Bronco Time Capsule: Ten Years Ago Today

Sometimes it's good to look back in time to make sure that feet are on the ground. Boise State had very humble beginnings when it joined Division I-A, as this article by trueblueodie shows.

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. This was a season
that was filled with much promise and great expectations but one that would prove to be the worst in Boise State football history.

Boise State was making the leap to division 1-A, leaving the comfortable yet limiting
confines of the Big Sky conference to join the Big West. Boise State was at last
going to run with the big dogs. Pokey Allen, the immensely popular
Bronco head coach had taken Boise State to the national
championship game against Younsgstown State just two seasons before. Now, Pokey was leading Boise State into an exciting level of football. The schedule was ambitious--
Arizona State of the Pac-10, Fresno State and Hawaii from the Western
Athletic conference and Utah State and our old friends Nevada in the Big
West.

The University was also undertaking a stadium expansion--beginning in
1997 the seating capacity would be increased from 22,000 to 30,000. The
excitement in the community was at an all-time high as our Boise State
Broncos embarked on perhaps the most ambitious year in our history.

Along with a new conference and national level of competition, Boise
State was also fielding a young and inexperienced team as only seven
starters returned from the previous year. Wide receiver Ryan Ikebe,
offensive tackles Jordan La Piane and Jermain Belin, defensive linemen Sione
Fifita and Chris Wing, linebacker Jeremy Haener and punter Jeff Davis. Quarterback Tony Hilde had removed himself from the team prior to spring practice for personal reasons. As it turned out he'd return in the fall and
bring that number to eight. Allen was in his fourth year at Boise State
and was quoted as saying "I like the talent we have, we're a little young
and inexperienced and we lack a lot of depth at most positions. We are going
to have to coach at our absolute best and get some breaks."

Then things took a dramatic turn for the worse. The community was hit
with the news that Pokey had been diagnosed with cancer and was in a fight
for his life. The responsibilities of being the head coach were laid on the
shoulders of Defensive Coordinator Tom Mason, who was named the
interim head coach.

The season started on August 31st as Boise State played host to the Central
Michigan Chippewas of the Mid-American Conference. At the beginning of the
third quarter the game was tied at 14 but Central Michigan would hand the Broncos their first defeat as a 1-A program--final score 42 to 21. Boise State rebounded the
following week against Portland State with a victory at home 33 to 22. This
would prove to be their last win for a while. The results of the next eight
games are as follows:

September 14 Eastern Washington 27 BSU 21
September 21 Hawaii 20 BSU 14
September 28 Northwestern State 20 BSU 16
October 5 Arizona State 56 BSU 7
October 12 Nevada 66 BSU 28
October 19 Utah State 39 BSU 14
November 2 Fresno State 41
BSU 7
November 9 North
Texas 30 BSU 27

The once proud program teetered on the brink of disaster with a season
record of 1 and 9 and two games to play, at New Mexico State and
finally back home against the University of Idaho. A season that began with
such excitement and hope was now becoming a nightmare. Had Boise State made a
mistake by leaving the Big Sky? A conference they had played in for the last
26 years. The doubts were beginning to creep in, maybe the Broncos weren't ready to
play division 1-A football. Perhaps they couldn't run with the big dogs.

Then on November 11, Pokey Allen attended his first practice of the
season. Pokey had returned from his medical leave of absence for cancer
treatments to once again coach the team. All was well in Bronco land, Coach Allen was back. While no one expected a change in the outcome of the last
two games we had the hope of returning to the Bronco tradition of winning. POKEY
WAS BACK!


And win they did. In one of the most exciting games in Boise State history,
the Broncos came back twice in the final four minutes to post a 33 to 32 victory
over New Mexico State. Trailing 26 to 21 after three quarters, Boise State
took a one point lead 27 to 26 with 3:32 remaining in the game. On the next
possesion New Mexico State drove 80 yards in twelve plays to score what it
hoped was the winning touchdown with 43 seconds left on the clock. On the
New Mexico State kickoff, Ryan Ikebe was deep for the return. Just before
reaching his blocking wedge he handed the ball to Andre Horace who was
reversing his direction. Horace took the handoff and headed up the left
sideline. At midfield he cut to the middle and made it to the New Mexico
State 22 yard line before being brought down. On the second play of the
possesion and with no time outs remaining, Tony Hilde connected with Ikebe
on a 22 yard pass for the winning points with 14 seconds left.

The final game at home against the University of Idaho was the one that
many Bronco fans claim killed Pokey Allen. While that is most certainly an
exageration, I have no doubts it broke his heart. The Broncos were
thoroughly dominated by their rivals with the score at the beginning of the
fourth quarter being 64 to 3. The Broncos added another 16 points to their
score but the dissappointment on Pokey's face could be seen from my seats.
Pokey Allen passed away one month later. December 30, 1966 in his hometown
of Missoula Montana.

Thinking back to that year it's hard to believe how far Boise State has come, two
Big West and four Western Athletic conference championships. Four bowl wins
and three top fifteen finishes. It's almost as though that terrible year was
Boise State's trial by fire. One only needs to pause and remember how it began to
appreciate what we have today.


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