September 28, 2002: With quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie on the shelf due to a broken ankle, Boise State keeps finding a way, defeating Utah State 63-38 in Bronco Stadium. Backup B.J. Rhode was filling in while Dinwiddie healed from an injury at Arkansas and threw for a career-high 376 yards and five touchdowns against USU. It was the first time the Broncos had scored 60 under coach Dan Hawkins (and it certainly wouldn’t be the last).
To say the yards came in bunches for Boise State would be an understatement—the Broncos netted 20 yards (and no first downs) in the third quarter and piled up 534 yards in the other three. But those other three quarters overwhelmed the Aggies. Standout receiver Jay Swillie had just two catches on the night—and they went for touchdowns of 67 and 57 yards. Billy Wingfield led Rhode’s parade with six receptions for 128 yards, including a 63-yard TD.
Rhode guided the Broncos to a 5-0 record as a starter before Dinwiddie triumphantly returned three weeks later, entering a nationally-televised game against Fresno State in the second quarter and throwing for 406 yards and five touchdowns in a 67-21 rout. Rhode had replaced Dinwiddie once before: on Thanksgiving weekend in 2001 after the then-sophomore had been suspended for one game. Rhode led Boise State to a 26-11 victory over Central Michigan in that one.
The 2002 season served as Boise State’s “Prove It” year after missing out on a bowl game in 2001 despite an 8-4 record, and Dinwiddie and senior running back Brock Forsey were the anchors. The Broncos came through with their first Top 25 ranking, a 12-1 record and their first victory ever over a BCS program (34-16 over Iowa State in the Humanitarian Bowl). They finished the season with an 11-game winning streak and rankings of No. 12 in the Coaches Poll and No. 15 in the AP Poll.
(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.)