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Game of the Year of the Day, 2010: Boise State 33, Virginia Tech 30

Chris Petersen’s 2010 Boise State Broncos: one of the 50 best* of all time.

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Boise State v Virginia Tech Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images

The date: September 6, 2010

The matchup: No. 3 Boise State (0-0) vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech (0-0)

The stakes: For Boise State, it is a chance at national legitimacy. The Broncos finished unbeaten in 2009 but ranked only fourth in the AP poll. With games against good Oregon State and Nevada teams upcoming, plus this battle with the Hokies, who have finished in the AP top 10 four of the last six years, they might have the scheduling oomph required to make a BCS run. But only if they beat Tech (and everyone else).

The back story: From 50 Best*:

The “small western school makes good” stories mostly died out in the 1930s with schools like St. Mary’s. But from 2006-12, barely a decade after moving up to college football’s top subdivision, Boise State went 84-8, finishing in the AP top 10 four times and in the top five twice. The Broncos went 9-2 against major-conference opposition in this span.

How, exactly?

Boise State’s rise was a testament to the power of commitment, good hires, and talent identification. It is very difficult to make two straight good-to-great head coach hires, but BSU made five: Pokey Allen, Houston Nutt, Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins, and Chris Petersen. The Broncos returned to 1-AA power under Allen, rebounded under Nutt after Allen died of cancer, won 26 games in three years under Koetter, won 53 in five under Hawkins, then went stratospheric under Petersen. The school got local buy-in, built its facilities up to carry itself like a major program, kept the blue artificial-turf branding its home field, and, for half a decade, played elite football.

In Petersen’s first season on the job, Boise State made history. The Broncos plowed through the regular season, going 12-0 and outscoring teams, 473-187. With help from a glorious hook-and-lateral play late in regulation, then a successful Statue of Liberty play on the game-winning two-point conversion, they beat Oklahoma in overtime, 43-42, in the Fiesta Bowl. After a retooling job in 2007, they went 12-1 in 2008, then beat No. 3 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 14-0 in 2009. They finished fourth in the AP poll. With almost everybody back, they would begin the next season third.

The 2010 roster was an unholy mix of overachieving local prospects, overlooked players from talent-rich areas, and diamonds in the rough from what you might call ‘exotic’ locales. There were All-Americans and/or draft picks in nearly every unit, and they were coached by a staff of future head coaches and coordinators. [...]

The Broncos had already proven themselves on a national stage, going 49-4 to date under Petersen, 4-2 against ranked teams; in 2010, it was time to take one more step forward. The season began with a primetime, nationally televised Monday night battle.

Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech Hokies would go 11-3 in 2010, eventually taking down Florida State to win the ACC. Their offense was guided by dual-threat dynamo Tyrod Taylor, their defense by All-American cornerback Jayron Hosley. BSU and Tech met in front of 86,587 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., to wrap up Week 1 of the season.

The game: Via the AP:

Kellen Moore and Boise State look as if they are going to be in the national championship chase for a while.

Moore hit Austin Pettis with a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:09 left and No. 3 Boise State passed what might be its toughest test of the season, beating No. 10 Virginia Tech 33-30 on Monday night. [...]

Boise State took the 17-0 lead by taking advantage of a handful of critical Virginia Tech mistakes that set up two TD passes by Moore. But by halftime the Hokies had climbed back into it with Ryan Williams scoring twice to cut the halftime lead to 20-14. [...]

Virginia Tech's Chris Hazley was wide right on a 51-yard field, but Boise State was flagged for running into the kicker. Now with a fourth-and-4 from the 29, Tech went for it and Taylor zipped an out to Jarrett Boykin, who slipped a weak arm tackle attempt by Brandyn Thompson and eased into the end zone to put the Hokies up 27-26. They went for two and missed.

Boise State couldn't answer that score. Kyle Brotzman missed wide left from 30 yards and Hazley answered with a 34-yarder for Virginia Tech to make it 30-26. [...]

Moore and Pettis connected for the fourth lead change of the second half - and there was joy in Boise.

Boise bolted out to a big lead, fell asleep, and woke up just in time.

The box score: Via BroncoSports.com:

The stars all came out to play in this one. Moore completed 23 of 38 passes for three touchdowns and no picks. Backs Doug Martin and D.J. Harper combined for 163 yards on 16 carries. Tech's Tyrod Taylor threw for 186 yards and, not including three sacks, rushed for 85. Jarrett Boykin caught six passes for 102 yards. Boise's Shea McClellin had four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

This was an awesome game — intense and down to the wire. It was, of course, only the second best game BSU played in that year. The Broncos would beat No. 24 Oregon State a couple of weeks later and take down No. 19 Utah late, but they saw their BCS title hopes derailed by two things: 1) unbeaten Oregon and Auburn teams (the only way an undefeated mid-major would have made the BCS championship is if there were zero or one unbeatens from a power conference), and 2) Nevada.

That’s still one of the most gripping, quintessentially college games I’ve seen in my life, right down to the #collegekickers ending. It’s a shame, too, because with different circumstances — with Kyle Brotzman missing kicks in some other game (to the extent that he missed that one kick at all), with Auburn losing one of its early close games, etc. — this phenomenal team could have reached the BCS title game and won it.