No statute of limitations on Boise State’s Fiesta
GLENDALE, Ariz. — It seems like Boise State never left. Its Fiesta Bowl script always plays so well here.
Decisive Statue of Liberty play? Check.
Interception return for a touchdown? Check.
Victory over a higher-ranked team? It may be time to re-think the rankings.
Boise State has become the Gonzaga of college football, although the national notoriety lags.
The No. 20 Broncos (12-2) know what it takes to win the Fiesta in the desert, and they again used the national stage as a showcase in their 38-30 victory over No. 10 Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Even as the Wildcats got within eight yards of a possible tying score in the final seconds it never felt that close.
Junior Jay Ajayi’s 16-yard run for a 21-0 lead in the first quarter neatly summed up the Broncos’ Fiesta experiences, which include a 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma in 2007 and a 17-10 victory over TCU in 2010.
Ajayi’s run came on a version of Statue of Liberty trick play Ian Johnson made famous on the game-winning two-point conversion in the victory over Oklahoma. Johnson capped that night when he proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend Chrissy Propadics during a post-game interview. Ajayi did not go that far. His flourish was a stiff arm that freed him from an Arizona defender near the goal line.
Regardless, the Broncos seemed determined to find a place for the play. A homage, as it were.
"We were practicing that all bowl prep, and to actually run it was awesome because of what it means to the program," said Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick, who completed 24-of-34 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown. "It put us on the map in ’07, and to run it in this one was awesome."
Hedrick faked a pass to the right and then tucked the ball into his body, sneaking it to Ajayi after the running back faked a block in pass protection. Ajauyi ran off the left side and worked his way through the defense for the score.
"Every time we want the play in practice, (you) work on the showmanship of the play, because you to have to sell it pretty good just to be able to get the defense to bite," Ajayi said.
After holding onto its victory when linebacker Kamalei Correa sacked Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon at the Boise State 10-yard line on the game’s final play, the Broncos shouldn’t have much left to sell.
They have the best win percentage in the FBS since 2000 — it is now .856 — and have played in 13 straight bowl games. They finished the season on a nine-game win streak, third-longest in the nation behind Florida State (29) and Ohio State (11), and both of those streaks could end in Thursday’s college football playoff semifinals. Alabama and Oregon enter the playoff on eight-game winning streaks.
Ajayi, just a junior, leads the FBS with 32 total touchdowns and 28 rushing touchdowns, breaking a tie with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon for total scores and the school tradition at running back that includes Tampa Bay starter Doug Martin and Johnson, who played for several NFL teams. Ajayi declared for the NFL draft the third week of December and he is expected to be taken in the early rounds of next year’s draft.
He went out a winner as Boise State maintained its winning ways.
"This is how I wanted to go out as a Fiesta Bowl champion and for it to be against a great team like Arizona, it is the best feeling in the world," Ajayi said.
The Fiesta Bowl will host the national championship game next season. Will Boise State make it? Who knows? But they certainly the preseason recognition and the early polling numbers that can keep a team in contention as the season plays out.
"We consider ourselves a team that would like to have an opportunity like any other team," said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, cognizant of the obstacles a Group of Five team faces.
"To be in games like this and win it, I hope that continues to show that when we go out there and take care of our business and put ourselves in position … down the road, we take care of our business, do our jobs, why not? We’ve proven ourselves in stages that would be an opportunity for this program."