After the Utes, there was a Circus and a Halfback Pass. The Statue of Liberty followed. In 2004, the University of Utah became the first non-Power 5 school to be selected to play in a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game. That happens when your season opens with wins against Texas A&M and Arizona. Though head coach Urban Meyer had already accepted the top job at Florida, he recognized the import of the moment and stayed on to coach the Utes to a 35-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers.
But it was 2006’s Boise State team that made the kind of history that’s never repeated. After beating Oregon State early on in the season, the Broncos went on to a 12-0 record, becoming the second non-Power 5 to earn a berth at a BCS bowl. On New Year’s Day 2007, Boise State squared off against Big 12 champion Oklahoma State at the Fiesta Bowl’s new venue, the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Coming into the season, Oklahoma was said to be a national championship contender. But that was before Big Red Sports and Imports entered the story. On August 2, 2006, OU head coach Bob Stoops dismissed Bomar after it came to his attention that his star quarterback had been paid by the car dealership, owned by a major donor, but had not actually been working, which violated NCAA’s rules at the time.
Out west in Boise, it was head coach Chris Petersen’s first year on the job. His mission was, “to be a tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar outfit.” Some 14 years on, he was appointed as the Edward V. Fritzky Endowed Chair in at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. Petersen was indeed a leader in the making. In his first 117 games, he checked the Win box 100 times, making him the fastest coach in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision to cross that milestone. That accomplishment will not, however, displace his claim to fame.
In December, FanBuzz said that if there was such a thing as a Trick Play Hall of Fame, “Boise State’s Statue of Liberty play to beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl would undoubtedly be the first inductee.” Perhaps it takes a great leader with nothing to lose to earn the top spot. For most of the game, it didn’t look like sports shenanigans would be needed. Boise State led 14-0 early, 21-10 at the half and 28-10 with 5:16 left in the third quarter. A chagrined Oklahoma had gone into the game favored by 7 ½ points. It looked like they were belatedly going to do just that when the Sooners scored 25 unanswered points to take their first lead with just over one minute remaining in the game. But this showdown was nowhere near finished. With 18 seconds remaining in regulation play, Boise State pulled a “Circus” trick play on 4th and 18, which sent the game into overtime. That’s when things got interesting.