Boise State QB gets shot at Gators today
Published: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
HONOLULU — The Hula Bowl is the closest thing to a Boise State-Florida showdown this season.
Quarterback Jared Zabransky, who led the Broncos to a perfect 13-0 year, will lead the Kai today against the Aina squad, which features three Gators who upset Ohio State in the BCS National Championship game last week.
The college football all-star game, which will be televised by ESPN at 8:30 p.m., will hardly settle any lingering debates about who is better, should be ranked higher or anything else. A win for the Kai could, however, provide even more fodder for Boise State fans.
"We're considered No. 1, but I know Boise State's mad because they're undefeated," Florida cornerback Reggie Lewis said. "That's the way it works out sometimes."
The Broncos, the nation's only undefeated team, finished fifth in the final Associated Press poll and took one first-place vote away from Florida.
Zabransky, who led Boise State to a thrilling 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, said his team should at least be in the top 3.
"We were dealt 13 cards and we played them well," he said. "But that's just how it goes. College football is a funny game."
Florida (13-1) got all but the one of the 65 first-place votes in the AP poll after its lopsided victory over Ohio State (12-1), which fell from the top spot and finished second. Wisconsin and Louisville also have just one loss each.
"There's no doubt in my mind we're No. 1, and we showed that to everybody," Gators center Steve Rissler said. "Boise State did everything they could. They won every game they played. They could argue, maybe, that they should've had a shot at the title. But that's the way it goes.
"Until they have a playoff system to fix that, it will continue to happen."
This week's Hula Bowl practices had some interesting moments with three Gators and four Buckeyes sharing the same sideline.
Zabransky is also on the same team as Oklahoma quarterback Paul Thompson, who is on a different team than Sooners defensive end C.J. Ah You.
Thompson worked out as a receiver this week and even caught passes from Zabransky.
"I have no problem with him," Thompson said. "He's a great guy. Great competitor."
Thompson, who became Oklahoma's starting quarterback this season when Rhett Bomar was dismissed from the team for breaking NCAA rules, said he's comfortable playing both positions to show his versatility to the NFL scouts.
He's trying to put the Fiesta Bowl loss behind him.
"Everyday it gets easier and easier to just accept it. You can't change it. I think about it a lot and the different things that could've happened, but there's no point in that," he said. "It was a great game and I'm glad to be a part of it. But it's time to move on."
There are about 100 players in the Hula Bowl, with seven Hawaii Warriors. All of them are trying to prove they deserve a shot on the next level.
At least one scout from every NFL team attended practices and drills this week at Aloha Stadium.
"This is a time to show that I was stuck behind a Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State and I can still play," said Buckeyes quarterback Justin Zwick, who backed up Troy Smith. "I started games there. I'm a player. And I want to come out here and have a good showing."
Fresno State coach Pat Hill, who is heading Kai, said the practice and game is like a weeklong job interview. The score today doesn't really matter.
"There is no winner or loser," he said. "What these players are going to show is how they can bond together as a team in a three-day period. More importantly, is how they perform against top-caliber athletes."
It's been a long time since Zabransky experienced a loss and he's going to do everything to keep his perfect season in tact.
"Everybody's out here to win," he said. "You want to do well but you also want to have your football team win."
PENN STATE LINEBACKER RETURNING
After exploring his NFL draft possibilities, Dan Connor, a second-team Associated Press all-American linebacker, announced on Friday that he will return to Penn State for his final season of eligibility.
"We gave it some thought and explored options, but it wasn't what I wanted right now," Connor said in a university news release. "This team is very close to getting some things done, and I want to help make it happen. If things work out right, the NFL opportunity will be there. You're only a college senior once. I'm looking forward to next season."
Connor had filed paperwork with the NFL Draft Advisory Board to get an idea of how high or low he might be selected. The Web site NFLdraftblitz.com predicted that Connor would be the top outside linebacker in next year's draft if he returned for his senior season.
Connor's decision is welcome news for the Nittany Lions, who lose first-team all-American linebacker Paul Posluszny, tackle Jay Alford and end Tim Shaw from a defense that finished in the top 15 nationally in four statistical categories and led Penn State to a 9-4 record, including a 20-10 win over Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.
Penn State will have 15 starters returning next season.
Connor and Posluszny, two-time winner of the Bednarik Award, were regarded as one of the top linebacker twosomes in the country. One of three finalists for the Bednarik Award, presented by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia, and a starter for the last 20 games, Connor was second on the team to Posluszny (116) with 113 tackles.
The only other time Penn State had two defenders with more than 100 tackles in a season was 1989, when linebacker Andre Collins, of Cinnaminson, Burlington County, had 130 and Brian Chizmar 110. The school began compiling tackle statistics in 1969.
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