This Day In Sports: The win Koetter made sure he commemorated

November 7, 1998, 25 years ago today: Boise State clinches its first winning season as a Division I-A school with a wild 55-51 victory at New Mexico State. The back-and-forth track meet saw Broncos quarterbacks Nate Sparks and Bart Hendricks throw for over 200 yards each. (Coach Dirk Koetter had his own two-quarterback system back then, employing Sparks, a senior, and Hendricks, a sophomore.) It was an emotional moment for Boise State seniors who two years earlier had endured a 2-10 season and the death of coach Pokey Allen.

Hendricks started the game and threw the Broncos’ first touchdown pass, a three-yarder to Rodney Smith. Hendricks was 16-of-30 for 228 yards, but Boise State fell behind by 17 points in the second quarter and still trailed 24-14 at the half. Koetter inserted Sparks, and the sparks flew. He threw four second-half TD passes, three of them in the fourth quarter, and the last one a 38-yarder to running back (and future NFL safety) Shaunard Harts with 49 seconds left in the game. Koetter, in his first year as head coach, hailed it as a milestone to remember. No one anticipated the amazing story that would begin to unfold the following season.

In 1999, Sparks had graduated and it was Hendricks all the way for Boise State. And after a sluggish 4-3 start, Koetter turned Hendricks loose for a rivalry game against Nevada on the blue turf in late October. The Broncos ripped the Pack 52-17 and would win their remaining six games of the season, including the 1999 Humanitarian Bowl. That was the beginning of Boise State’s Golden Era. There is some debate as to when it ended (maybe 2019, the Broncos’ last Mountain West championship year?).

The Broncos have not had a losing season since they clinched the landmark one that night in Las Cruces. So what a coincidence that this item runs today. Boise State is in danger of seeing its streak of 25 straight winning seasons, the longest in the nation, come to an end before the year is out. The Broncos need to either win out to clinch a winning campaign—or take two of their last three regular season games to become bowl-eligible, and then win the bowl game to finish 7-6. The transfer of wide receiver Eric McAlister certainly doesn’t help.

(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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