Bronco Blitz: Year of the road trip

With three away games within driving distance from Bronco Stadium, Boise State fans plan to travel more this season

ccripe@idahostatesman.comAugust 31, 2013 

Hitting the open road: Dan Lema and Jolene Goicoechea Lema of Meridian might hit three of Boise State’s away games this year, two for sure. With three games within 507 miles of Bronco Stadium, they won't be the only ones. “Our home schedule is a little iffy,” Jolene Lema said. “That gives people the opportunity to go see some of the better teams in the conference, and our team against them.”

KATHERINE JONES — kjones@idahostatesman.com

  • Tonight’s game sets the tone ... for the fans

    For the Boise State Broncos and their fans, the Saturday night showdown with the Washington Huskies is more than just one game.

    It’s a tone-setter.

    Win, and the Broncos’ possibilities become boundless again.

    Lose, and some of the negativity that arose last season could return.

    The Broncos benefited from the surge in excitement and publicity that comes with winning a high-profile opener in 2009, 2010 and 2011. All of the teams they beat were heavily criticized afterward — and the Broncos endured that treatment last year with the loss to Michigan State.

    “Always around here, we’re on to the next thing after we play a game,” Boise State senior quarterback Joe Southwick said. “But yeah, there’s something to starting off on the right foot. You definitely want to start off with a win.”

    The aftereffects extend to the athletic department’s bottom line. Season-ticket sales have sagged this year, and a season-opening loss could lead to empty spaces in Bronco Stadium for the home opener Sept. 7 against Tennessee-Martin and Mountain West opener Sept. 13 against Air Force.

    A win could fire up the fan base and fill many of those seats.

    Two years ago, after beating Georgia, the Broncos attracted their third-largest crowd of the season in the home opener against Tulsa.

    Last year, after losing to Michigan State, they drew their second-worst crowd for Miami (Ohio). The only smaller crowd also followed a loss.

    BSU's high-profile openers

    2009: No. 14 Boise State 19, No. 16 Oregon 8

    2010: No. 3 Boise State 33, No. 7 Virginia Tech 30

    2011: No. 5 Boise State 35, No. 19 Georgia 21

    2012: No. 13 Michigan State 17, No. 24 Boise State 13

    — Chadd Cripe
  • BSU fans logging the miles

    Here are the driving distances from Bronco Stadium to the six stadiums Boise State will visit this year, based on the preferred route at mapquest.com:

    Husky Stadium (Seattle): 507 miles

    Bulldog Stadium (Fresno, Calif.): 722

    Romney Stadium (Logan, Utah): 294

    LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo, Utah): 380

    Hughes Stadium (Fort Collins, Colo.): 748

    Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego): 988

    Number of road games played within 507 miles of Bronco Stadium:

    2013: 3 (Washington, Utah State, BYU)

    2012: 1 (Nevada)

    2011: 0

    2010: 2 (Idaho, Nevada)

    2009: 1 (Utah State)

    2008: 3 (Oregon, Idaho, Nevada)

— Boise State football season-ticket holder Bob Drozda usually hosts a watch party at his Boise home when the Broncos play on the road.

“I’ll only be here for two games this year,” he said.

That’s because Drozda is among many fans who are taking advantage of a quirk in the Broncos’ 2013 schedule. All six road games will be played within 1,000 miles of Bronco Stadium, and five of those opponents participated in bowls last season.

Boise State sold out its ticket allotment for Saturday’s season opener at Washington (3,100 tickets), and October games at Utah State (1,500) and BYU (1,500). Recent history shows many more fans will acquire tickets through other outlets.

Considering this is one of the most difficult road schedules the Broncos have faced, coach Chris Petersen says the support will be “extremely important.”

“We hear the fans,” he said. “I don’t care how big (the crowd). All the way back to Virginia Tech (in 2010 outside Washington, D.C.). Virginia Tech had that awesome turnout there. The fans we had back there, boy, we heard them. It was great.

“That’s what’s important about being in the Mountain West and our schedule, that (the fans) can go to these games.”

Three of the Broncos’ first four road games this season will be played within 507 miles of Bronco Stadium. Only four of the past 24 road games have been played that close to home.

This also is the first time since 2008 that the Broncos don’t play a game at least two time zones away.

The attractive road schedule coincides with a ho-hum home schedule that includes just two bowl teams.

Neil Price of Meridian, in fact, gave up his season tickets for this year to use the money for road trips. He had to cancel his trip to Seattle, but he plans to attend games at Utah State and BYU, and possibly San Diego State.

“I think they’re going to be exciting games,” Price said.

Fan travel has increased with Bronco Nation since the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The blue-and-orange faithful have flocked to bowl games and season openers, in particular, since.

This year, there are more accessible and attractive road games than usual in the middle of the season.

Drozda plans to go to the Washington, Fresno State, Utah State and BYU games. It could be November before Boise State plays a game without him in the stands.

“They’re different experiences going to another team’s stadium and interacting with those fans,” he said. “I’m one of those that I’ve never had a problem (with opposing fans).”

Lema and her husband, Dan, will attend the Washington and San Diego State games, and possibly the Fresno State game. They try to hit the season opener every year.

She remembers the concrete grandstands shaking beneath her feet when the Broncos played Virginia Tech at FedExField.

“Those are experiences you don’t get at Boise State,” she said.

Lema, a Boise State graduate, has been one of the better-traveled Broncos fans in recent years. She kept her season tickets while living in Minnesota for four years — traveling to Boise about three times per season for home games and attending a couple of games per season on the road.

“I’ve never been an NFL fan,” she said. “I’ve always been a collegiate fan. I like to watch the kids, as I call them, really playing with heart.”

Mike Kirkmire of Meridian plans to attend at least the Washington and BYU games this year. He has been attending road games since 2005 (Oregon State), usually once a year.

“It’s an opportunity to see Boise State play outside their environment,” he said. “You can watch them play outside their environment (on TV), but you can’t see them play. You can’t get that feeling, I guess, of going into hostile territory.”

Perhaps for that reason, the relationship between players and fans is different on the road. The players go out of their way to high-five as many fans as they can after the games to thank them for their commitment.

“It feels good,” senior left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said of the support. “We traveled (well) to Michigan State last year. We traveled to Georgia. That’s just the whole nation rallying behind us.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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