Long story short: I plugged in an "HD audio" plug for the front panel of my new case, and not knowing that was the problem, got a blinking light on my mobo and no boot. I plugged in the "AC '97" and I got everything to spin up.
The problem is, in my panic at the blinking light, I repeatedly punched the CMOS button on the mobo (I don't even know what that does) and now that my mobo likes all the hardware attached to it, I'm getting some weird sh*t where the BIOS should be.
My comp is an HP xw4300 workstation. Normally, the BIOS is a blue HP splash screen where options for boot selection, (F9) setup, (F10) and network service boot (F12) appear. Instead, I get a black screen with a blinking underscore, then those options.
The weird thing is that a rapidly ascending count of the megabytes in my memory begins at the upper left hand of the screen. Pressing the function keys does not affect it.
I would gather that by hitting the CMOS button, you have reset your BIOS back to default which might have included going into a diagnostics type boot over quick boot... meaning it shows verification of the RAM, which I've seen on older OEM type systems.