Dec. 3, 2006
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - For Boise State, facing Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl will cap a sensational season.
The ninth-ranked Broncos (12-0), champions of the Western Athletic Conference, can make a powerful statement by knocking off the tradition-laden No. 7 Sooners (10-2) in the first meeting between the schools.
When this season began, the Sooners were hoping to finish it in Glendale - in the new BCS national title game, which will be held one week after the Fiesta in University of Phoenix Stadium.
But the Sooners' national title hopes took a blow in August, when coach Bob Stoops dismissed starting quarterback Rhett Bomar and projected starting guard J.D. Quinn for accepting illegal benefits. Then the Sooners lost Sept. 16 at Oregon, which was aided by a botched officials' call.
Had the Sooners won that game, they may well have been among the once-beaten teams contending for a shot at top-ranked Ohio State in the BCS national title game. Oklahoma's other defeat came against rival Texas in Dallas.
The Sooners, who earned the Fiesta bid by beating Nebraska in the Big 12 title game Saturday, showed remarkable grit throughout the year. They withstood the loss of star tailback Adrian Peterson, who broke his collarbone Oct. 14 against Iowa State.
Stoops patched together a 10-win season behind quarterback Paul Thompson, who had been moved to wide receiver.
The Sooners will make their fifth BCS appearance. Only Florida State, with six, has more.
It's Oklahoma's third Fiesta Bowl appearance but its first since the bowl became affiliated with the BCS. The Sooners beat Wyoming 41-7 on Dec. 25, 1976, and lost to Arizona State 32-21 on Jan. 1, 1983.
Boise State didn't face very adversity on its way to the biggest bowl game in school history. The Broncos rolled through a weak schedule, winning by an average margin of 39-16.
Boise State faced one team from a BCS conference, walloping Oregon State 42-14 on Sept. 7 in Boise.
The Broncos withstood close calls against Wyoming (17-10), Hawaii (31-24) and San Jose State (23-20). Boise State needed a 37-yard Anthony Montgomery field goal with no time remaining to avoid going to overtime against San Jose State.
Boise State is an offensive powerhouse that ranks second in the nation in scoring, averaging 39.4 points per game.
The Broncos do their best work on the ground, averaging 222.8 yards per game, sixth in Division I-A. Tailback Ian Johnson is the nation's No. 2 rusher, averaging 146.6 yards per game, and he leads the nation in scoring at 13.09 points per game.
The Broncos' ground game will face its toughest test of the season against the Sooners, who allow 97.85 yards per game, 18th in the nation.
This is the second time the Fiesta has played host to a BCS outsider. Two years ago, Mountain West champion Utah became the first team from an unaffiliated conference to draw a lucrative BCS berth. The Utes capped a perfect season with a 35-7 rout of Big East champion Pittsburgh.