November 2, 1968: In its inaugural season as a four-year program, Boise State plays its first home game against an NCAA school—in-state rival Idaho State, no less. A crowd of more than 10,000 filled old Bronco Stadium to watch Boise State stun the Bengals and future NFL standout Ed “The Flea” Bell, intercepting five passes and winning 27-20. Coach Tony Knap’s wide-open passing offense would gain fame in the early 1970s, but the Broncos were run-first in that initial season. They punished ISU with 132 rushing yards from Abe Brown and 111 from Larry Smith, the first of 19 times in school history Boise State has had two players with 100-yard games on the ground.
The conquest of Idaho State was the signature win of a debut season that saw Boise State go 8-2. It was also part of a seven-game winning streak to end the year after the Broncos started the new era 1-2. They’d face ISU at home again the next season while the Minidome (now Holt Arena) was being built in Pocatello, winning that game 35-27. Boise State spent one more season as an NAIA school in 1969 before joining the NCAA—and the Big Sky—in 1970. That coincided with the opening of the new Bronco Stadium, the 14,500-seat facility with green Astroturf.
Idaho State was solid in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but Boise State set the tone early in the series. The Broncos won 24-3 in the new Holt Arena in 1970 and returned there in 1971, sporting an 8-1 record. A win would give them their first Big Sky championship, but a fumble into the end zone on what would have been a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter helped the Bengals survive 21-17. It would be 10 years before ISU would beat Boise State again (during the Bengals’ 1981 Division I-AA national championship season).
Only once has Idaho State won back-to-back games over the Broncos: in 1986 and 1987 under coach Jim Koetter (Dirk’s dad). ISU was also victorious in 1992, helped by the infamous “Globe of Death” kickoff return, and in 1994, handing Boise State its only loss of the regular season on the way to the Division I-AA title game. And there you have it—we’ve touched on all six Bengals wins in the series. The Broncos lead it 25-6 (the teams last played in 2015).
(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.)