Reporting from Boise, Idaho
It wasn't a perfect effort, something you'd enter in a football-playing contest, but Boise State did what it had to do Saturday night.
It won, against a ranked opponent from a major conference, for the second time in three weeks — on national television.
Boise State's 37-24 victory over Oregon State on the Bronco Stadium blue turf was the bookend piece to Labor Day's 33-30 victory over Virginia Tech.
Now, though, there might be nothing left to prove.
All the equity Boise State (3-0) has built up to now may get eaten away by playing the rest of its schedule.
The third-ranked Broncos are bucking history in trying to become the first team from outside the six-conference power structure to play in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Boise State is also up against a coaches' poll stacked with voters from power conferences, television analysts who played for traditional powers and the ridiculous notion that a team from the Western Athletic Conference should be automatically disqualified.
How important, in two months, will Saturday's victory still be?
Will it still resonate?
Can Boise State move off its current No. 3 tree stump and get to the top, or has it met the impenetrable bubble?
No one with eyes can deny this is a special team, even if Boise State's special teams were not on their game Saturday.
The Broncos made the game closer than it should have been. They allowed Oregon State jitterbug Jacquizz Rodgers to wriggle for 54 yards on a first-quarter punt return.
Then, late in the third, in position to put the game away, Titus Young fumbled a punt that led to an Oregon State touchdown, which led to the score becoming 31-24. Boise State settled the issue with two late Kyle Brotzman field goals.
Some truths, even in football's partisan prism, are self-evident.
The victory over Oregon State was Boise State's 57th consecutive regular-season win at home.
The Beavers, for the record, are a quality opponent — you could say dam good. They are the only team to have finished third or better in the Pac-10 each of the last three years. Only Civil War losses to Oregon the last two seasons denied Oregon State two Rose Bowl appearances.
So it means something that Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore completed 19 of 27 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. And that Doug Martin rushed for 138 yards and Young finished with 136 yards receiving.
This was also a game against an opponent from Oregon that didn't end with a punch and postgame brawl.
Also true is this: It's going to be a long, grueling and exciting season for Boise State fans.
Hours before the game, Nick Veldhouse was hosting his usual tailgate party in parking lot stall No. 85.
Tri-tip sandwiches and cold beverages were enjoyed and, for a while, even the game between Arkansas and No. 1 Alabama.
"Go Hogs!" screamed the partygoer manning the radio broadcast of the Southeastern Conference game in Fayetteville, Ark.
Everyone in the parking lot knew an Alabama loss would give Boise State a chance to crawl a heartbeat closer to the top.
No. 10 Arkansas, though, squandered a 20-7 lead and lost to the defending national champions.
Everyone in the parking lot knew there are going to be Saturdays like this as long as their beloved Broncos keep winning.
Boise State, in many ways, does not control its fate: Its hopes are inextricably tied to results being announced in stadiums across the country.
UCLA defeating Texas helped because it likely knocked the Longhorns out of national title contention.
The "Nevada is leading BYU" score, later conveyed by the public address announcer, drew a rousing response. Nevada ended up winning, and Boise State needs Nevada to keep winning in hopes of setting up a collision-course meeting in Reno in November.
Every little bit counts:
•Virginia Tech winning at Boston College, 19-0, proved the Hokies may yet recover from that loss to James Madison.
•Oklahoma struggling to a 31-29 victory at Cincinnati meant the Sooners, if they keep winning, may have to account for an opening close call against Utah State, a WAC member, and the close win at Cincinnati, a team WAC member Fresno State handled easily.
Really, though, there's little Boise State can do now except win and wait. The next seven games are against New Mexico State, Toledo, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii, Idaho and Fresno State.
But hey, Toledo beat Purdue on Saturday.
Like we said, every little bit helps.