1981 Boise State Broncos football team

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1981 Boise State Broncos football
Conference Big Sky Conference
Coaches No. 3 - (tie)
1981 record 10–3 (6–1 Big Sky)
Head coach Jim Criner
Offensive coordinator Gene Dahlquist
Defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich
Home stadium Bronco Stadium
« 1980 1982 »
1981 Big Sky football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
#2 Idaho State $ 6 1 0     12 1 0
#5 Boise State 6 1 0     10 3 0
Montana 5 2 0     7 3 0
Nevada 4 3 0     7 4 0
Weber State 4 3 0     7 4 0
Northern Arizona 2 5 0     4 7 0
Montana State 1 6 0     3 7 0
Idaho 0 7 0     3 8 0
Rankings from NCAA Division I-AA poll (released before championship playoffs)

The 1981 Boise State Broncos football team represented Boise State University in the 1981 NCAA Division I-AA football season. The Broncos competed in the Big Sky Conference and played their home games at Bronco Stadium, an outdoor facility on campus in Boise, Idaho. The Broncos were led by sixth-year head coach Jim Criner and were the defending champions of Division I-AA.

Regular season[edit]

The Broncos finished the regular season at 9–2 and 6–1 in conference to tie for first in the Big Sky, but lost the tiebreaker due to the head-to-head loss to champion Idaho State in the conference opener. The Broncos avenged their 1980 loss Cal Poly-SLO, beating the 1980 Division II national champions 17–6 in Boise, but lost at Cal State Fullerton, whom they defeated in 1980 in Boise. The Broncos narrowly defeated rival Idaho for the fifth consecutive year, in the regular season finale in Moscow. The Vandals were winless in the Big Sky in 1981, which caused a change in head coaches. (BSU would not defeat the Vandals again until 1994, losing twelve straight).

I-AA Playoffs[edit]

The Broncos were again invited to the I-AA playoffs, expanded to eight teams for 1981. As Big Sky runner-up, BSU played on the road in the quarterfinals at Jackson State, and won 19–7. The semifinal game was played at home against Eastern Kentucky, whom the Broncos had narrowly defeated in the title game the year before. This time the Colonels prevailed 23–17, but would lose the title game to Idaho State the following week in Texas.

The Broncos returned to the I-AA playoffs in 1988, the semifinals in 1990, and the title game in 1994, then moved up to Division I-A in 1996.

Notable players[edit]

Future NFL players included linebacker John Rade and safety Rick Woods. Defensive lineman Randy Trautman played four seasons in the Canadian Football League and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.


Head coach Jim Criner stayed seven seasons at Boise State before departing for Iowa State following the 1982 season. Defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich was promoted to head coach and would stay for four seasons (1983–86). The defensive secondary coach at BSU in 1981 was future NFL head coach John Fox.[1]


Date Opponent# Rank# Site Result Attendance
Sep 5 Northwestern State* Bronco StadiumBoise, ID W 32–20   19,347
Sep 12 Rhode Island* Bronco Stadium • Boise, ID W 33–8   19,437
Sep 19 Idaho State Bronco Stadium • Boise, ID L 10–21   20,486
Sep 26 Northern Arizona Bronco Stadium • Boise, ID W 34–20   17,622
Oct 3 at Montana Dornblaser FieldMissoula, MT W 27–13   8,732
Oct 10 Montana State Bronco Stadium • Boise, ID W 20–10   18,842
Oct 24 at Weber State Stewart StadiumOgden, UT W 33–19   12,306
Oct 31 at Nevada-Reno Mackay StadiumReno, NV W 13–3   14,325
Nov 07 at Cal State Fullerton (Div. I-A)* Titan StadiumFullerton, CA L 17–20   2,000
Nov 14 Cal Poly-SLO (Div. II)* Bronco Stadium • Boise, ID W 17–6   17,260
Nov 21 at Idaho Kibbie DomeMoscow, ID (rivalry) W 45–43   14,000
Dec 5 at Jackson State* Veterans Memorial StadiumJackson, MS (Div. I-AA quarterfinal) W 17–6   11,500
Dec 12 Eastern Kentucky* Bronco Stadium • Boise, ID (Div. I-AA semifinal) L 17–23   20,176
*Non-conference game. daggerHomecoming.


  1. ^ Game Day program - EKU vs BSU - 1981-12-12, p. 6