Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
BOISE, Idaho -- Boise State has staked its claim for a BCS berth.
With Thursday’s 19-8 win over No. 16 Oregon and winnable games remaining on the schedule, the Broncos became the clear favorite to become the illustrious 2009 BCS buster.
But No. 14 Boise State took the glass-half-empty approach after the game. While Thursday’s win was important and did set the tone for the rest of the season, the Broncos weren’t exactly ready to celebrate their accomplishment.
“It’s a great start,” running back D.J. Harper said. “It’s only the first game of the season and I think this is a really good win for us, starting out fast. I think now we’ve just got to stay day by day, week by week and work on the next opponent starting tomorrow.
“We have tonight to feel good about ourselves, but tomorrow we’ve got school and we start looking at game film for the next team.”
Yes, there are 12 games remaining on the Broncos' schedule, but none as important as Thursday’s. The Ducks were the only ranked team on the Broncos’ slate and the only BCS team. Boise State could meet some resistance during road games against Bowling Green and Tulsa, but it’ll likely not meet a team as talented as it is until the Broncos play Nevada at the end of November.
Whether the team wanted to acknowledge it or not, this was a do-or-die scenario. Because the Broncos' schedule is so weak this season, they needed this game as a flagship win, especially with teams in the Mountain West and Conference USA fighting for the same BCS bowl berth.
It wasn’t just about the Broncos winning the game, it was how they won it.
Boise State dominated Oregon from the opening kick. It was better on offense and tougher on defense. The only deficiency might have been special teams when kicker Kyle Brotzman missed two field goals.
But overall, Boise State looked like it wanted and needed to make a statement on Thursday, and winning decisively was the only way that was going to happen. A year ago, it was easy to make excuses for Boise State’s win -- Oregon did end up playing its fifth-string quarterback. But Oregon brought its best game on Thursday and Boise State’s was better.
“We’ve had Oregon circled on our map for awhile,” said Boise State defensive tackle Billy Winn, who had a safety in the game. “We were glad to have this opportunity again and show that the first time wasn’t a fluke.”
Now Boise State must handle the pressure of the win. The Broncos have never defeated a ranked team to begin the season, but they know how to keep an undefeated streak alive. In 2008, the Broncos were undefeated until losing 17-16 to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. In 2006, the Broncos didn’t lose a game.
Coach Chris Petersen said he’s interested to see how his team reacts during this week of practice and against Miami (Ohio) next week. This is a team with just four seniors, but in the past the Broncos have shown they can handle themselves with the pressure at its peak.
“I think in some ways that this whole thing will help this team because there have been so many distractions for a long time and they did a nice job of blocking those out and just playing football,” Petersen said. “So I think those will be some lessons to be learned right there. We said it last week: This is such a long season and we’re going to play some good opponents. We have a hard travel schedule and the bull's-eye will continue to grow. So it’s back to work tomorrow.”