Big boys can't top the guys from IdahoPosted: Updated:
by NBC Sports
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dear Ohio State and Florida,
Guys, I have two words for you: Stay home.
You won't top this. Your little BCS Championship Game (get a real bowl name already) is nothing more than a denouement. Boise State defeated Oklahoma on Monday night (Tuesday morning, if you live back East) 43-42 in overtime in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. It wasn't just the greatest college football game most of us have ever seen. It was the greatest sports film of all time.
Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me!
A 4th-and-18 hook-and-ladder pass from the 50 that ties the score with 0:07 (in '07!) left to play? A 4th-and-2 play in overtime in which the quarterback goes in motion left (and, we hate to pick nits, but was turning upfield when the ball was snapped) and a 5'9" sophomore with no career pass attempts throws the biggest pass in his school's history? Going for two in the first overtime and calling a Statue of Liberty play (most likely only because the fumblerooskie was ruled illegal a few years back)?
All that was missing was the guy who scored the winning touchdown getting down on bended knee and proposing to his cheerleader girlfriend. What? Yes, that happened, too.
Buckeyes, Gators. Listen. You don't follow U2 at a LiveAid and you don't even try to compete with the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. We already know where Florida and Ohio are located; tonight a team of football players put the entire state of Idaho, previously renowned for taters and a B-52s tune, on the map. Besides, Boise State finished up 13-0 and anyone who saw the game in person either wants to name the Broncos national champs or marry them. Some want to do both.
For the record, it was Ian Johnson, the nation's No. 2 rusher but-who-cares-because-he'll-always-be-remembered-for-scoring-the-two-point-conversion, who did the proposing. About fifteen minutes after he took the ball off quarterback Jared Zabransky's back hip and scooted untouched into the end zone, Johnson, a sophomore, proposed to senior cheerleader Chrissy Popadics, who of course said yes (Did Adrian tell Rocky she'd get back to him?).
So, Ian, how's your 2007 going so far?
"I was going to do it when we got back to California," Johnson said, "but then I thought, there's no better time. Two of the biggest moments of my life."
"I'm sure it wouldn't have been as romantic if we would have lost," said Zabransky, showing a flair for the comedic to add to his touch for the heroic.
Zabransky, you see, had the opportunity to be the goat (as did his Oklahoma counterpart Paul Thompson, but more on that later). It was he who, one play after Oklahoma tied the game at 28-28 with 1:26 to play, threw a perfect strike to Oklahoma cornerback Marcus Walker who returned it 33 yards for a TD and what we thought was the consummation of an incredible Sooner comeback victory.
It was bedlam on the Sooner sideline. Walker tossed the football into the stands and was swarmed by teammates. When he emerged, he looked directly at yours truly and barked, "Where's my helmet?!?"
The rest of us were about to lose our heads, but Walker could not find his helmet. I did happen to locate it, and returned it quickly to a Sooner coach. Then, after the PAT that made the score 35-28 OU, 6'5", 330-pound sophomore offensive guard George Robinson ran off the field and right to me (suddenly, I'm a Sooner magnet?).
"Ain't no mother____in way we gonna lose! Write that down!"
And so I did.
To think, Buckeyes and Gators, that the fun was only beginning. So here comes Zabransky back onto the field with 62 seconds to play. While the rest of America was saying, "It was a nice try, Boise," the fellas in the orange pants were in their own private Idaho. "After that interception, I must have had ten guys come up to me on the bench telling me there's still a minute left."
Five plays -- and a pair of incompletions -- later, Boise State faced 4th-and-18 from the "T" on the Tostitos insignia at midfield. What would you call? Well, of course the hook-and-ladder. Zabransky threw about 15 yards downfield to Drisan James (two earlier TD catches of 49 and 32 yards, back in the Paleozoic Era that was the first half), who then lateraled to Jerard Rabb. Touchdown, Broncos. Overtime.
DeMarcus Granger, Steven ColemanJason Babyak/APAfter boasting just minutes earlier that there was "no mother____in way we gonna lose," the despondent Sooners were left stunned.
Oklahoma scored first. Adrian Peterson, on what was likely his final collegiate carry, took the handoff and rumbled 25 yards off left tackle. It was vintage AD, as he skipped over a sprawling defender who looked as if he wanted no part in tackling the 6'2", 220-pound stallion as he ran past.
And nobody in the sellout crowd of 73,719 would have asked for their money back if it had all ended right then. Peterson, one of the greatest running backs (along with Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson) to never win a Heisman, would have gone out the winner he has always been. And Thompson, who threw three interceptions in his first 16 attempts but completed 11 of his latter 16 tosses and led the Sooners all the way back, would have been the redemption story. As for Boise State, they had finished validating themselves when they went up 14-0 in the first eight minutes of the game.
We all would have been satisfied with that finish. Instead, in the next few minutes the contest would transform from the Fiesta Bowl to the Holy S___! Bowl.
Three plays, Buckeyes and Gators, that if you consider yourselves students of college football history, you should never forget:
1) 3rd-and-1 from the 5: Ian Johnson carries on a belly dive, but is pushed back behind the line of scrimmage. On second effort, Johnson appears to gain back a yard or two but also appears to fumble. Oklahoma recovers. The play is reviewed. If you live in Norman, well, you might start believing that the long-awaited payback from the Oregon loss is about to be deposited in your account. Instead... "The ruling on the field stands," says referee William LeMonnier. "Fourth down."
2.) 4th-and-2 from the 6: Zabransky lines up in the shotgun, but then goes in motion wide to his left. What the...? Vinny Perretta, a 5'9" sophomore who'd thrown as many passes for Boise State as you have, takes the snap, rolls right, and hits tight end Derek Schouman for the touchdown.
"I was a little shocked, I'm not gonna lie," Schouman said, referring to hearing the play call in the huddle. "We practiced it all the time, but we've never run it in a game."
3). Two-point conversion play: With trips right, Zabransky takes the shotgun snap and pumps a throw before burying the ball on his back hip. Johnson steals it away and races to the endzone.
"When (wideout) Legedu Naanee heard the play call," said Johnson, "he said, 'We just won the game'."
That they did. And, yes, coach Chris Petersen and the Broncos of Boise State won our hearts, as well. Because they were the little team that could? Well, if you want to play that tune, be my guest. But if you watched Boise State all season, and especially tonight, you know that this particular team can play with anyone in the country.
No, Boise State won us over with their moxie. In the biggest game of his life, Petersen -- this is a rookie coach, remember -- called plays as if the mandate was to have no regrets years from now when he looks back on it all. And his players executed those trick plays as if they were having fun.
"Thank you," said Ian Johnson when Petersen told him during the timeout before the game's final play that they'd be running the Statue of Liberty. "Thank you."
No, thank you, Boise State and Oklahoma. Some day very soon (today, probably) talking heads will weigh-in and blather about the greater meaning of Boise State's victory. About how it validates mid-majors (it doesn't; Boise State is a wondrous anomaly) and how the game needs a playoff.
But for now I'd prefer to just marinate in the moment, to try and count how many times I watched fans, players and even sportswriters shake their heads and say, "Wow" tonight. When Adrian Peterson was asked to sum up the game afterward, he simply replied, "To be honest with you, my head is just spinning right now."
Mine, too, AD.
Florida. Ohio State. Good luck. You're going to need it.
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