Anyone who watched the game will never forget it. In the years following, it became a rallying cry for potential BCS-busters, and it helped put a program on the college football map for good.
Boise State’s 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl had it all: a blue-blood vs. an upstart, memorable plays, a fantastic finish and even a post-game marriage proposal. One of Boise’s heroes that night was senior quarterback Jared Zabransky.
In the final minute of regulation, Zabransky went from potential goat to hero, setting the stage for his epic two-point conversion hand-off in overtime.
We caught up with Zabransky to talk all about that famous game, what it is like to tutor young quarterbacks nowadays, his life after football and more.
College Spun: Going into the Fiesta Bowl, what was going through you and your teammates’ minds? Even though you were ranked ninth in the country, did you feel like underdogs or had you guys already played enough big games at that point where Oklahoma was nothing more than a big name and you knew you could play with them?
Jared Zabransky: To us, we felt confident that we had the talent to be able to play with anybody that year. We knew, the senior-laden team that we had, and playing Georgia, the games against the Oregon schools, we kind of lost steam towards the end of the game because of depth. We knew our top 25 guys could play with anybody in the country that year. It wasn’t a matter that we thought we were underdogs. We knew we had to play well.
CS: You guys blew an 18-point lead, then you threw a pick-6 with 1:02 left, and then you took your team downfield quickly to tie it. What were you thinking after that pick-6, and how did you go about flushing it and focusing on that next drive?
JZ: It didn’t really dawn on me that I blew the game at that point. You just look at the scoreboard and see you’re down, with very little time. You know from working in the two-minute drill, in clutch situations, you know it’s feasible. The odds are kind of against you, but you prepare for that point in time. You think about it [the turnover] pretty quickly, and you get through it and start thinking about the next plays and prepare to execute them. I think that was one of the things that made us successful that season, our ability to kind of shrug things off and take them play by play and game by game. Just really focus on the play at hand.
CS: Were those overtime play-calls as “crazy” or bold as they seemed? Watching at home, a wide receiver pass on 4th-and-goal from the 6 and then the famous Statue of Liberty play seemed like a video game in action. Did you guys have total confidence they’d work or did they even seem like a risk when you were out there executing them?
JZ: The Statue of Liberty, I had a lot of confidence in. We ran that several times –probably close to triple digits—in practice. We ran it against the scout team. We had confidence in that play. It was just a matter of getting everybody lined up and making the snap count with everybody on the line of scrimmage and ensuring the hand-off. The other one, I did not have a lot of confidence in. You know, you’ve got a receiver/running back throwing the ball on fourth down. Although Vinny (Perretta) could spin it pretty well, you never know in situations like that. It’s a run-pass option, but so many things could go wrong. One, he didn’t throw the ball all game and two, that’s not really what he’s there to do. So I did have a little queasy feeling in my stomach before that.
CS: Did you know (running back) Ian Johnson was going to propose to his girlfriend post-game?
JZ: (Laughs) No, I didn’t. There were some rumors but I didn’t know he was going to do it like that.
CS: What was it like being a cover athlete for NCAA Football? How do you feel about the current debate surrounding athlete’s likenesses and whether or not student-athletes should be paid directly or have an opportunity to make money off endorsements/likenesses?
JZ: Yea, that was pretty neat, because you play those video games growing up. I remember when EA Sports became very prevalent. There were some other games early but that game kind of took over. That was a privilege and an honor. There was that class-action lawsuit recently with all the players. I didn’t file in that. I felt that even though my likeness was used, I felt like I had been compensated. Although I didn’t file, I felt that that was appropriate that the players did file that lawsuit.
CS: What was your experience like at the professional level in the NFL and CFL? What stands out to you from that time, and how did it compare to your college experience?
JZ: It was a bunch of guys, the best of the best from college. You step out of high school and into college and you’re the big fish in a small pond, and then you’re a small fish swimming in a big lake when you get to college. It’s kind of the same (in the pros). You’re trying to see who the biggest fish is in the NFL. Everybody is a monster. Everybody can run. The big thing that separate guys is the ability to deal with the many decisions quickly and react quickly. There are some guys that are still freakishly athletic and more athletic than others that separate themselves early on. But the majority of guys, everybody can run, jump. Everybody is powerful. That was probably the biggest thing. You didn’t have anybody on the field battling for a position that couldn’t run.
CS: You’ve been a personal QB trainer for five years now. What made you want to get into doing that, and how has it gone for you? Also, how have the shifts in football offensive strategies (more shotgun or Pistol, more spread-based schemes, less Pro-Style) changed how you have to instruct kids?
JZ: I started that up five years ago. The first few years were phenomenal. I have a passion for sports and I really enjoy working with youths. Over the last couple of years, it has kind of died off with my current occupation and the amount of time I can commit to it. During when the training was heavy, you see a lot of kids of the ages 10, 11 and 12 years old that are already taking snaps from the Shotgun and there has definitely been a huge paradigm shift at the quarterback position. If you can’t run now, you better be 6-foot-6, and you have several guys that are 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 that can still move very well. There has been a huge paradigm shift.
CS: What do you think will need to happen for Boise to be part of the College Football Playoff in 2016?
JZ: I think it’s pretty straightforward. Teams like Boise, Houston, you have to go undefeated. You have to win the games that you’re supposed to win very convincingly. I still think there’s a lot of that that’s in there. Are they blowing teams out? What are the scores? I think that still plays a pretty big part.
CS: Have you followed how your former coach Chris Petersen is doing at Washington? What are your thoughts on him there?
JZ: I’ve stayed in pretty close touch with Coach Pete. We speak probably every six months or so just to catch up. In our world, that seems like a lot because you get so busy with life. I think this is kind of a make-or-break year for that staff…His recruiting classes have come full-term. You’ll get to see the guys he’s brought in. I think that’s a big deal. Just being able to bring culture into an organization or to a locker room and see what its real effects are. I’m excited for him.
CS: Are you still close with any former teammates at Boise? How often have you gone back since you graduated?
JZ: I’ve been back several times. A couple of my teammates are having a camp here in June, and there’s about 20 of us who go back and help with this camp. Former players, guys who are still in the NFL, it’s a great opportunity to give back. Alex Guerrero and Jerard Rabb run it. Alex was a defensive tackle who came in with my class and played in the NFL and Arena League and he’s now a marketing manager for several guys. Patrick Peterson, Brock Osweiler, Ryan Clady, guys like that. Jerard is obviously the receiver that scored on the Hook-and-Ladder in the Fiesta Bowl.
CS: Currently, your primary job is as Director of Sales at Schramm. How have you been able to utilize the skills, lessons and things you learned playing football and incorporate them into your current job?
JZ: There’s so much correlation between corporate culture and leading organizations and leading men on the football field. You have to be very organized. You have to make sure everybody is on the same page, everybody is working towards constant goal. It’s proven valuable several times [my football experience].