That deafening "pop!" you might've heard late Friday night was the sad sound of Boise State's BCS bubble being burst.
For those of you who spent the day (along with the maddening hordes) doing your Christmas shopping and couldn't stay up to watch it, the third-ranked, previously unbeaten Broncos squandered a 24-7 lead and lost to No. 19 Nevada, 34-31, in overtime.
Nevada coach Chris Ault proclaimed it was "the greatest victory this university has ever had, I can tell you that."
And, for Boise State, it was the most heartbreaking and damaging defeat in the history of the Idaho school's proud program. A day after Thanksgiving, there wasn't much for BSU football fans to be thankful for when their team went from potential BCS busters for a third time to being busted itself when the Broncos were amazingly transformed into turkeys after halftime on a cold, rainy night in Reno.
Up until Friday, a few minutes before midnight, the Broncos had their sights set squarely on playing in another big-money BCS postseason game — most likely the "granddaddy of 'em all," the Rose Bowl. And hey, if they could just get one of those two teams ranked ahead of them — Oregon and Auburn — to somehow lose their last games, the Broncos might even have had a shot at a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. (Although, when it came right down to it, we're not sure whether the greedy BCS big-wigs would ever actually have allowed that to happen).
Instead, with Friday's frustrating setback that snapped their 24-game winning streak, the Broncos (10-1) now appear headed for some obscure thing called the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco or, gulp, the "who cares?" Humanitarian Bowl, played on their own blue turf in Boise.
Man, that's sure a long, long way from the Rose Bowl — not just in terms of miles or postseason payoff, but more so in terms of the program's national prestige and profile.
After all, a lot of pro-BCS folks have been doubting Boise State's worth as a national championship contender all season long. They have pooh-poohed the Broncos' schedule as being blatantly weak and inferior to other BCS title-game hopefuls. And today, those same arrogant folks are no doubt pretty pleased with themselves, telling anyone in their path, "See, I told you so. Boise State's really not that good. They haven't played anybody ..."
What's worse, the Broncos have nobody but themselves to blame. After building a 24-7 lead in the first half, they committed a myriad of mistakes and missed several opportunities to extend their lead and quite possibly put the game away. Now, Nevada's no slouch. The Wolf Pack (11-1) came into Friday's WAC clash ranked No. 19 and have lost only once all season themselves.
But the way the Broncos lost this one will be a disheartening source of anguish for years to come.
Boise State's stout defense, which came into the game ranked second in the nation in total defense, was shredded by Nevada, giving up a whopping 239 yards rushing in the second half when the Wolf Pack's "Pistol" offense repeatedly shot gaping holes in the Broncos' suddenly shaky, porous "D."
And you couldn't help but feel very sorry for Boise State's senior place-kicker Kyle Brotzman, who leads all active players in career scoring and is the Broncos' all-time scoring leader. After Nevada tied the game at 31 with just 13 seconds left, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore hooked up with Titus Young, who made an incredible catch on a 53-yard pass play with time running out to put the Broncos within a chip-shot field goal of pulling out a last-gasp victory.
But Brotzman shanked a potential game-winning, 26-yard field goal attempt wide to the right on the final play of regulation. Then he hooked a 29-yard try wide-left on the Broncos' overtime possession, opening the door for the Wolf Pack to win it with an OT field goal of their own.
Of course, Boise State's nightmarish loss is TCU's dreamy gain, as the undefeated Horned Frogs are assured a BCS bowl berth now — and could still sneak into that BCS title-game conversation should Oregon or Auburn falter, which at this point seems pretty doubtful.
Along with Brotzman and the Broncos, the other guys I really for sorry for in this scenario are the Utah State Aggies.
Why? Because, unfortunately, the Aggies are the next team on Boise State's schedule. You'd better hide the women and children, 'cause that one — scheduled for Saturday at Boise — could be real ugly and downright painful for USU fans to watch.
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