Boise State Football

Boise State earns respect

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Boise State football team is done asking for national respect.

Now the Broncos have it.

The 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Monday night fills every hole in the Boise State resume.

The Broncos beat a Top 10 national power that won the Big 12 Conference championship this season and entered the game with one of college football's most-celebrated players (running back Adrian Peterson) and an eight-game winning streak.

And the Broncos won in such a way that the entire nation was talking BSU football Tuesday — even National Public Radio and Inside Edition.

"We've said, ‘We want some respect. We want some respect,' " said sophomore tailback Ian Johnson, who proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on national TV after scoring the game-winning 2-point conversion. "We kind of just got some for all the people that came before."

The Broncos (13-0) completed their first perfect season as a four-year school, the crowning achievement atop five years of remarkable success.

They will finish in the Top 25 for the fourth time in five years, but will finish in the Top 10 —perhaps even the Top 5 — for the first time ever.

The Broncos also can finish as the only undefeated team in America if Florida beats Ohio State on Monday in the BCS National Championship Game. They might even get a first-place vote in The Associated Press Top 25.

"We're no longer this little Boise State team that comes from Idaho," senior center Jadon Dailey said. "This should prove to everyone that we belong with all the big boys, no matter who it is. Bring 'em on."

Easy for Dailey to say, of course, because his career is over.

The players who will determine whether Boise State is a rising power or another BCS newcomer flash-in-the-pan will return to work Jan. 15, the day before spring classes begin.

That's the first meeting for the 2007 team.

Petersen already was thinking about his Jan. 15 speech Tuesday morning in the Fiesta Bowl afterglow.

He remembers what happened two years ago. The Broncos went 11-1 in 2004 — losing 44-40 to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl — and struggled to maintain their edge.

They finished 9-4 in 2005, including an 0-2 start and their only WAC loss in the past five years.

"It's hard because it's always windier at the mountain top," Petersen said. "It's hard as hell. But on top of that, we lose a lot of playmakers.

"But the beauty of it is we have a lot of guys that this will fuel their fire."

The Broncos lose 22 seniors, 13 of whom were full-time starters for most of the year. That group includes quarterback Jared Zabransky, the top three wide receivers, WAC Defensive Player of the Year Korey Hall and both defensive tackles.

Returners include All-American tailback Ian Johnson, Fiesta Bowl defensive player of the game Marty Tadman, four of the five starting offensive linemen and both starting cornerbacks.

The returners will find an unprecedented opportunity. Boise State won't have to answer for its scheduling deficiencies — namely the weakness of the WAC's lower half — and won't need to impress voters every time out.

"It's another stepping stone for us," Johnson said. "… We did what we said we could do. Strength of schedule doesn't matter anymore. Whether or not you're a mid-major or you're one of the top teams or you're considered one of the top conferences, the gap is small between the two of us."

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