This Day In Sports: Boise State’s season of healing

November 22, 1997, 25 years ago today: Boise State, which three years earlier had snapped Idaho’s 12-game winning streak in the bitter rivalry, wins in the Kibbie Dome for the first time since 1981 with a 30-23 victory in the first overtime game in the history of the Broncos-Vandals series. Redshirt freshman quarterback Bart Hendricks had his first 300-yard game, throwing for 378, the final five coming on the winning touchdown pass to Eron Hurley in OT.

The Broncos had to rally from a 17-point deficit in the second half to get it to overtime. On the first possession of the second half, Boise State marched 79 yards to the Idaho one-yard line, only to have Gavin Reed fumble. Dennis Gibbs returned it 99 yards for a TD, and the Vandals led 23-6. But the Broncos would roll up 261 yards in the third quarter alone, sandwiching two Hendricks-to-Rodney Smith touchdown passes around a Todd Belcastro field goal to tie the game 23-23. The fourth quarter was scoreless ahead of Hendrick’s and Hurley’s heroics.

It would be the final game of Houston Nutt’s one-year stay at Boise State. Less than three weeks later he was off to Arkansas in the middle of the night. Nutt is not historically looped into the Dirk Koetter-Dan Hawkins-Chris Petersen-Bryan Harsin-Andy Avalos brotherhood that has won 267 games since 1998. But I maintain that Nutt came along at the right time.

He took over a team whose spirit had been broken the season before, going 2-12 in its first season in Division I-A while its coach, Pokey Allen, was away getting cancer treatment. The Broncos then had to endure Allen’s death at the end of the year. The 1997 campaign ended at 4-7 and featured humiliating losses to Cal State Northridge and Washington State. But there were also close calls at Wisconsin and at home versus Louisiana Tech, then a mid-major power. Nutt pulled the Broncos together, and they took a major step forward. That last one in Moscow was a big one.

(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.)

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