One Year Later, Sooners Try To Erase Boise State Memories In Fiesta Bowl

For the Sooners, the mere mention of Boise State provokes a grimace

Dec. 31, 2007

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Want to see a Sooner squirm?

Just say "Boise State."

Across the country, Boise State's 43-42 overtime victory in last January's Fiesta Bowl became a symbol for all that's good about college football - the underdog using zany trick plays to knock off the tradition-laden powerhouse. It's widely considered to be among the greatest bowl games in college football history.

But for the Sooners, the mere mention of Boise State provokes a grimace, a shake of the head or a roll of the eyes. And third-ranked Oklahoma has heard it a lot since returning to the desert for the Fiesta Bowl against No. 11 West Virginia on Wednesday.

"We're pretty much tired of seeing that right now," tailback Allen Patrick said. "We're coming out here to make a change."

The Sooners were the unwitting props in a bowl game that became an instant classic the moment Boise State tailback Ian Johnson scored the winning 2-point conversion on a Statue of Liberty play and proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on national television.

One year later, the Sooners are back in the Fiesta - and they're in no mood to be the patsies in someone else's party.

"That's the first thing we talked about when we got here," Oklahoma offensive tackle Phil Loadholt said. "We don't want to have that bad taste in our mouths. It's still in there. Every time you turn on the TV, you see 'Boise State, the greatest bowl game in history.' "

Even back in Norman, a Boise-free zone, reruns of the Broncos' victory played out on television during the offseason in commercial form.

"It got old seeing all of those commercials," OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "You could be sitting there in August and you see the highlights and say, 'Thank you for showing that again.' "

Who doesn't love Boise State?

Anyone who can recite the words to "Boomer Sooner," that's who.



One college football video game featured former Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky on its cover. Some Sooners said they ripped it out and replaced it with a printout of former OU star Adrian Peterson, whose 25-yard run in overtime gave Oklahoma its last lead.

Oklahoma strong safety D.J. Wolfe called it the "Norman edition" of the game.

"It seemed like every time there was something about college games, it always showed Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl," OU defensive end Auston English said. "I'm getting sick and tired of seeing that. I can't wait to play this game and get rid of that memory."

But the memories have been rekindled on this trip. The Sooners last week checked into the same Scottsdale resort that they checked out of the morning after the Boise State wipeout.

Every time a Sooner steps in front of a microphone or a notebook, it seems, a reporter wants to ask about last year's fairy tale Fiesta.

No wonder the Sooners can't forget. But some of them don't want to.

"We're using that as motivation still," Wolfe said. "We turn on ESPN and they talk about bowl games, and they're showing that Statue of Liberty play. It's something where we want to erase that."

But in the Internet age, video clips have kept the Broncos' victory fresh. Asked if he had any specific memories of the game, West Virginia offensive tackle Ryan Stanchek said, "Absolutely. Who didn't watch that? The running back proposing to his girlfriend?"

The Broncos had blown an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter, then twice overcame touchdown deficits - once in the final minute and again in overtime.

They did it with a pair of plays that have become highlight-reel staples, to the Sooners' dismay.

The first came on a 50-yard hook-and-lateral pass that tied the game at 35-35 with 7 seconds to play.

The second came in overtime, after the Broncos pulled within 42-41 on a fourth-down pass from receiver Vinny Perretta to Derek Schouman. The Broncos went for two, lining up with three wide receivers to the right. Zabransky faked a pass to that side, then handed the ball behind his back to Johnson, who swept around left end and into the end zone.

"The uniqueness of that game really allowed it to linger," Wilson said.

Several Sooners say the game helped a young team mature, and it paid dividends this season.

"The situations we went through last year, including that bowl game, made us the team we are," Wilson said.

OU coach Bob Stoops has a different view.

"It had absolutely no effect on us whatsoever," Stoops said. "Go through our first four games (OU swept them by a combined 245-47) and see how much it affected us. That's one of those things - different time, different team, different circumstances. I just don't see how it equates."

It may not equate, but it certainly motivates. A victory over West Virginia might help ease the pain of losing to Boise State.

"We just want to make sure we don't lose so we have watch it on TV for the next year," wide receiver Malcolm Kelly said.