BOISE, Idaho — Whatever becomes of Boise State's final season in the Mountain West, a brief tenure that may, unbelievably, end without an outright conference title, the short stint in the league has robbed the Broncos of one thing that may never come back — their home invincibility.
The signature blue turf at Bronco Stadium was the ultimate security blanket. A most unwelcome mat for foes, who left bruised, battered and mostly blown out.
Sure, the stadium wasn't a college football cathedral and it lacked for seats and amenities, but it was a place no opponent wanted to step foot in. Not if they wanted a victory.
In 10 seasons in the Western Athletic Conference, the Broncos never lost a league home game, reeling off 40 consecutive home wins in conference play. Between 2000 and 2010, the Broncos lost just twice on their carpet — both to BCS-conference teams (Washington State in 2001 and Boston College in the then-MPC Computers Bowl in 2005).
But something changed when the Broncos switched leagues. The new foes in the Mountain West weren't awed by Bronco Stadium — or the team inside it. They weren't scared off by the blue turf — and even found a way to ban the Broncos from wearing the all-blue home jerseys that had become their signature.
And, in their first visit to the blue, TCU ended the Broncos' 35-game home winning streak. Some Boise first-graders had never seen a Boise State home loss.
But at least the Horned Frogs were headed to a BCS league and had a pedigree. A loss to them was understandable.
Saturday, San Diego State walked into Bronco Stadium and showed just how awed they are by the place. On the first play of the game, the Aztecs returned a kick 100 yards to quiet the home crowd. The Broncos' normally stout kickoff coverage unit left a seam and the Aztecs pounced.
Whatever BCS dreams the Bronco faithful entered the stadium with were quickly replaced with a sense of concern, of worry, of dread. Of another season being sunk by one loss.
San Diego State wasn't going away. The Aztecs, winners of four straight and soon-to-be rivals in the Big East, just kept coming and coming.
Boise State's 78-3 record at home — the best in the nation — didn't mean much.
The Broncos kept sputtering. An interception on the first play of the second half by quarterback Joe Southwick flipped the field and, outside of one late charge in the fourth quarter, the Broncos had no answers.
And then it was over. No last hurrah. No missed field goal at the end. No BCS. Maybe no conference title. Just a stadium emptying out, quietly. San Diego State chewed up the clock, then sung the fight song with their fans.
Beaten. Simply beaten. Beaten at home. A place where the Broncos never used to lose. Where they always found a way.
The aura is gone — and it's not coming back.
Distributed by MCT Information Services