This Day In Sports: This time it’s the Bengals’ turn

September 19, 1981: Idaho State comes to Bronco Stadium to face defending Division I-AA national champion Boise State and stuns the Broncos, 21-10. The Bengals surprised Boise State with quarterback draws from rifle-armed but slow-footed quarterback Mike Machurek (whose backup was a guy named Dirk Koetter). ISU had shown marked improvement in 1980 under new coach Dave Kragthorpe after an 0-11 season in 1979 and had opened with a 34-10 win over Eastern Washington, but it was the takedown of the Broncos that got everybody’s attention.

The Bengals would lose only once more during the season and finished with a Big Sky record of 6-1. The Broncos did not fall again in conference play and also had a 6-1 mark, but the Big Sky didn’t recognize ties for the league title at the time, and Idaho State was the outright champion via the tiebreaker. Both teams went to the playoffs and were victorious in their openers—ISU 51-0 at home over Rhode Island and Boise State 19-7 at Jackson State.

In the semifinals, Idaho State routed South Carolina State 41-12 while the Broncos were facing Eastern Kentucky—the same team they had defeated the year before in the Division I-AA national championship game—in Bronco Stadium. A Boise State win would have pitted the in-state rivals against each other for the I-AA crown the following week in Wichita Falls, TX, but the Colonels won on the then-green turf 23-17. Idaho State then succeeded the Broncos as national champions by beating EKU 34-23.

It’s been tough sleddin’ since then for Idaho State. The Bengals made the playoffs again in 1983, losing to Nevada 27-20 in the first round. Incredibly, they have not been back since. It’s looking like the postseason drought will hit 40 years, as ISU is off to an 0-3 start this season following a 31-16 loss to Central Arkansas Saturday in the home opener at Holt Arena. In the four decades since the 1981 championship, the Bengals have had just eight winning seasons, only four of which reached eight victories.

(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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