It was supposed to be a festive environment. The marching band could be heard romping around the Boise State neighborhood all afternoon. The Broncos had just earned a No. 5 ranking. They faced a Bowl Subdivision opponent in UC Davis, who they promptly beat 34-16. But, it rained on Homecoming.
After the game, I sat searching for reasons why the now No. 6 Broncos seemed to be failing while never trailing the Aggies.
Looking at the stats, it seems like a typical Bronco win. They stopped the run. Kellen Moore was efficient, for the most part. He threw some passes you expect him not to. See, Moore is so good, we get riled when he throws one incompletion. Writing 'interception' in my notebook after Moore's name felt like defaming and idol. He usually doesn't make mistakes, but he had issues against the Aggies. He was 22-for-31 passing, for 285 yards and three scores, but he and Thomas Byrd repeated their woes on the exchange. Moore said a few times the ball slipped out of his hand, but it wasn't an excuse.
As writers we are charged with finding the why in the story, not just the who and what. I think one of those reasons contributing to the strange feel in the stadium should be smacking the fan base in the face.
When I heard the attendance mark of 32,497 announced in the third quarter I thought it was a lie. The student section never did sell out. Thousands of empty seats scattered the soaked stadium. Only once in the entire game did I hear that raucous "BOISE STATE" cheer synonymous with the typical intimidation delivered by the Bronco faithful and it didn't last.
Two instances in the fourth quarter actually emitted boos from the crowd, struggling with nasty conditions and the fact that their Broncos were not performing to the outlandish standards they require of them.
The stadium was at least half empty as regulation ticked away and the Broncos punched in that last score, for style points.
When the 2009 season opened Bronco Stadium against Oregon, I had never been so amazed by a local crowd. Coach Chris Petersen praised that crowd, tipped his hat to it. That crowd was loud, multi-colored and a little mad.
This crowd Saturday sat on its hands.
The term 'fair-weather fans' stems from a condition in sports fanaticism, in which winning teams draw massive crowds, sell out stadiums and set attendance records, but in time-lengths of losing, those crowds fail to show their colors, fail to attend, or worse, attend and boo.
My question is this: How can a Bronco fan boo an undefeated team, slugging it out in a rain-lashed struggle?
In this case, the weather was far from fair, prognosticated last Monday by Petersen, who laughed off the heat and said it would be snowing by the weekend.
The fans failed the team against UC Davis. They walked out. Petersen begged Bronco Nation to bring that same pomp from the Oregon game to every contest. He said that alone would make his team hard to beat.
I don't think the team got complacent. The Aggies played a solid game in tough conditions. No, the team never overlooked UC Davis, but the fans sure did. I did. We all expected a blowout and when it didn't happen we were left wincing at a drop in the polls.
Are we all not partially to blame? I asked the players questions about the polls and high expectations. They all gave the same answers, no, no, no. But we all asked and asked. I am complicit.
I've never seen a win feel more like a loss.
I know, for certain, the Broncos need their fans to act like they did versus Oregon, not Davis. They need fans for all weathers, for all vicious conditions likely to ensue. They need you.