A funny thing happened on our way to a sixth consecutive national championship appearance by a Big 12 school - Big Game Bob again piddled down his leg at the sight of the Bronco Boys in Blue. I saw this coming a while ago, and sure enough, Boise State is the first mid-major to profit from the playoff system and make a Cinderella run to the title game. It's Division I Football! It ain't intramurals, brotha!
Meanwhile, I'd like to briefly recognize the legend, Bill Snyder, as K-State completes its six-year journey through this fantasy playoff. In this alternate reality, Snyder will retire (the first time) with a 13-3 overall record in playoff games, having won 81.3 percent of his postseason appearances since 1997, and two national championships in two tries.
Bob Stoops is the only coach with a higher winning percentage (0.818), and he is tied with Bobby Bowden for 2nd place among winningest coaches in the playoffs (nine total wins). He will probably pass Snyder at some point in the not-too-distant future, and Mack Brown and Pete Carroll probably will, too, but that doesn't diminish how incredible a run K-State made through this thing. The Cats have been Final Four mainstays, reaching the 3rd round in four of the six playoff years.
2002 and 2003 have been a bit disappointing, especially after the early success K-State experienced in 1998 and 1999, but regression toward the mean was to be expected. Unlike those early teams, which combined for only two losses in two seasons, the Roberson and Sproles-led teams lost five games in two years, implying that the defense was not quite to the same standard as in the late '90s. To win a championship, you have to be firing on all cylinders.
Anyhow, hats off to the mythical Wildcats! It's been a good run, but all good things must come to an end. Tune in tomorrow to see if Boise State can inherit the mantle of Most Improbable Champion from K-State by knocking off the real 2003 champ, LSU.
Game 1: No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats (13-3) VS. No. 2 LSU Tigers (14-1)
The Rose Bowl Game presented by PlayStation 2
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 27, 2003 - 1:30 PM EST
Wind: SSW 2 MPH
Final Score: LSU 34, Kansas State 24
Player of the Game
LSU RB Justin Vincent
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Bill Snyder's pursuit of a third national championship will have to wait until next year.
LSU (15-1) dispatched Big 12 Champion Kansas State (13-4) in the Rose Bowl, 34-24, to advance to the national championship game.
Justin Vincent continued his impressive string of playoff performances with 18 carries for 149 yards and a TD, but it was Alley Broussard (14 carries, 81 yards, 1 TD) who struck the first blow for the Tigers, coasting in from 16 yards out to put his team up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.
Ryan Gaudet then added three of his four made FGs throughout the rest of the 1st half, and LSU led 16-3 at halftime.
But K-State would not go down without a fight. Darren Sproles (24 carries, 132 yards, 2 TDs) rushed for two quick TDs early in the 3rd quarter, and the Wildcats actually led briefly, 17-16.
Vincent answered with a 47-yard TD run to reestablish the LSU lead, 23-17, but Sproles helped K-State put together another long drive before taking a breather and allowing seldom-used backup Danny Morris to earn a share of glory as he ended the 3rd period with a 6-yard TD run to put the Wildcats back in the lead, 24-23.
The 4th quarter was all LSU, though, as neither team was able to score again until the Tigers' Shyrone Carey punched it in from eight yards out and Devery Henderson completed the 2-point conversion to give LSU a 31-24 lead it would not relinquish again.
The running backs were the stars of this game, as Sproles, Vincent, Broussard and Joseph Addai all rushed for more than 60 yards. As a result, the quarterbacks took a backseat - Ell Roberson was just 5 of 10 for 85 yards, while Matt Mauck completed 7 of 11 passes for 120 yards.
Game 2: No. 13 Boise State Broncos (14-1) VS. No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (14-1)
FedEx Orange Bowl
Pro Player Stadium - Miami Gardens, Fla.
Saturday, Dec. 27, 2003 - 8 PM EST
Wind: E 16 MPH
Final Score: Boise State 30, Oklahoma 20
Player of the Game
Boise State RB David Mikell
MIAMI (AP) - So much for the so-called "greatest college football team of all time."
Much-lauded Oklahoma (14-2) displayed some of the same poor tendencies it showed three weeks ago in a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship, as the Sooners never led in a 30-20 upset loss to Boise State (15-1), the biggest playoff Cinderella yet, in the Fiesta Bowl.
As they have done throughout the playoff, David Mikell (24 carries, 124 yards, 1 TD) and Ryan Dinwiddie (13-20, 199 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) carried the Broncos to victory with steady and gutsy play. Dinwiddie accounted for two passing TDs in the first half to help establish a 20-10 Boise State lead at halftime, while Mikell helped put at least a few nails in Oklahoma's coffin when his 9-yard TD run less than five minutes after halftime increased that lead to 27-10.
The Bronco defense held Oklahoma to just 122 total rushing yards and harried Heisman-winning QB Jason White relentlessly; he accounted for just 196 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT on 18-of-32 passing and was sacked twice.
It was only Bob Stoops' second loss ever in playoff action as coach of the Sooners, but such is life for No. 1 seeds, which are now just 10-6 all-time in FBS playoffs and have never won a single national championship.
Instead, it will be Boise State who contends for that honor next week in the Sugar Bowl, in a true David-versus-Goliath match-up with SEC juggernaut LSU. The 13th-seeded Broncos are the lowest team to reach the final game, and the first from a non-"Big Six" conference.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
All bowl logos are courtesy of sportslogos.net.
FBS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Nokia Sugar Bowl
#2 LSU vs. #13 Boise State
New Orleans, La.