EUGENE, Ore. - On one wild afternoon at Autzen Stadium, the Boise State football team emerged from the shadows of one wild night in Arizona.
The Broncos did the almost unthinkable - waltzing into one of the nation's most intimidating venues, smacking the No. 17 Oregon Ducks for three quarters and hanging on for dear life in the fourth for a landmark 37-32 victory.
It was the Broncos' first road win against a Bowl Championship Series-conference team (they were 0-13). It was the first win by a nonconference visitor to Autzen in four years and the first win by a non-BCS visitor in 14 years.
And perhaps it's the beginning of the Broncos' third serious quest for a BCS bowl berth in five years. They came up short in 2004, but reached the Fiesta Bowl in 2006 - and delivered that hallowed victory over Oklahoma, the one that overshadowed whatever the Broncos did for the past year and a half.
"This is the team now," senior tailback Ian Johnson said. "We've forgotten about that Oklahoma win. "That Fiesta Bowl got a lot of guys here, but once you get here you've got to make something else, make something part of your legacy. And these guys do feel like they've done something great at Boise State now."
It's an accomplishment that has been painfully elusive in recent years - with blowouts at Arkansas and Georgia, two squeakers at Oregon State and a sloppy loss at Washington in the past six seasons - and seemed to many out of reach this year.
The Ducks (3-1), after all, were 10-point favorites.
The Broncos (3-0) were unfazed - scoring 24 unanswered points in the second quarter and taking a 37-13 lead late in the third.
The Ducks got perilously close in the fourth quarter - the Broncos sealed the win by recovering an onside kick - but couldn't derail a team that is heavily relying on freshmen and sophomores, players who didn't participate in the Fiesta Bowl.
"It's not even just about us," said freshman quarterback Kellen Moore, who passed for 386 yards and three touchdowns. "It's about all the guys that played before us and sort of keeping this Bronco tradition going and always keeping it and making it progress."
The Broncos should crack the Top 25 on Sunday and could spend the next two months chasing whoever wins the Mountain West - BYU, Utah and TCU are undefeated - for a BCS spot.
The Broncos could argue that their defeat of the Ducks is the best win by any non-BCS team this year because it came on the road against a perennial Top 25 team.
"I think we're really good," Moore said, "but you've sort of got to take it week to week."
Moore dissected the vaunted Ducks secondary - with help from some nifty play calling by offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin - in a dominant second quarter.
Moore tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Tommy Gallarda to capitalize on a 3-yard punt by the Ducks for a 10-6 lead. He hit junior wide receiver Jeremy Childs on a 41-yard pass to set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Johnson to make it 17-6. And he faked a fumbled snap on a fourth-and-1, 34-yard pass play to freshman tight end Kyle Efaw to set up another score for a 24-6 halftime lead.
The Broncos baffled the Ducks with an offense full of shifts, motions and misdirection - elements that were largely missing from the no-huddle attack Moore directed in the first two games.
"This offense is pretty much unlimited," Moore said. "We can do whatever we want."
Moore's first interception allowed Oregon to cut into the lead early in the third, but he answered with a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Vinny Perretta. Kyle Brotzman added a pair of field goals for a 37-13 lead with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We built a lead, which we kind of knew we'd have to do because they're so explosive and can change momentum and the crowd gets into it," coach Chris Petersen said. "The game kind of went like we'd hoped."
The Broncos were helped by the Ducks' deteriorating quarterback situation. They started their third-stringer, sophomore Jeremiah Masoli, but he was knocked out with a concussion.
Run specialist Chris Harper, a true freshman, took over. The Ducks ran the ball successfully for a while, but couldn't finish drives. Harper was intercepted on two of his three throws, including a pick by junior cornerback Kyle Wilson at the Boise State 1-yard line late in the first half.
"We knew (the Broncos) wanted to be like David to our Goliath, and they wanted to take us down with the slingshot, and we let that happen," Harper said. "They didn't make it happen. We let it happen."
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti finally inserted his quarterback of last resort, true freshman Darron Thomas, at the end of the third quarter. He passed for 210 yards and three touchdowns with one interception - all in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos, who had prepared all week for a run-oriented offense, were caught off-guard by the change.
"Obviously we didn't adjust too well to that," Petersen said. " You get a team like this with that much talent, there are momentum swings, and you just hope it doesn't swing too much that we can't answer back."
Thomas rallied the Oregon to within 37-32 with 2:07 left, but the Ducks couldn't grab the onside kick.
The Broncos breathed a quick sigh of relief, celebrated modestly and pledged to get better.
"If we were a little bit more poised and mature, we wouldn't have let them back into it," Petersen said. " We gave them too many easy things."
So while beating the Ducks will go down as one of the greatest days in Boise State football history, the players consider it merely a steppingstone.
Said Johnson: "It just gives everyone on the team a glimpse of, 'Hey, if we do get these things together, how good can we be? How great can we be?' "
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