Memorable moments amid blowout victories are a Senior Day tradition for the Boise State football team.
And the players have noticed.
They chatted amongst themselves going into Saturdays 42-14 rout of Colorado State about former linebacker Derrell Acreys interception return for a touchdown on the first play of the 2010 senior game.
Tailback D.J. Harper and linebacker Tommy Smith joked about who might deliver this year.
I said I was going to get it, Smith said.
Harper looked at the Broncos play list for the opening series and figured the opportunity was his. The first play: a handoff out of the pistol, with the defense spread out to cover three wide receivers.
I just kind of told myself: All right, lets make something happen your last game on the blue, Harper said.
He took the handoff on the Broncos first offensive play, started up the middle, bounced to the right, avoided a diving tackler at the line of scrimmage and burst into the open field dashing 80 yards for a touchdown in his final game at Bronco Stadium.
The run tied for the third-longest in school history and was the defining moment of another Senior Day that was more celebration than competition. The Broncos led 35-0 at halftime and the 23-man senior class accounted for three TDs, 224 yards, one sack, two forced fumbles and an interception.
The Broncos (9-2, 6-1 Mountain West) won their senior game for the 14th straight year. On Harpers touchdown run, three of the offensive linemen and all three wide receivers were seniors.
We have guys who really care about this program, Harper said. We have seniors that care, that want to go out and do great things, especially in their last game on the blue. We really cherish that. And we have great teammates. Those underclassmen played their hearts out, too, and were able to help us do that.
Harper rushed 10 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. He also made three catches for 32 yards. He moved into fourth in Boise State history in career rushing touchdowns with 38 behind only Ian Johnson, Brock Forsey and Doug Martin, three of the programs biggest stars.
Harper drew the loudest cheers during the senior intros and was greeted by a dozen family members, including some from Arkansas who never had seen him play on the blue.
It was emotional, Harper said. Its kind of hard to put it into words. Obviously I teared up a little bit.
Harpers performance led perhaps the best offensive showing of the season for the Broncos starters, who scored TDs on six of their eight possessions. Junior quarterback Joe Southwick completed 17-of-20 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns without an interception or sack. Senior wide receiver Chris Potter scored on a 12-yard run, and redshirt freshman tight end Holden Huff made three catches for 59 yards and a TD backing up his breakout showing a week earlier at Hawaii.
The Broncos rushed for 269 yards overall and scored 40 points at home for the first time this season.
When you can run the ball, things get a lot easier, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. They were trying to stop the run. They were putting a lot of guys in there. But we were still finding some creases and Joe was really efficient. The combination of those two things makes for good offense.
The latest dominant defensive performance from the Broncos also had a strong senior flavor.
Boise State started seven seniors. Smith led the team with seven tackles and linebacker J.C. Percy was second with six. Smith and tackle Greg Grimes, who made his first start, combined on a sack. And cornerback Jamar Taylor made an interception. Sophomore defensive end Demarcus Lawrence added a sack, forced fumble and interception continuing his remarkable debut season.
Colorado State (3-8, 2-5) finished with 229 yards. The Rams were the eighth opponent in the past nine games that failed to score on offense in the first half.
Im ecstatic. This was the last chance we get to party on the blue together as a team, Smith said. I feel like we came out and executed really well.
The Broncos will need that type of performance Dec. 1 when they play for at least a share of the Mountain West title at Nevada.
Theyll practice Tuesday and Wednesday before scattering for Thanksgiving. Petersen expects the break to help, not distract, his team.
I think these guys can focus a lot quicker than we think they can, he said. Well have plenty of time. Well get some things done here. Were not going to just go through the motions. Were going to try to make some progress.
A win in Reno almost certainly would send the Broncos to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, possibly for a date with a ranked Pac-12 team.
Plus, theyd get the Mountain West title that eluded them last year.
We know we have a big challenge coming up in Reno, redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Ukwuachu said. We have to be the best weve ever been these next two weeks for us to end like we want to.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat