Posted: Tuesday January 2, 2007 4:03PM; Updated: Wednesday January 3, 2007 12:40PM
Boise State capped a 13-0 season with a thrilling overtime win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
When it was over, even Hollywood couldn't have scripted a more dramatic ending. This was the ultimate underdog story of a team that believed from the start, refused to give up even when it looked bleak and pulled off the improbable. It's one thing for a Cinderella team to upset a heavily favored opponent, but c'mon, this was ridiculous.
A desperation fourth-down hook-and-lateral touchdown pass to tie the game at the end of regulation? A fourth-down receiver option touchdown pass to tie it in overtime? A do-or-die Statue of Liberty two-point conversion run to win the game? The star player proposing to the captain of the cheerleading squad after crossing the goal line?
Boise State's mind-numbing 43-42 victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Monday night had everything and will go down as one of best games in college football history. It was as big as George Mason getting to the Final Four and is proof that mid-majors can play with the big boys in football, too.
SI.com went inside the Boise State program from the moment the Broncos touched down in Arizona. From practices to hanging out at the team's hotel to the euphoria in the locker room after the game, we were there. We begin with Boise's first practice on Dec. 27.
Practice and preparation
The sun is finally breaking through the clouds on an overcast day in the desert. With temperatures dipping below 50 degrees and a cascade of mountains surrounding the practice fields at Scottsdale Community College, Boise State feels right at home as the team runs through its first practice. The problem is the players feel a little too at home for the coach's liking.
"So what did you guys think?" coach Chris Petersen asks the team as they kneel around him after practice. "Well, you guys got an F last night. You're here for a reason. Make sure it's for the right reason. What did I tell you when we started? Who would win this game? The team that's the most focused. Make sure you're focused."
If the Broncos weren't focused before, Petersen grabs their attention by sending senior tight end Jared Hunter back to Boise for being seen outside the team's hotel after curfew. To further drive home his point, Petersen calls out eight players' names after practice and gets after each one for failing to sign in before the generous 1 a.m. curfew. Then he makes the offenders crawl up and down the field four times on all fours.
"It hurts," says linebacker David Shields, limping off the field. "I'll be signing in extra early tonight."
It seems only right that the players who broke curfew would be punished on a day when members of the Boys & Girls Club have come to watch the end of practice. As about 30 kids clutching pens and footballs wait to meet the players, Petersen gets in front of the bunch and gives them some words of wisdom that is intended for both his players and the children in front of them.
"How many of you guys want to play in the NFL?" the coach asks. "How many of you want to play in college? Well, the first thing you have to be good at is school. School is the most important thing in your life. Raise your hand if school is just as important as football in your life. When you ask these guys for their autograph, ask them what they want to be when they leave Boise State."
Petersen then turns around and asks a few of the players the question himself. He first asks linebacker Korey Hall, who says he want to be a construction manager; then fullback Michael Lose, who says he wants to be a firefighter; and finally quarterback Jared Zabransky, who says he want to play in the NFL. "OK, what do you want to do after?" Petersen asks. After a few moments, Zabransky says, "I want to own my own business."