December 14, 1995: Nevada plays in the first overtime game in Division I-A history, falling to Toledo in the Las Vegas Bowl, 40-37. Overtime was instituted at college football’s highest level for the 1995 bowl season, then became standard during the 1996 regular season. But it wasn’t the Wolf Pack’s first foray into overtime, which had been played at the lower levels of NCAA football since the late 1980s. In fact, two of Nevada’s games in the 1990 Division I-AA playoffs went three overtimes, including the classic in the semi-finals that ended in a 59-52 victory over Boise State.
Boise State’s first overtime game was back in 1988 at Northern Arizona, a 24-21 win in double-OT. We did the game on KTVB. In the last half of the second overtime, Broncos linebacker Scott Russell recovered an NAU fumble. Having never seen a college OT in person before, Mark Johnson and I looked at each other and said, “The game’s over, right?” It took the Broncos a moment to realize it themselves—then a wild celebration broke out.
Boise State’s most famous overtime game (I’ll give you one guess): the 43-42 Fiesta Bowl overtime win over Oklahoma on New Year’s Day, 2007. My “This Day In Sports” feature doesn’t run on holidays, so I won’t have a chance to write about it on January 1. Let’s dust it off here, shall we?
The moment it finished, Boise State fans rightfully considered the Fiesta Bowl the best college football game they’d ever seen. Then, over the next 24 hours, it became clear that much of the rest of the nation agreed. The Broncos dominated the first half and then some, and in the third quarter, they led the Sooners by 18 points. Then the throng of 73,719 in Glendale, AZ, saw Oklahoma rally to tie the game—and then witnessed a Jared Zabransky interception returned for a touchdown, all in the final two minutes to give the Sooners a 35-28 lead.
But on fourth-and-18 with 18 seconds left in the game, BSU came back from the dead with a 50-yard hook-and-lateral game-tying touchdown from Zabransky to Drisan James to Jerard Rabb. Then came the unforgettable overtime. A direct-snap halfback option pass from Vinny Perretta to Derek Schouman got the Broncos a touchdown, again on fourth down, to bring them within a PAT of tying the game again.
But coach Chris Petersen famously decided to go for two points and end it, and Zabransky gave Ian Johnson the behind-the-back Statue of Liberty for the winning points. Zabransky was Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP, Marty Tadman won the game’s defensive award with his two interceptions, Johnson got a fiancé, and the non-BCS Broncos secured a place in college football history. There you go.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)