SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- San Jose State had an eight-point lead
and a defense that had shut down No. 14 Boise State all day -- yet
Spartans quarterback Adam Tafralis still felt uneasy as the fourth
quarter ticked away.
"You don't count a team like that out," Tafralis said.
"They're ranked where they are for a reason. They know how to win.
They know how to come back."
He had plenty of reason to worry. With the cool of a seasoned
conference champion, the Broncos staged a dynamite fourth-quarter
rally that barely kept their unbeaten season and Bowl Championship
Series hopes alive.
Jared Zabransky shook off three frustrating quarters and a
draining illness to lead two scoring drives in the final minutes,
and Anthony Montgomery kicked his third field goal -- from 37 yards
-- as time expired in Boise State's 23-20 victory Saturday night.
Ian Johnson ran for 149 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos
(10-0, 6-0 WAC), who stayed with Ohio State, Michigan and Rutgers
as the only other unbeaten teams left in Division I-A. With two
games left against Utah State and Nevada, the Broncos must win out
to have a shot at getting to one of the five BCS bowl games.
For three quarters, Boise State seemed unlikely to remain
perfect -- but Zabransky coolly led the Broncos through their
stiffest test of the season against the much-improved Spartans
"He's a little sick, but he's fine," coach Chris Petersen said
of his senior quarterback, who couldn't speak to reporters after
going 14-of-20 for 181 yards in his 30th victory as a starter. "He
only has so many games left as a Bronco. He'll be out there. If we
don't make those plays he made in our passing game, we're in big
The Broncos have got themselves into plenty of trouble in recent
years at Spartan Stadium: Two years ago, Boise State had to block a
field goal as regulation ended in a double-overtime, 56-49 victory.
This time, Boise State faced its first halftime deficit of the
season before falling behind 20-12 early in the fourth quarter on
consecutive TD passes by Tafralis, who passed for 173 yards and
"I love this place. It brings out our competitive spirit,"
said Petersen, an assistant to Dan Hawkins in that crazy 2004 game.
"Our competitiveness comes to the forefront in games like this. I
knew they were going to handle it."
Indeed, Zabransky marched the Broncos on a 63-yard drive capped
by his 1-yard TD sneak and a 2-point conversion pass to Jerard Rabb
with 5:22 to play. San Jose State then stalled, and Marty Tadman's
gutsy 44-yard punt return put Boise State at the Spartans 37 with 2
Zabransky and Johnson patiently moved the Broncos to the 20, and
Montgomery's first game-winning kick of his life split the
uprights. Players and coaches spilled onto the field to celebrate
the Broncos' 37th victory in 38 WAC games.
"I don't remember the kick," Montgomery said. "I just
remember running. It was all a big blur."
Not everything went well for Boise State in the final minutes:
Johnson, the WAC's leading rusher, was sent to a hospital with an
undisclosed injury to his abdomen or ribs after coming out of the
game late in the fourth quarter.
James Jones caught two TD passes for the Spartans, who came
agonizingly close to their first win over a ranked team since
beating ninth-ranked TCU in 2000.
Still, San Jose State's rebuilding program under second-year
coach Dick Tomey gained real legitimacy. Led by linebacker Matt
Castelo's 20 tackles, the Spartans' defense held the Broncos'
high-powered offense to fewer than 36 points for just the second
time all season.
"We were short, and we have an empty feeling inside," Tomey
said. "(The Broncos) are the ones that just keep finding ways to
win, which I respect totally. We played against the Wicked Witch of
the North, and we didn't win."
After the Broncos were shut out in the first quarter for first
time this season, Jones caught a 10-yard TD pass on a fade to the
corner on the first play of the second quarter. Boise State made
drives of 86 and 61 yards before halftime, but had to settle for
Montgomery's chip-shot field goals when they faltered at the goal
The Spartans also got their share of bad breaks: Yonus Davis
made a 72-yard TD run early in the third quarter, but it was called
back on an obvious holding penalty against Jones.
The Broncos finally executed near the goal line midway through
the third quarter, with Johnson scoring on a 2-yard run on
fourth-and-1 to finish off an 81-yard drive.
But San Jose State replied with a TD drive ending in John
Broussard's 4-yard catch on another fade -- and after a
kickoff-return penalty stuck Boise State back at its 6, Zabransky's
awful pass was intercepted, setting up Tafralis' 3-yard TD pass to
Jones with 14:20 to play.
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