Click here for Part I of the Boise State bowl history
2007 Fiesta Bowl- Defeated Oklahoma 43-42
The very definition of an “instant classic,” the 2007 Fiesta Bowl will go down as one of the greatest games in college football history. A classic David vs Goliath contest, the Broncos were in fact just 7.5 point underdogs coming into the game, with an unblemished 12-0 record.
The Broncos got off to a fast start with Jared Zabransky finding Drisan James wide open for a 49-yard touchdown pass that was immediately followed by a huge defensive play by Mike T. Williams that set the Broncos up with a 1st and goal opportunity. Ian Johnson would cash it in two plays later for a 14-0 lead.
Oklahoma would come back to cut the lead to 14-10 before James scored on a dazzling 32-yard catch and run just before halftime. The Bronco defense kept star tailback Adrian Peterson in check for most of the game and forced Paul Thompson to throw three interceptions. One of those picks was returned by Marty Tadman for a 3rd quarter touchdown that gave the Broncos a 28-10 lead.
Peterson would respond with a touchdown run after the Sooners got a huge break from Boise State’s special teams. The Broncos had forced a punt but the ball took a bounce back up field and clipped Aiona Key’s leg and was recovered by Oklahoma. The Sooners would add a field goal and a touchdown to get within two points before the madness really started.
Trailing 28-26 after Thompson’s touchdown throw to Quentin Chaney, the Sooners had three chances to tie the game with a two-point conversion. The first resulted in a pass interference call on Boise State. Oklahoma converted the second chance but was flagged prior to the play for an illegal shift. On the third opportunity, Thompson found a diving Juaquin Iglesias to tie the game.
On Boise State’s next play, there was a mis-read between Zabransky and his receiver and Oklahoma cornerback Marcus Walker stepped in front and intercepted the pass, returning it 34 yards for the go-ahead score. It looked like the final nail in the Broncos coffin as they had already coughed up an 18-point lead and now trailed for the first time in the game with 1:02 remaining.
Zabransky did not panic, however, and moved the Broncos to midfield quickly. A sack on 1st down and two straight incompletions set the Broncos up with a 4th and 18 from the 50-yard line with 18 seconds remaining. The Broncos called “Circus” which called for Drisan James to run a curl route and catch the ball in the middle of the field and then lateral to a sprinting Jerard Rabb. The play worked to perfection and Rabb raced down the sideline and dove into the end zone to get the Broncos within one point. Anthony Montgomery converted the extra point to send the game to overtime.
The Broncos won the toss and chose to play defense first. Unfortunately, they didn’t play any defense as Peterson scored on a 25-yard run on the first play. Boise State got the ball needing a touchdown to keep the game alive. Zabransky drove the team inside the 10-yard line and it appeared as though Johnson may have fumbled on 3rd down. He was ruled down to give the Broncos one more play.
Chris Petersen went for a gutsy call on 4th down, sending Zabransky in motion and snapping the ball directly to Vinny Perretta in the wildcat formation. Perretta rolled right and lofted a pass into the end zone where Derek Schouman came up with the grab with a defender draped all over him. Trailing by one, Petersen elected to go for the win.
The Broncos lined up in their “Statue Left” formation. With three receivers split to the right, and having run a variation of the play earlier in the season, Zabransky took the shotgun snap and faked a pass out to the right side. With his left hand, he handed the ball behind his back to Johnson who sprinted untouched into the left corner of the end zone to give the Broncos the improbable 43-42 win.
The game was by far the biggest in Boise State history and gave the program national recognition. Ironically, it was the third least-watched game in BCS history trailing only the Utah-Pittsburgh matchup from 2005 and the 2007 Orange Bowl between Louisville and Wake Forest. Those who missed the game tuned in for the plethora of replays that the game generated, however. It was, and still is, the biggest landmark in Boise State football history.
2007 Hawai’I Bowl- Lost to East Carolina 41-38
The Broncos nearly pulled off a second consecutive bowl miracle but fell just short in another thriller, this time to East Carolina and star running back Chris Johnson. The Broncos grabbed an early lead as Austin Smith responded to a Pirate field goal by returning the ensuing kick 89 yards for a touchdown and an early 7-3 lead. Johnson responded for East Carolina with a 68-yard touchdown run.
Boise State’s offense was completely ineffective and the Pirates scored twice early in the 2nd quarter to build a 24-7 lead. The Broncos did not record their first 1st down of the game until midway through the period but they ultimately scored on Taylor Tharp’s touchdown pass to Ryan Putnam. The Broncos got the ball back but Titus Young fumbled to give East Carolina one more chance to add to their lead. They would take advantage as Dominique Lindsey added his second touchdown run to give the Pirates a 31-14 halftime lead.
East Carolina stretched the lead to 38-14 on Brandon Simmons’ touchdown run before the Broncos began to fight back. A long kick return set Boise State up with good field position and Tharp found Jeremy Avery with a touchdown pass to cut the lead to 17 points. Kyle Brotzman pulled the Broncos within 14 with his 31-yard field goal.
In the 4th quarter, the Broncos overcame a fake punt by East Carolina to stop the Pirates. D.J. Harper responded with a touchdown to cut the lead to 38-31. The Broncos got another shot and were driving with less than two minutes remaining but Young fumbled again and it looked like the Pirates could run out the clock.
On East Carolina’s second play, Johnson fumbled the ball while fighting for extra yards and Marty Tadman picked up the ball and returned it 47 yards for the game-tying touchdown. It was the second straight bowl game that Tadman scored a touchdown.
The Broncos pinned East Carolina deep, at its own 9-yard line, with 1:16 remaining. Overtime seemed like a very distinct possibility. Instead, quarterback Rob Kass was able to find Jamar Bryant on a 39-yard completion that set the Pirates up near midfield. A handful of plays later, East Carolina got well into field goal range and Ben Hartman came in to convert a 34-yard attempt as time expired.
It was a wrenching loss for the Broncos to cap a disappointing season. Tharp had a strong statistical year but the Broncos had missed out on winning the WAC title for a sixth consecutive season, losing at Hawaii in the regular season finale. The return trip to Honolulu was not well-received by the fans and the lethargic 1st half performance was frustrating. Yet in the end, it was another dramatic bowl game that out-performed expectations, even in a losing effort.
2008 Poinsettia Bowl- Lost to TCU 17-16
Boise State came into the game a perfect 12-0 in freshman quarterback Kellen Moore’s first season. Things appeared to be going smoothly and the Broncos had the game seemingly well in hand as they jumped out to an early lead.
Kyle Brotzman kicked a pair of field goals sandwiched around a 20-yard touchdown run by Ian Johnson to give Boise State a 13-0 lead. The Bronco defense intercepted Andy Dalton twice in the 1st half to prevent the Horned Frogs from getting their offense in gear. TCU did add a late touchdown run by Aaron Brown to cut the lead to 13-7 at the half.
The Broncos moved the ball well on the first drive of the 3rd quarter but Brotzman missed a 38-yard field goal attempt that would have given Boise State a two-score lead. Instead, TCU drove back the other way and converted a 32-yard kick to pull within three points.
The Horned Frogs took their first lead on a 17-yard touchdown run by Joseph Turner. The Broncos responded immediately by driving into the red zone but had to settle for another Brotzman field goal. The score was now 17-16 with just under five minutes remaining.
The Bronco defense got a stop and gave the ball back to Moore and the offense with less than two minutes remaining but Moore’s first pass was intercepted by Stephen Hodge to end the game. After a stellar first half, the Broncos could not stop the TCU running game in the 2nd half. The Horned Frogs piled up 278 yards on the ground while Johnson and the Broncos managed just 29 yards rushing.
It was the first loss of Moore’s career and the fourth loss in five bowl games for the Broncos. It evened the series with TCU at one game apiece as the teams found themselves in a budding rivalry.
2010 Fiesta Bowl- Defeated TCU 17-10
The rubber match between Boise State and TCU took place in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. Both team were undefeated heading into the matchup and it was assumed that both would make BCS games, likely pitted against the Big 12 champion and a team from the SEC. Instead, the BCS committee matched the two non-AQ schools together.
Instead of sulking about the slight, the teams put on another classic matchup. It was a defensive struggle highlighted by a new scheme installed by Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. He used defensive end Shea McClellin as a rover of sorts who played all over the field and disrupted the Horned Frogs offense.
Boise State struck first, using their defense to set the tone. Brandyn Thompson stepped in front of an Andy Dalton pass and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown less than four minutes into the game. The Broncos would add a Kyle Brotzman field goal midway through the 2nd quarter and the defense continued to pitch a shutout until the final minute of the half.
Dalton found Curtis Clay on a beautiful 30-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 10-7 at halftime. The teams traded punts through most of the 3rd quarter before a Doug Martin fumble halted a drive in Horned Frogs territory. TCU broke through with a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 heading into the 4th quarter.
Early in the final period, TCU had the ball at its own 2-yard line but drove out of danger behind a pair of Dalton passes to Jimmy Young. With the ball at midfield, Dalton lofted a pass that was intercepted again by Thompson, giving Boise State the ball at its own 22-yard line.
After converting one 1st down, the Broncos drive appeared to stall. At their own 33-yard line, the Broncos lined up to punt. Instead, they called “Riddler” which resulted in punter Brotzman finding tight end Kyle Efaw wide open down the middle of the field for a 29-yard gain and a 1st down in TCU territory. Moore connected on three straight passes to move the ball to the TCU 2-yard line where Martin would leap into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
The teams traded punts but on TCU’s opportunity, Jeremy Kerley had a great return of a line drive punt that set TCU up at the Bronco 31-yard line. It looked like the Horned Frogs might take advantage and tie the game but the Bronco defense stiffened and stopped TCU on 4th down to take over.
The Broncos could not move the ball, however and were forced to punt once again. This time Brotzman nailed a perfect kick and the ball rolled down to the 1-yard line where it was downed by Kyle Wilson. Facing 99 yards of real estate, and only 1:16 remaining on the clock, Dalton kept his cool. He moved the ball out from under the shadow of his own goal post with three straight completions. Aided by a pass interference penalty and a 19-yard strike to Kerley, Dalton had the ball at the Boise State 30-yard line and a 1st down.
On the next play, Dalton threw a pass down the left sideline that was tipped by Thompson and intercepted by Winston Venable to seal the victory for Boise State. Moore would end the game in the victory formation as he kneeled down to complete only the second 14-0 season in college football history.
The performance earned the Broncos a single 1st place vote in the AP and they were one of only two teams, national champion Alabama being the other, to finish the season undefeated.
2010 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas- Defeated Utah 26-3
Despite a record of 11-1 and a #10 ranking in the BCS, the Broncos were passed over as an at-large participant in the BCS. Their heart-wrenching loss to Nevada sealed their fate and they were instead matched up with Mountain West 2nd-place finisher Utah, ranked #19 in the country.
The Bronco offense was lethargic in the 1st quarter, failing to get on the board and looking like a team that was not very motivated to be there. They turned the ball over early and often in a sloppy opening 20 minutes. The Utes grabbed a 3-0 lead on a 44-yard field goal by Joe Phillips in the final minute of the 1st quarter.
Boise State ultimately awoke behind Doug Martin’s 84-yard touchdown scamper that opened the floodgates. Kyle Brotzman added a 29-yard field goal and Kellen Moore threw his first bowl game touchdown of his career, a 25-yard connection with Tyler Shoemaker.
Leading 16-3 at the half, the defense continued to stifle Utah, forcing three turnovers to keep Utah off the board. Moore found Austin Pettis on an 18-yard touchdown pass to stretch the lead to 23-3. Brotzman added a short field goal midway through the 4th quarter to close the scoring.
The story of the game, the most one-sided contest in Boise State bowl history, was the defense. The Utes were held to 200 yard and eight 1st downs while converting only 2-13 3rd down attempts. The Broncos ultimately shook off the disappointment of being left out of the BCS by handing Utah its first bowl loss since 1996, breaking a streak of nine consecutive wins.
2011 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas- vs Arizona State (6-6)
The Broncos are soon to write the next chapter in their story as they take on a reeling Sun Devils team that recently replaced Coach Dennis Erickson. It will be the final game for Moore and 21 seniors who have led the team to an astonishing 49 wins in their career.
A second straight season of disappointment, the result of another missed field goal, does not necessarily mean an unmotivated team will take the field in Las Vegas. The Broncos were flat to start the game last season but rebounded to easily take care of Utah. A relatively healthy Bronco squad should not have much trouble putting points on the board against the Sun Devils, although they will be challenged by the Arizona State aerial attack.
In the relatively brief history of Boise State as a FBS school, one thing is a near certainty: they will entertain you. This is the last chance for Kellen Moore to cement his legacy and this team, and this coaching staff, would like nothing more than to go out and prove themselves as both entertainers and winners.