LANDOVER, Md. (AP) For the gatecrashers in blue, this was the Respect Bowl. A mini-national championship game, if you will, because they certainly weren't going to be playing in the real one in January if they didn't win this one on Labor Day.
So it's little wonder Kellen Moore confessed to being a little nervous when he trotted onto the field with Boise State trailing by four with 1:47 to play Monday night. The Broncos aren't used to trailing anyone, and they're certainly not used to having to resort to their two-minute offense to win a game.
Moore passed the test with time to spare, hitting Austin Pettis for a 13-yard touchdown with 1:09 remaining to give No. 3 Boise State a 33-30 win over No. 10 Virginia Tech. Like it or not, the Broncos look as if they're here to stay when it comes to the BCS title hunt; they'll most certainly be favored in every game on their schedule from here on out.
"You should gain a little respect," Moore said, "beating Virginia Tech out here."
In what was essentially a road atmosphere against another team with national championship ambitions, the Broncos (1-0) blew a 17-0 first-quarter lead in a mistake-filled game that combined the natural jitters of the big stage with the natural choppiness that comes in the season opener. Still, it was compelling viewing back and forth, back and forth they went amid two blocked punts, 18 penalties, timely throws and incredible runs and catches.
"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."
Coach Chris Petersen and his players kept saying the right things, that the victory only means that they're 1-0 and that it means little if they don't keep winning. And they're right: Their next game at Wyoming in two weeks is the next must-win, and of course they'll have to run the table in the Western Athletic Conference if they're to become the first team from a league without an automatic BCS bid to play for a national championship.
"We've just got a long, tough, hard season," said Peterson, who improved to 50-4 at Boise State, "and the bull's-eye will continue to grow. And it's just going to be one game at a time."
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech (0-1) might learn again all too painfully how a September defeat can taint a season. The Hokies have lost their opener three years in a row, although their tougher Atlantic Coast Conference schedule doesn't completely eliminate them from the national title picture.
"It's a frustrating loss knowing that we haven't been successful in the first game all these seasons," said Tyrod Taylor, who passed for 186 yards and two TDs. "But I think we have a good team to go out there and bounce back from this. I really believe that we can bounce back."