in stride and keeping himself in the Heisman mix while completing 19 of his 27 passes for 288 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But Boise's special teams were slipshod, and a pair of 15-yard penalties kept alive a third-quarter Beavers drive that "handed them a touchdown," fumed coach Chris Petersen. The Broncos won, but they won no converts.
It is a reflection of Petersen's trust in his players, and of the program's bare-bones budget, that the Broncos crash in their own beds on the night before home games, rather than bus to a nearby hotel, as is customary with I-A power programs. (Boise State's football budget of $5.4 million is roughly one sixth of the $32.3 million that No. 2 Ohio State spends on its program.) Moore shares a house with defensive end Ryan Winterswyk and linebacker Derrell Acrey, both seniors. Upon rising last Saturday, they flipped on College GameDay, which was broadcasting from Bronco Stadium.
Moore found it disconcerting and slightly surreal, he says, "seeing the [GameDay] crew right there on the Blue, so close but so far away."
Close, meaning a mile or so from his house. Far away in the sense that every single Bronco knew better than to swing by the stadium to sample that madness. "You know how Pete is," Moore had confided three days earlier, referring to Petersen's insistence that every team member share his Vulcan focus. "Trust me, there'll be no players down there. It'll be a neat experience. Maybe I'll ask my parents how it was."