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Who’s afraid of the Broncos? Not the Aztecs

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By Ken Ables (@ka619sd)

Boise State fans are a curious group. I’m convinced they think college football started in 2006, and that it’s still 2014. College football fans remember the day Boise State came into the national spotlight: their overtime victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

The Mountain West Wire is a blog that covers all MW teams. They claim to cover them equally, but, as in Animal Farm, some are more equal than others. One particularly Orwellian post is one that has appeared at the start of several seasons and asks if any MW team is deserving of Boise State’s respect. 

A better question: does Boise State deserve all the respect they get? Every year the Broncos are picked to win the MW in pre-season polls, yet they have failed to win the MW championship game 67% of those times. Sure, they usually run roughshod over their Mountain Division mates, but often struggle against those in the West. Especially San Diego State. The Aztec-Bronco series is even at 3-3. 

Make no mistake, the Broncos have had great success and have built a powerful program in a relatively short time frame. They were the Group of 5 representative in the first New Year’s 6 game in 2014 (with 2 losses and no Aztecs on the schedule). But they haven’t been back since. 

It’s a program built on gimmicks – many of them successful – including their Statue of Liberty play that beat Oklahoma, a “turnover throne” and their cheesiest gimmick of all: the tacky, wrong-color field of which they are all so proud. I was on the sidelines for the Aztecs’ win in the 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. On the field, you don’t really notice the color; you’re looking forward, not down. The only people it really affects are those watching on TV. It hasn’t affected the Aztecs. San Diego State is 3-1 in Boise’s stadium.

As someone who has worked in marketing and publicity for years, I can appreciate the effectiveness of those gimmicks, and how the national sports media eat them up. They have helped keep the Broncos nationally relevant even though their performance on the field has not. As a 60-year football fan, I roll my eyes at them.

The two teams had not met prior to the Broncos joining the MW in 2011. The Broncos won the first game 52-35 at the Q. The Aztecs headed to Boise the next year for the return game. It would not be more of the same.

Aztecs Locked In

The Aztecs made their first trip to Boise in 2012. Colin Lockett took the opening kickoff 100 yards to score and to send a message to the #19 Broncos that the Aztecs were not impressed with their reputation or their ugly field. Special Teams were the deciding factor in this game. I

n addition to Colin’s opening TD, Dwayne Garrett blocked a punt and returned it to the Bronco 8. Two plays later Adam Muema scored on a 3-yard run to give the Aztecs a 14-13 lead. Walter Kazee added another TD early in the fourth to extend the lead to 21-13.

After Boise scored a TD with 5:35 left in the game, the Broncos went for 2 in an attempt to tie. Rene Siluano intercepted the conversion pass. The Aztecs took over and ran out the remaining 5:35 for a 21-19 victory.

Aztecs WR Colin Lockett returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown in 2012 (Ernie Anderson Photography)

Different year, same results

Colin Lockett catches the game winning TD in 2013 (Ernie Anderson Photography)

Both teams met back in San Diego in 2013. It was another hard-fought game that ended regulation 28-28. Boise got the ball first in OT and could not get into the end zone. A field goal gave the Broncos a 31-28 lead. Four plays moved the Aztecs to the Bronco 10. Quinn Kaehler hit Colin Lockett in the front corner of the end zone. It was close, so the play was reviewed in the booth. Before the referee announced the replay results, the Aztec bench erupted into cheers. Call confirmed; Aztec win34-31. The two-game series ended the way it started: with a Colin Lockett touchdown.

Broncos get Byrd’s eye view of #15’s speed

The Aztecs opened 2018 conference play in a day game in Boise broadcast on ESPNU. Boise State entered the game without having thrown an interception all season. That didn’t last long. Darren Hall intercepted a pass in the first quarter. Tariq Thompson and Ronley Lakalaka also picked off first half Bronco passes.

With the Aztecs leading 13-7 in the fourth quarter, and the ball on their own 28, freshman Jordan Byrd received a pitch from Ryan Agnew and took off down the right sideline. Aztecs fans – as well as the Broncos – got their first look at Jordan’s speed. The result: a 72-yard TD run and a 19-7 lead.

The Broncos added a late TD, but it wasn’t enough. Final: Aztecs 19, Broncos 13. Twelve members of the 2021 Aztecs played in that game; two (Tayler Hawkins and Ethan Dedeaux) started.

Cornerback Darren Hall intercepts a pass in 2018 (Ernie Anderson Photography)
RB Jordan Byrd explodes for a long touchdown in 2018 (Ernie Anderson Photography)

Key game to #Win22

A lot is riding on Friday’s game. Win and the Aztecs will host the Mountain West championship game next Saturday. If San Jose State beats Fresno State on Thursday, the Aztecs will be in, regardless of what happens Friday, but are not guaranteed to host the championship game with a loss.  

Kickoff is at 9:00 AM Friday at Dignity Health Sports Park. Forget Black Friday – it’s Red and Black Friday. Do your shopping early and get up to Carson. If you can’t make it, watch it on CBS (real CBS, not CBS Sports) or listen to Ted Leitner and Rich Ohrnberger on 1360.

Listen to this weeks Podcast previewing the SDSU vs Boise State game!
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by Tom Ables. Photography by Ernie Anderson and others.

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