Forum Spin Doctor
By Chris Dufresne
Los Angeles Times
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Crazy, zany and loony are apt words to describe the end of Monday night's Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Though it seemed like it would never end, it did, with one of the most gutsy calls and remarkable plays in the history of college football.
Ian Johnson scored the winning, two-point conversion run to lift Boise State to a 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma. In the process, Boise State proved it belonged in the Bowl Championship Series.
The winning score was a playground play, a Statue of Liberty handoff from quarterback Jared Zabransky, who acted as if he would pass with his right hand but instead handed Johnson the ball, behind his back, with his left.
``Another day at the office, huh?'' Boise State Coach Chris Petersen said. ``We gave them every trick in the bag.''
Petersen said the Broncos wanted to run the Statue of Liberty play earlier but did not have the chance. But he used it when it counted most.
``We needed that play to get it over with,'' Petersen said. ``(The Sooners) are so physical up front, we had to try something a little different.''
Johnson ran untouched into the end zone and heaved the ball into the stands as Boise State players rushed the field in a frenzy. Moments later, the sophomore running back asked his girlfriend, Broncos cheerleader Chrissy Popadics, to marry him.
``There was no better time,'' Johnson said.
It took a while for her to realize Johnson was asking her to marry him. ``I think it finally hit her and she finally figured it out,'' he said, ``and she eventually did say yes.''
Boise State capped a 13-0 season with the victory over Oklahoma, which finished 11-3.
Words could hardly justify what happened in the final minutes. ``It just wasn't meant to be,'' Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said.
Boise thought it had won, only to watch an 18-point lead slip away.
Oklahoma tied the score with 1:26 left in regulation on a touchdown and two-point conversation. Then, as if handed a gift from above, the Sooners thought they had made the comeback complete when Marcus Walker stepped in front of a Zabransky pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown with 1:02 left.
Oklahoma led 35-28, but there was plenty of game left.
Faced with a fourth-and-18 from the 50, Boise State pulled off the first of three razzle-dazzle plays from its playbook.
Zabransky fired a pass across the middle to Drisan James, who flipped the ball to teammate Jerard Rabb running the other way to complete a 50-yard scoring play that tied the score and sent the game to overtime.
``It would have been easy to give up on us with a minute left, but we had a lot of magic left,'' said Zabransky, who added that BSU runs that hook-and-ladder play almost every day in practice.
Stoops said the Sooners were looking for a trick play. But he said the Broncos ran this one to perfection.
``I want to give them credit because I thought they executed it in a really good way,'' Stoops said. ``It's just the circumstances, the way it happened. They hit it perfect.''
Boise State won the toss in overtime and elected to play defense first.
On first down, from the 25, Adrian Peterson ran for a touchdown to give Oklahoma a 42-35 lead.
Then it was Boise State's turn on offense, and the game came down to a fourth-and-two at the Oklahoma 5.
Again, it was more Boise trickery, as receiver Vinny Peretta lined up at quarterback, took the snap, rolled to his right and threw a touchdown pass to Derek Schouman.
Trailing by a point, Peterson decided he was going to end the game, one way or another.
His gamble paid off.
Now if the powers that be could only figure out a way for the nation's only undefeated teams to play each other.
Boise State finished 13-0 but, because it plays in a non-BCS conference, did not have a realistic chance to play in next Monday's national title game at the same stadium. Boise State and Ohio State are the only undefeated teams in college football.
``We went 13-0 and beat everyone on our schedule,'' Zabransky said. ``We deserve a chance at the national title.''