Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Feast in the Fiesta

Boise State had gone undefeated in the regular season, but they belonged Western Athletic Conference, better known as the WAC. This had earned them a berth in the BCS. But who would have thought them deserving of this berth? They were playing the big boys now. They were playing Oklahoma, who are not even a decade removed from their national championship.

Oklahoma was seeded higher, with an 11-2 record. They had tradition, history, all the talent they could possibly want. The Broncos had spent most of the game giving Oklahoma all they could handle, taking a lead into the fourth quarter, before Oklahoma burst with an 18 point fourth quarter, taking a 7 point lead with just about a minute to go.

Goodbye Cinderella, good to know you. You've fallen behind Boise State, come again, next year.

But Boise State wouldn't quit. Digging into their bag of tricks, Zabransky threw a pass, the receiver caught it, then pitched it back, to a rushing Bronco who went into the endzone, to tie the game at 35 apiece, with only 7 seconds left.

College overtime lets each team make an attempt at their opponents 25 yard line. Each team gets a chance to score. Usually, the team that wins the coin toss elects to play defense, so they know how much they need to score to win. The Broncos called tails and tails it was.

It had to be deflating when Adrian Peterson, in one rush, scored a touchdown, outrunning the Boise State defenders.

Boise State's turn. They would not get their touchdown easily, requiring a miracle at 4th and 2, and getting it, as the quarterback rolled out right, and hit Schouman.

Then, came the big decision. Go for the extra point and go to double overtime, or elect to end it there and then, with a 2-point conversion. They elect to go for two.

The Broncos knew that Oklahoma would have studied every important game they played, studied every two point attempt. They had a trap. They would attempt the same play that had done for the two point conversion earlier in the season. Nearly lateral the ball to the right. But it would be a fake. The ball would not be thrown to the right.

Instead, they would hand it over to Ian Johnson, who'd rush to the left, as the entire offense appeared to have gone to the right, and rush in uncontested.

This was reminiscent of George Mason's win over Connecticut. When UConn forced overtime, everyone thought it was good night for George Mason. You had your chance, now let the big boys play. But Mason kept hitting shot after shot and won the game, instead of watching UConn blow it.

Boise State kept coming up with clutch play after clutch play, after taking sure victory, and letting Oklahoma take the lead. You will not see a more exciting conclusion to a bowl game this year, and nothing this profoundly important to a small program like Boise State. Nevada had its chance to knock off Miami and lost by a point. But even had Nevada made the win, Miami was in a down year. An 11-2 record is hardly anything to scoff at. Oklahoma had a great record.

This was amazing coaching, pulling out tricks from everywhere, and getting the most out of a team that surely lacked the same kind of talent Oklahoma had, and to win it in this fashion, when it seemed their fairy tale had ended, to still have magic at the end, that was something.

I watched only the last forty seconds plus overtime, and I can't begin to tell you what a thrill ride it was.

Boise State over Oklahoma, 43-42, overtime.

Idaho has something to cheer about for a long, long time.

No comments: