Immaculate redemption for ‘Z'

Idaho StatesmanJanuary 7, 2007 

Thirty-two wins were not enough to erase Bronco fans' memories of quarterback Jared Zabransky's five losses.

The 33rd did the trick all by itself.

Zabransky, who leaves BSU with a 33-5 record in three years as the starter and two perfect regular seasons, tossed three touchdown passes in the Broncos' 43-42 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

The player who was booed as he collected his offensive MVP award one year earlier at the MPC Computers Bowl was awash in cheers as he accepted the same award from the Fiesta Bowl.

"Boise State fans are going to remember that over their entire lives," Zabransky said, "and so am I."

It was almost so very different.

Zabransky, who committed six turnovers in the 2005 season opener at Georgia and tossed a game-ending interception on the goal line in the 2005 MPC Bowl, made a terrible mistake in the Fiesta Bowl, too.

He misread the Sooners' coverage and threw an interception that Marcus Walker returned 33 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1 minute, 2 seconds left.

The old Zabransky — the one who committed 23 turnovers in 2005 and sought out a sports psychologist last summer to deal with the negative vibes in his life — might have compounded that mistake with another.

The new Zabransky — the one who committed only nine turnovers his senior year — bounced back so quickly that he threw a 36-yard pass to tight end Derek Schouman on the next play.

Four plays later, Zabransky started the 50-yard hook-and-lateral touchdown with a perfect strike to Drisan James. He converted a critical third down in overtime and fooled the entire Sooners defense on the Statue of Liberty 2-point conversion that won the game.

"What a fitting way for it to end, for him to come back," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "It was a bad interception. It was. ... But the beauty of it is he was able to shake it off and come right back down the field."

Zabransky collected his third bowl player of the game trophy, but his first as a winner. The Broncos had lost their previous two bowls by a total of 10 points.

He claimed the award by making the gut-wrenching, clutch plays that will make all the nay-sayers re-evaluate his worth to the Broncos.

Zabransky wore an unerasable smile as he walked off the field at University of Phoenix Stadium — suddenly free of the monkey on his back.

"Unbelievable. One word," he said of the Fiesta Bowl rally. "We knew we had a chance, but that's crazy."

Zabransky finished the season with career highs for completion percentage (66.3), touchdown passes (23) and pass efficiency (162.6) and a career low for interceptions (eight).

He might even get a shot at the NFL.

"You have your ups and downs, your trials and tribulations, and it's how you respond that makes us the team that we are, that makes you the player that you are, that makes you the person that you are," Zabransky said even before the Fiesta Bowl triumph. "This '06 season has definitely exemplified that."

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