November 21, 1998: Bronco Stadium’s first crowd of 30,000-plus gathers for the 28th meeting between Boise State and Idaho, and it stays until the end—and beyond. The game see-sawed throughout. The Broncos held a modest 7-6 halftime lead, and it was 14-14 at the end of three quarters before both teams exploded in the fourth. Boise State’s Eron Hurley busted off a 75-yard touchdown run. Then the Vandals scored consecutive TDs on long throws by quarterback John Welsh to take a 28-21 lead. The Broncos knotted it 28-28 on a touchdown pass from Bart Hendricks to Jim Brekke with 6½ minutes left.
The wild offensive affair went into overtime, where both teams scored touchdowns. After Idaho’s TD, Vandals coach Chris Tormey called timeout and then rushed his offense back on the field for an all-or-nothing two point conversion before the Broncos knew what hit them. Joel Thomas took a swing pass from Welsh after a quick snap and scampered into the left corner of the end zone, giving Idaho a 36-35 win and the Big West championship. The Vandals would return to the blue turf to beat Southern Miss 42-35 the following month in the Humanitarian Bowl.
The stat sheet got a workout in this game. Hurley, a one-time Boise State wrestler, rushed for 254 yards, still the second-most in school history behind Cedric Minter’s 261 versus Northern Michigan in 1978. Hendricks was efficient, throwing for 268 yards with two TDs against no interceptions on 15-of-23 passing. Welsh was 20-of-39 and threw two picks, but he also tossed two touchdowns and totaled 326 yards. And Thomas, forever a thorn in the Broncos’ side, rushed for 121 yards and two scores.
It would be the Vandals’ last win in the rivalry, as the Boise State went on to match Idaho’s 12-game winning streak in the series from 1982-93 with one of their own. It started with a 45-14 win in 1999 in Pullman and continued through the final game between the two teams in 2010. Following the 1998 loss to the Vandals, the Broncos would go on to win their next 47 conference games on the blue turf, with the streak ending (coincidentally) in a 36-35 loss to TCU in 2011.
(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.)