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Boise State Football: Just Call Him Z

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Jared Zabransky was an important part of the Broncos' Fiesta Bowl win in 2007.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Jim McMillan. Joe Aliotti. Bart Hendricks. Ryan Dinwiddie. Taylor Tharp. Kellen Moore.

These are just some of the quarterbacks who have manned the Boise State offense over the last 40 or so years. These are some of the gentlemen who have made the Blue and Orange what they are today.

Oh yeah, and don't forget Z.

Jared Zabransky was a vital part of the Broncos history, because without him, there might not have been a Fiesta Bowl. That 2006 Boise State team  was stacked with talent. You had the splendid running back Ian Johnson, who ran through defenders with ease, compiling 1,713 yards and a jaw dropping 25 touchdowns.

On defense, you had the always dangerous Korey Hall, who had 111 tackles and averaged 3.5 sacks in 2006. Then, you had guys like Orlando Scandrick, Marty Tadman, Legedu Nanee, Vinny Perretta and Colt Brooks. It all seemed to come together for this young bunch, who finished with a perfect 13-0 record.

But, without a really good QB running the team, you don't have a real good chance at winning, and that's what Zabransky brought to the table for the Broncos. His fluid passing was a beautiful thing to watch, as he flawlessly tossed touchdown passes to guys like Drisan James, Derek Schouman and Nanee.

Coming in as Boise State's starter in 2004, Zabransky had some big shoes to fill. Their previous quartback, Ryan Dinwiddie, had an amazing 2003 season, throwing for 4,356 yards, 31 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. With numbers like that, there is huge pressure to be met.

Zabransky didn't pretend to be Dinwiddie. The two were apples and oranges. What Zabransky brought to the table was a solid passing game, mixed in with some running ability.

Jeff Caves, who covers the Broncos for 670 KBOI in Boise, and hosts "Idaho Sports Talk" with Caves and Prater on 93.1 The Ticket, appreciated all the traits Z brought to the table.

"I liked his confidence and ability to make things happen with his feet when things broke down," Caves told me on Thursday.

Jared Zabransky was not only a passing threat, but his running game wasn't bad either. (Courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jared Zabransky was not only a passing threat, but his running game wasn't bad either. (Courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In 2004, his first year at the helm of the Boise State offense, he finished with 2,927 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Broncos finished with an 11-1 record and a #12 AP ranking, including a convincing 53-34 victory over Derek Anderson and the Oregon State Beavers. The Broncos made it all the way to the Liberty Bowl, where they lost to Louisville in a dramatic game, 44-40.

When 2005 rolled around, the Broncos had even bigger aspirations, and that involved playing in a major BCS game. However, the season didn't get off to a harmonious start, as the team lost to Georgia 48-13. Then the next week, the Broncos lost a heartbreaker to Oregon State 30-27. At 0-2, it was not a good start to the season for Dan Hawkins and his troops. However, the team righted the ship, rattling off 8 straight victories to finish the season 9-3. Zabransky finished the year with 18 touchdowns and 2,562 yards passing.

Right before their bowl game against Boston College at the MPC Computers Bowl, the team found out that their head coach Dan Hawkins was leaving to coach the University of Colorado. The move definitely made an impact on the team, as they lost 27-21 to BC.

Erasing the 2005 season out of their minds, the Broncos were primed and ready to win in 2006. Led by new coach Chris Petersen, the team blew through their competition like a hurricane, The only two close games of the year were against Wyoming on September 16th (a 17-10 Bronco victory) and against San Jose State on November 11th (a 23-20 win). The rest of their wins usually were of scores of two touchdowns or more.

Zabransky contributed to this fast and furious Broncos offense, throwing for 2,587 with 23 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. He also rushed for 196 yards and 6 running TD's.

Z was definitely having a tremendous season.

Jared Zabransky definitely upped his game in the 2006 season. (Courtesy of Kent Horner/Getty Images)

Jared Zabransky definitely upped his game in the 2006 season. (Courtesy of Kent Horner/Getty Images)

The Broncos also won the WAC Championship outright, with a 12-0 record. It was only right that the BCS grant them the bowl game that they had so richly deserved. It was announced that the Broncos would play the ultra tough Oklahoma Sooners in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Chips anyone?

This game stands out as one of the finest moments in the annals of football history. The game went back and forth, much like a heavyweight fight. Both teams were trading punches, and Boise State found themselves in control going into the fourth quarter with a 28-17 lead. People were wondering, "Could Boise State do the impossible?"

Then, the Broncos got a sobering punch.

Oklahoma scored 18 points in the 4th quarter to tie the game at 35. This had all the makings of a Hollywood storyline. If you didn't have high blood pressure before this game started, you certainly showed signs of it going into overtime.

In OT, the Sooners scored on a touchdown run from Adrian Peterson, making it 42-35.

It was Boise State's turn, and they didn't disappoint. Vinny Perretta threw a touchdown pass to Derek Schouman to make it 42-41. Realizing that they needed to put this game away, Broncos coach Chris Petersen decided to risk all of his chips at the poker table.

The result?

Statue of Liberty.

Boise State lined up three receivers to the right side, while it looked like Zabransky was going to pass the ball to one of them. Instead, he faked and handed the ball off to Ian Johnson, who ran into the end zone for one of the most thrilling scenes you'll ever witness in football.

43-42.

Ian scores, proposes marriage, she says yes, Zabransky wins the Fiesta Bowl MVP, and all is good in Bronco Nation.

He also appeared on the cover on one of the best video games of all time, NCAA Football '08

Caves thinks that without Zabransky, the Broncos don't win that Fiesta Bowl.

"Z had his best statistical year in 2006 and there's no way they could have done without his dual run/pass threat on offense," Caves said. "He was a leader for sure. He was on the cover of EA Sports and will forever be remembered as the Offensive MVP of the Best Game in College Football History. Z was a great ambassador for Boise State after that Fiesta Bowl win and was poised enough to handle the attention."

Caves is right.

Jared Zabransky's Career at Boise State

Passing Passing Passing Passing Passing Passing Passing Passing Passing
Year School Conf Class Pos G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
*2003 Boise State WAC FR QB 9 11 23 47.8 180 7.8 6.7 1 1 119.2
*2004 Boise State WAC SO QB 12 206 327 63 2927 9 8.3 16 12 147
*2005 Boise State WAC JR QB 13 202 342 59.1 2562 7.5 6.4 18 16 130
*2006 Boise State WAC SR QB 13 191 288 66.3 2587 9 9.3 23 8 162.6
Career Boise State 610 980 62.2 8256 8.4 7.9 58 37 145

Zabransky had established himself as one of the most promising young QB's in college football. He was signed by the Houston Texans as a free agent in April of 2007. After spending most of his time on the practice squad, Zabransky was released by the Texans in September of that year. He ended up signing a two year deal with the Steelers in February 2008, but was released in July of that year.

Zabransky tried his hand with the NFL, signing with the Houston Texans in 2007. (Courtesy of Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Zabransky tried his hand with the NFL, signing with the Houston Texans in 2007. (Courtesy of Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

After not finding a home in the NFL, the young QB decided to do what a lot of WAC quarterbacks have done in the past.

Go North, young man.

Zabransky ended up in the CFL, playing for the Edmonton Eskimos. He made the squad and served as the third stringer behind longtime CFL quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Jason Maas. he mostly spent time as a backup for the Eskimos, who released him in 2011.

Jared Zabransky holds a place in Bronco history for his amazing 2006 season where he helped take Boise State to a new level. His desire to win and willingness to do whatever it takes should not go unnoticed either. He improved his passing game, and even showed signs of quickness as a runner as well. He definitely deserves kudos for assisting Boise State in becoming an elite football program.

And that's something that he, the program and fans can be proud of.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Hockey_JakeRyan, or e-mail me anytime at jacob.hamar@gmail.com