A Decade Later, Ian Johnson Laughs At Trick Filled Fiesta Bowl Memories

Ian Johnson insists he’s never sat down and watched the game.

No kidding. The former Boise State running back who scored a two-point conversion on the iconic Statue of Liberty play in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma has never watched the game.

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He might see the game on a television when he walks into a store this time of year. That legendary 43-42 victory against the Sooners on Jan. 1, 2007, which capped a 13-0 season for the Broncos means something else to him 10 years later.

He’ll see former teammates like center Jadon Dailey and reminisce about flexing on the covers of magazines. They remember the team’s motto heading into the 2006 season.

"The mantra to that year was, 'Hey, let's party' and we were always like, 'Party in the end zone. No one celebrates alone,’” Johnson told Sporting News. “Then what game do we end up in? The Fiesta Bowl, which literally means 'party' in Spanish. How fitting was that?”

Johnson remembers the buildup to the game under former Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who led Washington to the College Football Playoff this season. The Broncos were ranked No. 9 and faced No. 7 Oklahoma, which won the Big 12 and featured Adrian Peterson.

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Boise State, however, jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind a 49-yard touchdown pass from Jared Zabransky to Drisan James and Johnson’s short touchdown run.

"It was that dumb-luck, blind-faith we believed and had faith that we belonged there,” Johnson said. “But there was that moment in the first quarter where it was like, 'Wow. Coach isn't full of baloney. This is actually real.'"

The Broncos built a 28-10 lead with 8:05 left in the third quarter after an interception return for a touchdown by Marty Tadman.

"The first thing we always say is, 'We were in the game not throwing any trick plays,’” Johnson said. “It wasn't until a fluke play where a ball hit someone on a punt and they picked up a bunch of momentum.”

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That play started a run of 25 consecutive points by the Sooners for a 35-28 lead with 1:02 remaining. That’s when the trick plays started. Boise State faced a fourth-and-18 with 18 seconds left, and the rest is history. Zabransky to James to Jerard Rabb on a “Hook and Ladder” tied the game.

"We had run that play in practice every Friday during game week and we'd never used it,” Johnson said. “When it was called it was one of those moments where, 'Well, you know what? We've run this play a bunch of times in practice and it never worked. If it was going to work, then this is the moment.'"

Johnson let out a long laugh at that point. It’s an iconic play that set up a memorable overtime. Peterson scored on a 25-yard TD in overtime, but Boise State answered with two more trick plays. Receiver Vinny Perretta took a snap from center and hit Derek Schouman for a TD in response, and that set up the “Statue of Liberty.” 

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Johnson looks back at that now with more appreciation than anything. It’s a play that lives on forever in college football lore and capped a remarkable unbeaten season. Johnson proposed to his wife Chrissy afterward, and they have a daughter, Johannah, who will turn five in January. On the 10-year anniversary of that Fiesta Bowl, Johnson might hear about that play and that season a little more than usual.

"That moment is brought back to me quite frequently, and it's fun to be a part of it,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to look at it, but I’ve never actually watched it myself.”

That’s OK. The rest of us always will. 

A decade later, Ian Johnson laughs at trick-filled Fiesta Bowl memories
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