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September 14, 2010

Boise St.-Wyoming Preview

(AP) -- Without playing a game last weekend, Boise State was forced to encounter questions about its status as one of the nation's top teams.

The third-ranked Broncos would rather submit their answers on the field.

Returning to action for the first time since its stirring opening-night triumph, Boise State will put a 15-game winning streak on the line Saturday night at Wyoming as it looks to send a message to voters and a future conference opponent.

The Broncos (1-0) received eight first-place votes in the AP poll after their 33-30 come-from-behind victory over then-No. 10 Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., on Sept. 6, seemingly validating their presence in the BCS title conversation.

But the perspective changed after the Hokies lost to Championship Subdivision opponent James Madison last Saturday. While Boise State held steady behind Alabama and Ohio State in the rankings, it lost all but one first-place vote.

"For all that stuff, we just need to play more football," coach Chris Petersen said. "People will know what they have, whether this is really a good team."

It's hard to describe the Broncos any other way after they capped a 14-0 season with a Fiesta Bowl win over TCU on Jan. 4.

They picked up right where they left off against Virginia Tech, with star quarterback Kellen Moore throwing for 215 yards and three touchdowns - including the game-winner to Austin Pettis with 1:09 left.

The left-handed junior, gaining some early Heisman Trophy buzz, said his team isn't worried about whether it is a national title contender at this point.

"I just don't think you can worry about all of that right now," Moore said. "We still need to play like we've got a chip on our shoulder. We still need to have that edge ... and the feeling like we're never going to satisfy everyone until we reach our goals at the end of the season."

Boise State faces few potential obstacles once it begins its WAC slate, having won 64 of its last 66 in conference play.

But the next two games - at Wyoming (1-1) and at home against No. 25 Oregon State - have a greater chance of tripping up the Broncos, who will regularly face the Cowboys after moving to the Mountain West Conference next season.

Laramie's high elevation causes problems for many opponents, and Boise State struggled to claim a 17-10 win in its most recent visit Sept. 16, 2006. Wyoming also challenged the Broncos in Boise before losing 24-14 a year later.

The Cowboys, however, have been dealing with more than football since the Sept. 6 death of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse in a car accident. They played on at Texas last Saturday, losing 34-7 to the sixth-ranked Longhorns.

"It was a very difficult week," coach Dave Christensen said, "and they came out ... and gave a tremendous effort."

Wyoming was having problems on the field before the tragedy. Although quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns Sept. 4 against Southern Utah, the Cowboys were outgained by their Championship Subdivision opponent in a 28-20 win.

They face a far bigger challenge against Boise State's prolific attack, which retained most of its weapons after ranking 10th nationally in total offense last year. Moore threw for 3,536 yards and 39 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

The Broncos, however, were a bit sloppy after seizing a 17-0 lead against Virginia Tech, losing two fumbles and falling behind twice before the late comeback. They also had 11 penalties for 105 yards.

"We know how much was at stake for us, so it was kind of like a bowl game," Pettis said. "But we've still got 11, 12 games to go. There's a lot we need to work on, too, because there was a lot of mistakes we made. We can't afford any slip-ups, especially after setting ourselves up like this."



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