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December 4, 2006

Let the Fiesta begin








In front of a reported crowd of 5,025 fans at Taco Bell Arena, the Boise State football celebrated the announcement of who and where the team will be playing this postseason.

The five-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion Broncos have known for over a week that the fate was almost certainly the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but it wasn't official until Sunday night that the Broncos knew that the team will play Oklahoma (11-2 overall, 7-1 Big 12) on New Year's Day.

While the live feed from Fox Sports was shown on the big screen in the arena, every fan was on their feet when the announcement was made on national television.

"It's unbelievable," Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said. "The fans are the ones that take our program to the next level."

Along with the thousands of fans that filled the entire lower level, in attendance was Boise State President Robert Kustra, Fiesta Bowl representative Ann Damiano (a Boise State graduate) and Idaho Governor Jim Risch, who told the team before the announcement that they were playing, 'for every Idahoan.'

Oklahoma secured a spot in the BCS bowl Saturday evening with the win over Nebraska in the Big 12 Conference Championship game. The Broncos (12-0, 9-0 WAC) secured the spot by going undefeated this season and finishing the regular season ranked 8th in the BCS standings.

"We all knew in that locker room what we could get done," Boise State senior quarterback Jared Zabransky said. "We all felt very confident about our chances of getting it done. And it happened."

In the standings, the Broncos are the favorite over Oklahoma, who is ranked 10th--but outside of Idaho--there may be three people who give Boise State a chance to win this game in Glendale, Ariz.

"Nobody doubts Oklahoma," Petersen said. Petersen is one of just two coaches in modern NCAA history who have gone undefeated in their first season as a head coach. Larry Coker was 12-0 in his first season at Miami when the Hurricanes won the national championships in 2000.

A win would give Petersen the best record ever for a first year coach.
"Our goal was to get to a BCS bowl game and to win a BCS bowl game," Zabransky said.

The Broncos have not played a team of Oklahoma's caliber since the season opening loss to Georgia in 2005. However, Petersen said that the memory of that loss is not what will help the Broncos prepare for this game. Rather, it is the history Boise State has had in the last three bowl games against the likes of TCU, Louisville and Boston College that will lend them a hand for the Fiesta Bowl.

"I think it was the last bowl games that we've learned from that will help us," Petersen said.
Much like the two close losses that the Broncos endured in the Liberty Bowl in 2004 and the MPC Computers Bowl last season, Petersen also knows that just showing up will not be good enough for this team.

"We need to show well," Petersen said.

The Fiesta Bowl will have a non-BCS school playing in the game for the second time in three seasons. Two years ago in the 2005 bowl game, then Mountain West Conference champions Utah first busted into the BCS party with a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh. But, this season the Broncos have a much bigger task then what the 8-4 Pittsburgh squad was to the Utes.

"I think Utah did a great job, but we've got to take it to the next stage," Petersen said.

When it comes to program histories, the Fiesta Bowl is a match-up of what could be seen as David versus Goliath. Boise State has been a Division 1-A program for just 11 seasons. On the other hand, Oklahoma has seven national championships--the last one coming in 2001 over Florida State--which happens to be the one school that has more BCS bowl appearances than the Sooners five.


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