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Before kickoff of every college football game, the press-box announcer launches a pre-emptive strike in support of professionalism, and aimed at the fans posing as journalists:
"This is a working press box."
|Ian Johnson scored the game-winning points on a Statue of Liberty play in OT.|
But out in the Arizona desert on New Year's Night 2007, the working press box at University of Phoenix Stadium became a screaming, howling, on-your-feet-in-utter-amazement press box.The event that destroyed decorum and pulverized professionalism? Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42. An American Fiesta.
It's definitely the best football game I've ever covered, and it's a very competitive second for the best sporting event I've ever covered. It fits tightly behind Duke 104, Kentucky 103, and just ahead of Tiger Woods outdueling Bob May in the 2000 PGA Championship.
In both those contests, the underdog lost. Not in this Fiesta Bowl.When the Broncos scored the tying touchdown on a 50-yard hook-and-lateral trick play with seven seconds left, we roared in amazement. When the Broncos scored in overtime on a fourth-down halfback pass, by 5-foot-9 Vinny Perretta who hadn't thrown a pass all year, we howled at the improbability. And when the Broncos lined up and went for two points and the win, and quarterback Jared Zabransky faked a pass and slipped the ball behind his back, and running back Ian Johnson grabbed it and sped around the left end and scored and won the biggest game in Boise history and wound up on one knee on the sideline proposing to his cheerleader girlfriend right there on live national television
We all lost it.
"Statue of Liberty!" I screamed to no one in particular, after springing out of my chair. "They ran the Statue of Liberty! Are you [bleeping] kidding me?"
Nobody, of course, runs the Statue of Liberty anymore. Not to win a game, not to start a game, and not anywhere in between.
It dates back to the Fielding H. Yost days at Michigan (at least), which means the turn of the century. The 20th century. I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a team do it -- until Boise State did it.
To win the Fiesta Bowl.
Over lordly Oklahoma.
With a wedding proposal as the kicker.
No college football game has ever been won with a greater compilation of do-or-die daring and outright trickeration. (Or, if you will, desperation.) When Boise hoodwinked the Sooners in triplicate, it marked the ultimate in gusto football. It was straight sandlot.And it worked. The execution was so flawless (under immense pressure) that you'd think Boise practiced this stuff as often as the off-tackle handoff.
Truth is, the Broncos did practice the hook-and-lateral every week in their final workout the day before games. Mostly because it was fun, and the players enjoyed it. Not because they were good at it.
"It never works," offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "Ever."
Harsin's presence in the play-calling position underscored the improbability of Boise's victory. He was 30 years old, and looked young enough to be playing scout team for the Broncos. And he was in his first year as offensive coordinator.
That's because the old OC, Chris Petersen, was in his first year as a head coach. All Petersen did was go 13-0 in year one, capped by calling the boldest set of trick plays ever and leading a program that was Division I-AA just 11 years earlier all the way to BCS glory. Beating the seven-time national champion Sooners to do it put the absurd icing on the fantasy cake.
And it absolutely destroyed press box professionalism. Given what we witnessed, I think we got a pass on violating the Fourth Estate's version of the excessive celebration rule.
Pat Forde is a national columnist for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.