WALLA WALLA - When Kyle Brotzman's 26-yard field goal attempt sliced right of the goal post by the narrowest of margins on a cold November night in Reno, millions of dollars followed its errant trajectory.
The missed kick, on the final play of the fourth quarter, cost Boise State a victory over the University of Nevada and, ultimately, a ticket to the Rose Bowl. The Wolfpack won the game 34-31 in overtime - after yet another Brotzman missed field goal, this one just left from 29 yards out - and handed Boise State its only defeat of the regular season.
So, instead of squaring off against Big Ten Conference champion and No. 5-ranked Wisconsin Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif., the Broncos have accepted an invitation to the MAACO Bowl Dec. 22 in Las Vegas where they will meet No. 19 Utah, runner-up to Texas Christian in the final Mountain West Conference standings.
Undefeated Texas Christian, which replaced Boise State as the No. 3-ranked team in the final BCS standings, gets the Rose Bowl nod.
For the record, this year's Rose Bowl is a cool $17 million. By comparison, the MAACO Bowl - also known as the Las Vegas Bowl - payout is a paltry $1 million.
But also for the record, Broncos coach Chris Petersen isn't about to disparage either the MAACO Bowl or the city of Las Vegas. And certainly not the University of Utah, considering Boise State will be joining the Utes in the Mountain West beginning next season.
"Good karma," Petersen was quoted in the Idaho Statesman when he was asked about his team's bowl assignment. "You've gotta keep believing. The last few years, it has worked out well for the Broncos. That's really the message that we've preached to our guys - we take care of what we can control and good things will happen."
But has it? And did they?
There's no disgrace in playing in the MAACO Bowl. But it's certainly not what the Broncos had in mind as recently as a couple of weeks ago.
And it's for sure that Boise State didn't take care of what it could control against Nevada in their Western Athletic Conference showdown. And it wasn't all Brotzman's fault, even though he has endured more than his fair share of public abuse in the aftermath of the disappointing defeat.
Boise State led the Wolfpack by 17 points at halftime. But it's a cold, hard fact that the Broncos defense failed miserably the first time is was asked to step up in the latter stages of a game.
More to the point, it's hard to explain how Boise State could fall so far in the national rankings after an overtime loss to the 19th-ranked team in the nation playing on its home turf. Or why the MAACO Bowl was the best available option for a team that came within a whisker of earning a berth in one of the four BCS bowls - Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar.
With one exception, every school that ranks ahead of the Broncos in the BCS standings is bound for one of those four games. The lone exception is No. 9 Michigan State, which will meet No. 16 Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, the most lucrative non-BCS bowl with a payout of $4,250,000.
No. 4 Stanford is bound for the Orange Bowl where it will play No. 13 Virginia Tech, a team Boise State defeated 33-30 at Fed Ex Field in Washington, D.C., in this year's season opener.
No. 6 Ohio State faces No. 8 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. And No. 7 Oklahoma is headed to the Fiesta Bowl where the Sooners will take on an 8-4 Connecticut team that ranks 25th in the Associated Press Top 25 but doesn't even appear in the BCS rankings.
Arkansas and Oklahoma have both been beaten twice this season.
So has No. 11 LSU, which gets to play in the Cotton Bowl against a 9-3 Texas A&M team that is 17th in the BCS standings. The Cotton Bowl, by the way, has a $3 1/2 million payout.
In fact, 18 of the 35 bowl games have payouts greater than the MAACO Bowl.
So what does all this mean?
For one thing, it means that Boise State's football program still isn't getting the respect it deserves, despite its regular-season record (60-5 during Petersen's five-year tenure) and a 6-4 bowl record that includes a 43-42 victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and a 17-10 loss to TCU in last year's Fiesta.
And for another, it means that money talks.
There is no better example of that than this year's Holiday Bowl Dec. 30 in San Diego where the University of Washington will make its first bowl appearance since the 2002 Sun Bowl. The Huskies, who will face No. 18 Nebraska, barely qualified for bowl consideration by edging Washington State 35-28 last weekend in Pullman to finish off a 6-6 regular season.
The Holiday Bowl boasts a $2,200,000 payout. And everybody knows the Huskies travel well.
Which, of course, will help pay the bills.