BOISE, Idaho – The perception about Boise State is still what it's always been.
It's that the gritty, third-ranked Broncos don't deserve to be in the conversation for a shot at the Bowl Championship Series national title game because they play a weak schedule by being in the inferior Western Athletic Conference, a non-BCS league.
And even though their 37-24 victory against No. 24 Oregon State on Saturday night showed yet again that they are worthy of being in the BCS title-game mix if they go undefeated, that didn't change.
Before a national television audience and a school-record crowd of 34,137 at Broncos Stadium, Boise State didn't rack up enough so-called style points in a game that wasn't as close as the final score implied.
Instead, the Broncos simply won their 17th consecutive game by jumping out to a 24-10 lead in the second quarter behind another Heisman Trophy-type performance by junior quarterback Kellen Moore, who threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns, and an underrated defense that held Oregon State to 237 yards.
But they made quite an impression on Beavers defensive tackle Stephen Paea.
"They're like an NFL team," Paea said.
Yet like Boise State's win against Virginia Tech to open the season, this victory is surely already being discounted by its critics.
They'll say that Oregon State (1-2) is at best a middling team in the Pac-10 and that the Beavers were overrated just like once-10th-ranked Virginia Tech, which was upset by Football Championship Subdivision power James Madison the week after its loss to the Broncos.
Those same folks will point out that Boise State (3-0) beat Oregon State at home by just four points more than fourth-ranked Texas Christian did in its season-opening 30-21 victory against the Beavers on a neutral field at Cowboys Stadium.
But here's what can't be ignored: Boise State continues to drop all challengers, including TCU, which it beat 17-10 in last season's Fiesta Bowl to cap an undefeated season. And the Broncos are likely to continue winning for a while.
After all, their next six opponents are New Mexico State, Toledo, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii and Idaho, which have a combined 8-14 record this season, before they host Fresno State (2-1) on Nov. 19 and then play the next week at Nevada (4-0).
"We know on any given night if we're not playing very well we're going to get beat," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "It doesn't matter who's on our schedule. You see it every weekend. We're not into 'Is this many points enough?' We're just into, 'Did we play up to our capabilities? Are we getting better every week? Are we supporting each other?' We're not going to play to the outside noise."
On this night, Boise State again showed its flair for trick plays with wide receiver Austin Pettis' 17-yard touchdown pass off an end-around in the second quarter, but also had some uncharacteristic flaws, especially on special teams. It allowed a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown by Oregon State's James Rodgers and muffed a punt return that the Beavers turned into a touchdown to close to within 31-24 late in the third quarter.
The Broncos also twice stopped Oregon State on third down in the third quarter, but taunting and personal-foul penalties twice extended the drive, allowing the Beavers to score on tailback Jacquizz Rodgers' 4-yard touchdown run.
"If we can clean up some controllable mistakes, I think we can be very, very good," Petersen said. "We're not there yet."
But Boise State's skeptics will use anything they can for ammunition. Not that Moore is bothered by it.
"We really don't care," said Moore, who has thrown for eight touchdowns and just one interception this season.
Nor does Moore care about being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate. When asked whether his performance against Oregon State helped his candidacy, he said, "That's a great question for other people. I've been fortunate to play with a lot of great players. Ten guys around me make me look better than I am. That's sort of the bottom line."
Petersen has the same deflecting attitude for his team. He doesn't believe in firing back with style points by running up the score to try to change the minds of his team's doubters.
"We will never go that direction," Petersen said. "We're just going to play as hard as we can. For us, it's not about that."
And while it's likely that Boise State would have a chance at making the BCS title game only if it's the lone undefeated team at the end of the regular season, Petersen insists that his team's circumstances aren't frustrating.
"Every year, it seems to work out for us," he said.
As the final seconds ticked away Saturday night, Boise State fans chanted "BCS! BCS! BCS!" And one of them held a sign that read, "If u can't beat us, join us."
Now that's a stylish point.