Anybody remember how the 2007 NCAA football season went? Anybody remember the chaos that ruled in the polls? More importantly, anybody remember the fire in the eyes of any underdog walking into a game against a seemingly invincible opponent? You remember that a high ranking seemed more likely to mean that you lose than that you win? Where did the little guys get all of this fire, all of this momentum, all of this passion, all of this confidence??
Well, let's take a step back and analyze. New Years day, 2007. Boise State goes into the fiesta bowl as only the second "mid major" college football team to ever compete in the BCS. Two years before, it had been Utah. The big difference was that Utah had played a team that probably wasn't worthy to go to the BCS in the first place. Boise State was here to take on Oklahoma. Sure, they were two of the winningest programs in recent history, so who is to pick a favorite, right? Wrong. Nearly everybody favored Oklahoma greatly. With the national championship history that they have, and more importantly, the conference that they play in, of course they are the favorites to win the game.
In all honesty, how easy was it for the outsider to take Boise State seriously? First of all, they play in the WAC. Deffinately not the most impressive of schedules. Secondly, they have only been D-1A since 1996. They hadn't even had a chance to prove anything yet with so short a history. And in that history, there had been no consistency of the head coaches department. When Dan Hawkins left a year before to take the job coaching the Buffalo in Colorado, it was just the typical scene change that Boise faithful had grown accustomed to. And that's not to mention the fact that Boise State had zero experience playing on this big of a stage. Even if they were that good, surely they would choke.
All in all, Boise State entered that game as one of the biggest underdogs in a major game that we have seen in college football for a long time. The average watcher of the game may have just been hearing of the Broncos from Idaho's capital city for the first time. To those who follow the game closely, they were probably no more than just a name that had randomly started appearing in the top 25 polls a couple of seasons earlier, and this was the first chance to really see what they are made of. To the sympathizer of the program, who may have even known a bit, the hope was that this team would not be embarassed. To the diehard, this was the game of a lifetime, the chance to finally prove once and for all that this was a program worth noticing.
When the game was well under way, the nation was beginning to be shocked. The little guys, the "David," the overwhelming underdog, was not only running with the big dawg, they were wholoping Goliath. Boise absolutely controlled the tempo of that game for the first half, and a good portion of the second half as well.
Then, the momentum turned. When a kick hit a Boise State player in the back of the leg and Oklahoma recovered, Oklahoma found the energy to rally. With only a couple of minutes left, the game was now tied, and Boise State was trying desperately to stop the Sooner momentum and get withing field goal range to hold on. All hope faded with Jared Zabransky's interception that was returned for an Oklahoma TD to take the lead. Ask any Boise State fan, that was the absolute most heart wrenching moment. The team had come in a fought tough, but had been too small and weak to hold back the onslaught of fourth quarter Sooner offense. Once again, the Broncos were doomed to see the bowl game lost by a late fourth quarter interception.
When Boise State got the ball back and faced fourth and 18 with seconds remaining on the clock, depression filled the city of Boise as fans slumped in their couches, staring in disbelief at their TV's. One more play, and we would all turn the TV off, stare at the blank screens for a few more minutes, and meander to our bedrooms to wait for next season, and hopefully, somewhere down the line, a second chance.
The hook and lateral play with seven seconds left in regulation re-ignighted the drenched flame within. Somehow, the game was not over yet. By the mercy of some divine diety, there was reason to jump, scream, shout, act like an animal, and be happy.
From there on, there would be no more quenching of the fire. Yes, Oklahoma, you did make a run on us. But no, we will not give up until the game is over. Yes, you had all but defeated us. But no, we are not defeated! Even when Peterson ran for the touchdown on the first play of overtime, there was still life in the Bronco Nation, and, more importantly, the Bronco sideline. Fight, fight, fight, back into the corner, and explode for the touchdown. Wait, was that Vinny Parretta that threw that pass into the endzone? Who cares! Somehow, by some intuition that may never be explained, this young coach knew exactly who needed to do what to take the defense off guard, and he knew that everyone was able and ready, and confident. Hey, did I say that this intuition may never be explained? Check that. Let me explain it really quick. He saw, he felt, and he recognized the fire of the unconquerable. He knew that in this situation, that this group of players was 100% capable of doing anything he asked of them. Okay, so why not go for two and decide this thing right here right now. Only a few short minutes ago, our whole team was backed up into the corner. Time to back the Oklahoma defense into that same corner.
When Z handed the ball to Ian Johnson, and Ian ran it into the endzone, that fire became unquenchable. Not only would it be a fire for Boise to feed off of in the coming years, but it became a fire for underdogs in general. Whether they would realize why or not, they would have the fire to do what they needed to do because they had seen it happen before. Not only had Boise been up against all odds, and still managed to pull of the upset, but they did it in unbelievable fashion. After dominating for the majority of the game, and then having everything collapse in front of them, they had held on. They had refused to give in. They had been victorious. Never again could anyone be without hope in such a circumstance. Heck, if they can do it, we all can, right?
So, next time you wonder where this string of amazing underdog stories is coming from, just remember this: It all started in Boise.