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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Updated: May 21, 11:06 AM ET
Coaching creativity leaves mark on BCS bowls

By Adam Rittenberg
ESPN.com

We remember BCS bowls for what happens on the field, but many games are shaped and decided by the coaches prowling the sidelines. Boise State coach Chris Petersen reached play-calling nirvana in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, making an intrepid series of creative calls as the Broncos rallied for an overtime win. USC coach Pete Carroll has had decisions boom or backfire in six BCS bowl appearances. Coaches such as Joe Paterno, Rich Rodriguez and Steve Spurrier also have left their marks on BCS bowl games.

Here's a look at the top 10 coaching moves in BCS bowls:

Chris Petersen
Chris Petersen's calls gave the Broncos plenty to smile about.

1. Trip to the circus: 2007 Fiesta Bowl

Despite a plucky performance, Boise State's hopes for a Fiesta Bowl upset looked dead after Oklahoma scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter. Having blown an 18-point lead, the Broncos faced fourth-and-18 at midfield when coach Chris Petersen called Circus, a hook and lateral. Quarterback Jared Zabransky threw to Drisan James, who flipped the ball to Jerard Rabb at the 35-yard line. Rabb raced to the end zone, sending the game into overtime.

2. Carroll's gamble fails: 2006 Rose Bowl

A failed decision but a famous one, USC coach Pete Carroll elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 on the Texas 45-yard line with the Trojans up 38-33 and 2:13 left. A first down would have sealed the win, but the Longhorns stuffed mammoth running back LenDale White. Then Vince Young took over and carried Texas to the win.

3. Petersen works overtime: 2007 Fiesta Bowl

After Oklahoma scored first in overtime, Boise State faced fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line when Petersen again rolled the dice. Running back Vinny Perretta took the ball and passed to Derek Schouman for the touchdown. That set up the decisive 2-point conversion attempt. Petersen called Statue Left. Zabransky faked a pass and made a behind-the-back handoff to Ian Johnson, who raced to the end zone for the victory.

4. Rich-Rod calls the fake: 2006 Sugar Bowl

After nearly calling a fake punt twice earlier in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez went with it on fourth-and-6 from the Georgia 48-yard line with 1:45 left. Punter Phil Brady scooted up the middle 10 yards and the Mountaineers held on for a 38-35 win. "We call it, [but] if they don't give it to us, we can go to two other checks, both a regular punt and a roll punt," Rodriguez said. "They came out and gave us the look that we wanted, and our guys executed very well."

5. Paterno sticks with Kelly: 2005 Orange Bowl

In a long and tension-filled Orange Bowl, Penn State coach Joe Paterno never lost faith in freshman kicker Kevin Kelly. After Kelly missed field-goal attempts of 28 and 39 yards that would have won the game, Paterno sent him out a third time for a 29-yarder in the third overtime. Kelly converted to give Paterno and Penn State a 26-23 win over Florida State and Bobby Bowden.

Bobby Petrino
Bobby Petrino delivered a winning call to QB Brian Brohm.

6. Petrino's Card trick: 2007 Orange Bowl

With Louisville and Wake Forest deadlocked at 3-3 in the second quarter, Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino called a wide receiver option. Patrick Carter, a former quarterback, took a lateral from Brian Brohm and threw across the field to Anthony Allen for a 21-yard touchdown. The trick play gave Louisville a 10-3 halftime lead en route to a 24-13 victory.

7. Leinart the receiver: 2004 Rose Bowl

After watching Matt Leinart throw three touchdown to give USC a 21-7 lead over Michigan, coach Pete Carroll reversed roles for his star quarterback. On second down from the Michigan 15-yard line late in the third quarter, the Trojans ran a reverse for standout wide receiver Mike Williams, who threw back to Leinart for a touchdown.

8. Lloyd lets loose: 2000 Orange Bowl

After going conservative in the first half and getting little out of it, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr opted to extend the field. He called only four run plays in the third quarter as Michigan scored 21 points and tied the score at 28-28. Carr continued to gamble in overtime; quarterback Tom Brady threw a 25-yard touchdown to tight end Shawn Thompson on the first play. Alabama answered but missed the extra point and Michigan held on for a 35-34 win.

9. Rex redux: 2002 Orange Bowl

Florida coach Steve Spurrier benched Rex Grossman for the start of the Orange Bowl after the starting quarterback missed curfew. The Gators instead went to disgruntled backup Brock Berlin, who was strongly considering transferring to Miami because he didn't get enough playing time. After Berlin threw two interceptions and a touchdown, Spurrier went back to Grossman, who led Florida to touchdowns on six consecutive drives. Grossman passed for 248 yards and three touchdowns in Florida's 56-23 blowout win over Maryland.

10. Miami flummoxes Florida State: 2004 Orange Bowl

Late in the fourth quarter, Miami faced fourth-and-1 from its own 32-yard line. Rather than play it safe, coach Larry Coker called a fake punt and linebacker D.J. Williams gained 31 yards. The drive didn't result in points -- big surprise, there was a blocked field goal -- but it took more time off the clock in a 16-14 Hurricanes victory.

Adam Rittenberg covers college football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com