October 24, 1992, 30 years ago today: Division II power Portland State comes to Bronco Stadium to face Boise State, which had upped its record to 5-2 after an 0-2 start. But coach Pokey Allen’s offense dismantled the Broncos, amassing 605 yards—at the time the most ever surrendered by Boise State. The Vikings’ John Charles was one of the best play-action quarterbacks the blue turf had ever seen, selling every fake and freezing the Broncos defense just enough to free up his smorgasbord of pass-catchers. Portland State won 51-26, and Boise State would not win another game that season.
It was a live audition for Allen, who led the Vikings to five Division II playoff berths in seven seasons, including two national championship game appearances. Boise State coach Skip Hall resigned under pressure at the end of the season, despite a 42-28 record in six seasons at the helm. Pokey would be named head coach of the Broncos less than three weeks later and would bring his Portland State staff with him. Boise State was 3-8 in his first season, and Allen quickly realized (to use current vernacular) that 3-8 wasn’t up to the “standard” at Boise State.
Pokey then signed 23 junior college transfers that winter, reshaping his roster for 1994. Allen would often say that team “had a little bit of magic.” It did, putting together a 13-2 record, winning the Big Sky title for the first time since 1980 (and ending Idaho’s 12-game winning streak over Boise State), and making it all the way to the Division I-AA national championship game.
But Allen’s cancer took hold at the end of that 1994 run, and by the time spring football rolled around, he was away receiving treatment. He returned in time for a 38-14 victory at Utah State in the 1995 opener and led Boise State to a 7-4 record that season. But he had to step away again in the summer of 1996, and the Broncos struggled without him as they played their first season in Division I-A, going 2-10. A weakened Pokey returned for the final two games of the season and the team responded with an emotional 33-32 win at New Mexico State. The cancer would claim his life six weeks later.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)