No fiesta this time for Boise State
The reason Boise State beat Oklahoma last year is the same one that East Carolina knocked off the Broncos yesterday in the Hawaii Bowl.
Like Ben Hartman's 34-yard field goal with time expiring for ECU yesterday, the hook and lateral and Statue of Liberty for Boise last year wouldn't have even happened if the favored teams in each game had started playing football from the opening kickoff.
Bowl games are like bar fights. The first punches landed -- usually by the angrier more sober guy -- are almost always the winning ones.
"He had his team more ready to play out of the gate," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said of East Carolina's Skip Holtz.
And Chris Johnson was unstoppable in the early going. He did everything but propose to a cheerleader, and might have even gotten one from Boise State to accept after his record-breaking performance. While that would likely fall under the category of ill-gotten booty, it also would be fitting the way the Pirates pillaged the Broncos' sinking ship in the first half.
By tomorrow morning, Mel Kiper will have "discovered" what both Conference USA fans already knew: Chris Johnson is the man, and a lock as a first-day pick in the draft. Forget about Kevin Smith (Central Florida's All-American, a fine player you may have vague remembrances of from the 2005 Hawaii Bowl). Chris Johnson is C-USA's most spectacular player.
Meanwhile, no first downs for Boise State in the first quarter. Didn't the Broncos learn in Waikiki that three and out is something you do with mai tais, not your offense?
Yes, Johnson's fumble (second of the season) let the Broncos tie it late, but that just added to the flavor of the finish. Team guy he is, Johnson had to let some of his teammates help win the game.
Enter Hartman, who's 11-for-20 field-goal inconsistency had Holtz considering replacing him with the punter for this game.
Holtz and Hartman have a routine where they exchange bad jokes in crucial situations, like when Petersen tried to ice Hartman with a timeout before the kick.
"Why did 6 jump 7? Because 7, 8, 9," Holtz said. "Something silly like that."
And then Hartman makes the kick. The team with five losses beats the one with the national ranking. It's as simple as that. Trick plays, silly jokes, game-winning field goals -- if that's what you want to believe.
The reality is it's a lot more difficult. Bowl games are huge challenges for coaches and tremendous tests of teams' discipline and desire. There is so much time after the last regular-season game and then the spending of a week in another city where young men with healthy per diems in their pockets can get themselves into all kinds of mischief.
Or, they can just get complacent.
"We learned a lot last year at the Papa John's Bowl," said Holtz, of the game in which the Pirates were crushed by South Florida. "As a group (this year) they were focused. We got on them pretty hard on the first day we got here. No doubt our players were focused when we stepped on the field."
The Broncos were excited about being in Hawaii without the pressure of a big game against the Warriors. But they seemed to forget there was still a football game to be played until the second half. Very un-Boise.
And that's why the school that allowed Adrian Peterson 77 rushing yards in a BCS bowl game last year and beat Oklahoma gave up 207 to Chris Johnson last night and lost to East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl.
In one year Boise State went from Fiesta to Siesta.
is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter who covers University of Hawaii football and other topics. His column appears periodically.
Reach him at email@example.com