Jan. 2, 2007
Boise State and Oklahoma played a classic, Southern California made a case for next season's No. 1 ranking and Joe Paterno had a bird's-eye view of his 22nd bowl victory.
The usual wall-to-wall New Year's Day football featured six bowl games - all but one decided by 10 points or less - and ended with one of the wildest finishes college football has ever seen.
No. 9 Boise State (13-0) proved it belonged in the Bowl Championship Series and completed a perfect completed season with a thrilling 43-42 overtime victory against No. 7 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Monday night.
On the same field where top-ranked Ohio State and No. 2 Florida will play for the national championship next week, the Western Athletic Conference champs made their case for No. 1.
"We went 13-0 and beat everyone on our schedule," said Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky, who threw three touchdown passes and one costly interception. "We deserve a chance at the national title."
In one of the more dramatic finishes in BCS history, the Sooners and the Broncos combined for 22 points in the final 86 seconds of regulation.
Boise State sent the game into overtime with 7 seconds left by scoring a touchdown on a hook-n-lateral play and beat the Sooners when Ian Johnson ran in a 2-point conversion after another trick play.
"I think we went out and proved the nation wrong," said Boise State safety Marty Tadman, who had two interceptions, one of which he returned 27 yards for a touchdown. "I'm tired of people doubting us."
Nobody doubts USC will be on the short list of the teams to beat next season after the Trojans beat Michigan 32-18 in the Rose Bowl.
All-American Dwayne Jarrett was unstoppable, catching 11 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. John David Booty played the best game of his first season as USC's starting quarterback, passing for 391 yards and made himself an early front-runner for next season's Heisman Trophy.
And with many familiar faces returning to the Trojans along with Booty, USC appears to be heading toward its third No. 1 preseason ranking in The Associated Press poll the past four years - even if Jarrett leaves early for the NFL.
"We're really excited about the team," coach Pete Carroll said. "We're so young. We've got so many guys coming back. There's a feeling there's some special stuff in this locker room."
At the Outback Bowl, Paterno's surgically repaired left leg wouldn't allow him to coach Penn State from the sideline. The 80-year-old Paterno was stuck in a coach's box, high above the field as the Nittany Lions beat Tennessee 20-10.
"I don't like it up there," Paterno said. "It's not much fun."
In other bowl action Monday it was, West Virginia 38, Georgia Tech 35 in the Gator Bowl; Wisconsin 17, Arkansas 14 in the Capital One Bowl; and Auburn 17, Nebraska 14 in the Cotton Bowl.
In Glendale, Ariz., the first Fiesta Bowl played at the new University of Phoenix Stadium will go down as one of the best.
Adrian Peterson ran 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play of overtime to give the Sooners (11-3) a 42-35 lead. It may turn out to be the junior's final college play if he decides to head to the NFL.
The Broncos responded with receiver Vinny Perretta throwing a fourth-down touchdown pass to Derek Schouman to make it 42-41, and Boise State Chris Petersen decided to go for the win.
Zabransky looked at three wide receivers to his right, pump faked, then handed the ball behind his back to Johnson, who raced untouched into the end zone.
That play was almost as amazing as the one that tied the game.
After falling behind 35-28 on Marcus Walker's 33 interception return TD with 1:02 left, the Broncos tied it with a stunning 50-yard touchdown play on fourth-and-18 with 7 seconds to play. Zabransky hit Drisan James at Oklahoma's 35, and James pitched the ball to Jerard Rabb, who raced into the end zone.
"It would have been easy to give up on us with a minute left, but we had a lot of magic left," Zabransky said.
Michigan could've used some magic against USC (11-2). Nothing else worked for the Wolverines, who thought they deserved a rematch with Ohio State in the title game but ended up in the Rose Bowl.
Michigan (11-2) allowed six sacks and didn't get past the USC 20 until they'd fallen behind 19-3.
"I don't want to compare teams," coach Lloyd Carr said when asked how USC looked next to Ohio State. "I said going into this game, USC is the best defensive team we've played, and there's no doubt in my mind that they are."
USC was a win away from playing Ohio State in next week's BCS championship game, but was upset 13-9 by UCLA on the last day of the regular season.
"It's a little disappointing because we can play with anybody and we knew that," USC coach Carroll said. "But to have this opportunity and to have a night like this for our fans, it's awesome."
In Tampa, Fla., Paterno watched Tony Hunt run for 158 yards and Tony Davis return a fumble 88 yards for a touchdown.
Penn State (9-4) forced three turnovers in holding Tennessee (9-4) to a season-low point total, and the Nittany Lions improved to 16-6 in New Year's Day bowls under their 80-year-old coach.Capital One Bowl
No. 6 Wisconsin 17, No. 12 Arkansas 14
At Orlando, Fla., John Stocco threw two first-half touchdown passes and Wisconsin held on through a tense second half to beat Arkansas.
Wisconsin won 12 games in a season for the first time and finished with a nine-game winning streak. Arkansas (10-4) lost three straight after winning 10 in a row.Cotton Bowl
No. 10 Auburn 17, No. 22 Nebraska 14
At Dallas, Carl Stewart scored the only two times he touched the ball, John Vaughn kicked a 42-yard field goal and Auburn's defense held at the end.
The Cornhuskers' bid for 10 wins ended when Zac Taylor threw an incompletion on fourth-and-11 from the Auburn 30 with 2:03 left.
Auburn (11-2) became the fourth straight Southeastern Conference school to win the Cotton Bowl.Gator Bowl
No. 13 West Virginia 38, Georgia Tech 35
At Jacksonville, Fla., Patrick White led West Virginia back from an 18-point deficit in the second half in the highest scoring Gator Bowl ever.
Tailback Steve Slaton, the country's third-leading rusher at 144 yards a game, played only the first half for the Mountaineers (11-2) because of a bruised left thigh.
White was 9-of-15 for 131 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 22 times for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Taylor Bennett was 19-of-29 for 326 yards and Calvin Johnson finished with 186 yards receiving and two TDs for Georgia Tech (9-5).