A perfectly incredible ending

Times Staff Writer

Crazy, zany and loony are three apt words to describe the end of Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

You thought it would never end, but it did, with one of the most gutsy calls and remarkable plays in the history of college football.

Ian Johnson scored the game-winning, two-point conversion run to lift Boise State to a 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma.

The game-winning score was a playground play, a Statue-of-Liberty handoff from quarterback Jared Zabransky, who acted as if he was going to pass but instead handed Johnson the ball with his left hand.


“Another day at the office, huh?” Boise State Coach Chris Peterson said. “We gave them every trick in the bag.”

Peterson said they wanted to run the Statue-of-Liberty play earlier but didn’t have the chance.

But he saved it for when it counted most.

“We needed that play to get it over with,” Peterson said. “They [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.

Boise State capped a perfect 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 State 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 at 35-35 and sent the game to overtime.

Boise State won the toss and elected to play defense first.

On first down, from the 25, Adrian Peterson ran for the 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 five.

Again, it was more Boise trickery, as Vinny Peretta, not Zabransky, lined up at quarterback, received the ball, rolled to his right and threw a touchdown pass to Derek Schouman.

Boise State still trailed by a point, and Chris Peterson decided he was going to end the game there, one way or another.

College overtime rules dictate you must go for the two-point conversion in the third overtime, but Peterson elected to gamble.


“The first overtime did not go so well,” Boise State’s Peterson said.

It paid off.

Now if they could only figure out a way for the nation’s only two 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 in the same stadium.

Boise State and Ohio State are the only undefeated teams in college football.

Boise State earned an automatic Bowl Championship Series by finishing No. 8 in the final BCS but not close to high enough to compete for the national title.

Maybe the wrong team in orange and blue is playing Ohio State in the BCS title game. Maybe it should be Boise State vs. Ohio State, not Florida vs. Ohio State.

If Boise State can beat four teams this season that won their bowl games -- Oregon State, Utah, Hawaii and San Jose State -- and then can beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta, why doesn’t it deserve a chance?

That’s an argument for another day, but that day may be coming soon.

“We just go play who they tell us to play,” Chris Peterson said. “We just control what we can control.”

But Boise State proved it deserved to be in the BCS.

The Broncos were only 2-8 against ranked teams before the game. Boise State was 3-16 against teams from BCS conferences. Little of that mattered Monday.

“We felt like we belonged here all along, we really did,” Chris Peterson said.

On Monday, Boise State was thrilled to celebrate its greatest football triumphs against one of the giants in the pantheon of college football.

Zabransky was happy to have a part in one of the best games he’ll ever play ... or see.

“To have that feeling that you pulled it off and that your guys believed in you all way to end, it’s unbelievable,” Zabransky said.