Fiesta Bowl

Fiesta Bowl:

They wanted so badly for it to be an instant classic. They wanted a Fiesta Bowl so compelling and immaculately played, the aristocracy of college football would have to notice, from its championship week doings across the desert in southern California.

Boise State and TCU — partners in perfection and yearning — wished for a night so exciting and stirring they would be granted an emancipation proclamation from their Cinderella labels.

MORE TRICKERY: Boise State uses fake punt to beat TCU

They understood what was at stake. Obviously, it is easier to crash a White House state dinner than the BCS hierarchy.

It'd be nice to say all their dreams came true. It also would not quite be right.

You know what happens when the defenses are in charge. The score might be close and the hitting fierce and the effort beyond question — all true Monday night — but the aesthetics can take a hit, along with the quarterbacks.

Did a 17-10 Boise State victory keep them riveted from sea to shining sea? Was that enough scoring to charm the cynics, especially those with no proclivity for defense?

Tough call. Though Boise State did pull out a trick play, which is like saying the national anthem was performed before the game.

This one was a fake punt in the fourth quarter that turned into a 29-yard pass and led to the winning touchdown. It certainly gave the Tuesday morning conversations a starting point.

Choosing substance rather than style, the facts start here:

•Boise State is still unbeaten, and is unbeaten to stay. Late next summer, when it comes time for the preseason polls, how will anyone look at a 14-0 record and 21 returning starters and not call the Broncos a genuine national championship contender?

•They will have a distinguished spot in the first rankings in August, which is the next step in the quest for national respect. You've reached a new level when people vote you up in the polls before they've seen you play a down. Preseason rankings are for assumptions. Assumptions go to the elite.

That is what Boise State won Monday night in the Fiesta Bowl. Plus, a nice trophy.

"I just know these kids have the most unbelievable heart," coach Chris Petersen said.

But let's be honest. The Stepping Stone Bowl wasn't exactly an offensive a tour de force. Not that it should have been shocking. These two bring out the grind in one another.

They met in Poinsettia Bowl the year before and TCU won 17-16.

It should be noted that low scores and offensive struggles shouldn't necessarily mark a team down. Florida won the BCS title last January 24-14 over Oklahoma in a game that had four interceptions and was dominated by defense. Nobody questioned the Gators afterward.

Boise State and TCU faced a different challenge Monday night, trying not to win a national championship, but believers. The football had purpose and grit. Most of the best plays belonged to the secondary.

But touchdowns woo the masses, same as home runs in baseball.

The public would have noticed however Boise State upset Oklahoma in this game three years ago. But the public was absolutely enthralled when the Broncos did it 43-42 in overtime.

For most of the first half, nothing much was working, including the coaching headsets on the TCU sidelines. Both offenses started as if slightly overwhelmed by the moment, with overthrown passes and rash penalties.

Still, at the end of the day, fans like round numbers. What's rounder than zero? As in Boise State defeats.

This was the latest example of the Broncos' remarkable knack for putting away games. What happens only four times in four years? Christmas, Easter and Boise State defeats. They are now 49-4 since 2006.

"That's our thing," defensive end Ryan Winterswyk said. "We don't lose."

That ought to count for something. That ought to count for a lot. Boise State will get a lot of mileage out of Monday night. But not enough to send a chill through Texas or Alabama.

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