BOISE, Idaho (AP) — What a strange, emotional and unusual week it’s been around the Boise State football complex. First there was the shock, anguish and soul-searching after the Broncos’ stunning loss to Nevada dashed a season fueled on the hopes and chances of playing for a national title. Then came the need for coaches and teammates to rally behind kicker Kyle Brotzman, who became Public Enemy No. 1 among an angry wing of Bronco Nation after he botched two late field goals in the 34-31 overtime loss. Now there is the wonder and speculation about whether the Broncos, who for nearly two years haven’t had to think about bouncing back after defeat, will respond after one of the most painful setbacks in school history. For the No. 9 Broncos, Saturday’s season finale against Utah State may not have all the luster it once did. But there’s still plenty on the line for Boise State, and players insist they’ve gotten over the bitter taste of defeat. “I just want to get out there and make up for what we did last week,” said safety Jeron Johnson, one of 18 seniors to be honored Saturday. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We know we had an opportunity at something, and we know what we’ve lost. But we’ve got to come back and play the way we’ve played all year.” Ending the season with a win would give the Broncos (10-1, 6-1 Western Athletic Conference) a share of the conference title, giving the Broncos a third straight WAC championship and putting a final stamp on their decade of dominance. Since joining the WAC 10 years ago, the Broncos have won seven titles, posted six unbeaten seasons in conference play, an overall record of 74-5 and never lost at home to a conference foe. Also riding on the outcome is an invitation to the Las Vegas Bowl and a showdown with No. 21 Utah. But a road trip to Sin City is clearly a consolation prize for a Boise State team that was primed for a glitzier postseason stage before last Friday’s second-half meltdown against the Wolfpack. Coach Chris Petersen called the defeat – just his fifth in five years at Boise State – the most crushing of his coaching career. But he also emphasized the need to learn from defeat, to fix the mistakes and avoid getting caught up in the emotional doldrums and what-if scenarios. It’s not a message he’s had to deliver often to a team that had won 24 straight games over the last two years. “We had a chance at one of those special seasons that we’ve been able to get done in the past,” said Petersen. “People have kind of come to think that’s what we do around here.” The Aggies are also looking to rebound and close out their season on a positive note. They’ve just had more time to think about it. Utah State (4-7, 2-5) lost to Idaho 28-6 in their final home game two weeks ago. The bye week gave players extra time to watch tape of the Nevada game and find a way to break a nine-game losing streak against Boise State. “We didn’t do a lot of physical stuff,” said offensive lineman Spencer Johnson. “But we did a lot of mental stuff, just trying to figure out what we’re going to do against their defense.” The Broncos have ranked among the nation’s best defenses in points and yards allowed all season. But in the second half last week, they failed to stop Nevada’s potent running game or hold quarterback Colin Kaepernick in check during the Wolfpack’s rally from a 24-7 deficit. Like Kaepernick, Aggie quarterback Diondre Borel is a dual threat, dangerous with his arm and his ability to elude pass rushers and turn losses into big gains. Borel, the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards for a quarterback, has struggled at times this season, bedeviled more than anything by a rash of injuries that have left him without the Aggies’ top two tailbacks and two best receivers all or most of the season. The senior who has started 32 straight games has thrown for 2,067 yards and eight touchdowns this season, and has six more rushing touchdowns and 281 total yards on the ground. At times he’s been terrific, as he was in completing 10 of 13 for 192 yards and a touchdown in a 31-16 romp over BYU. But against Idaho, he was just 14 of 35 for 103 yards in his final home game. Inconsistencies aside, Petersen is wary of Borel’s ability to give defenders headaches and take over a game. “The best athlete in the whole league might be at their quarterback position, in terms of being able to make plays and create,” Petersen said. “They’re going to come in here fighting hard. So if we think we’re going to feel sorry for ourselves and not play our best and get something done, we’re going to be sadly mistaken.”
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