Editor's Note: Statesman reporter Greg Hahn, who covered the Fiesta Bowl on Monday, returned to Boise on a fan charter earlier today.
Bronco Nation felt a little hoarse this morning.
"Can't talk," croaked Boisean Rob Ackley.
It was still dark. Just a couple of short hours after the fiesta slowed down.
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He wasn't the only one.
"We're not as energetic as we were the other day," Lori Bowman said, trudging through security at the Phoenix airport.
All the fans on the two-night charter trip to the Fiesta Bowl were uncharacteristically quiet. Their face paint was wearing off. But their BSU gear was still crisp and clean — most wore freshly minted Fiesta Bowl clothes.
Best T-shirt: "Later Sooners."
The party may not have stopped at all. As late as 3 a.m., players and fans still gathered in the restaurant at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. They still soaked in the hot tub. They still partied in the rooms at the swanky resort that became BSU South on this New Year's weekend the Bronco Nation may never forget.
After a few long days of proving that Boise State belongs with the big boys — on the field, in the stadium parking lot, and in the world of major college bowl games — Bronco Nation was, as worthy Sooner opponents might say, plum tuckered out.
The folks had the trip of a lifetime. They welcomed the new year at a Tempe, Ariz. block party that had so many Bronco fans it seemed like it was thrown just for Boise.
They stayed in the team hotel, constantly showing players their support with a nonstop barrage of blue and orange. After the game, they greeted the team in the lobby — an electronic billboard in the hotel already proclaiming the Broncos Fiesta Bowl champs. High fives. Hugs and pictures. Drinks in the bar.
Seventh-grader Matt Young commemorated it with a picture — with defensive standout Korey Hall.
Then the hours flew by, and soon the fans were flying home. When hosts of the charter flight read off some raffle prize winners on the plane, the folks who had shouted "Boise" and "State" countless times for the past three days could barely muster a "woo."
But could they sum it all up in one word?
Gene Erhart tried. He partied hard on New Year's night. Wore a blue wig to the game. He could barely even talk this morning.
"Speechless," he said. "No words."
"The Nation," as coach Chris Petersen likes to say, was exhausted.
But the Nation was happy.