Reporting from Glendale, Ariz. — Texas Christian against Boise State in Monday's Fiesta Bowl was tense, close and wasn't decided until the final 18 seconds.
Boise State, surprise, used a trick play, and it worked.
"I think that's what they expect out of us," Coach Chris Petersen joked afterward. "I'm happy to deliver."
But was it a good game?
Boise State defeated TCU, 17-10, in a mild upset of No. 6 over No. 3, but it wasn't the kind of entertainment that is going to inspire poems or remind anyone of Boise State's overtime win over Oklahoma on the same field in 2007.
Now that was a game.
"No sneaking up on anybody this time," Petersen said.
This was the problem Monday in pairing two undefeated champions from outside college football's power structure: the winner was always going to beat a team from outside the structure.
It was a game with yardsticks but no measuring stick.
Boise State edging TCU was never going to be the same as Boise State shocking Oklahoma.
What kind of cliche is "David vs. David?"
This Fiesta Bowl was set up to be judged more harshly by the game's inspectors.
Few people remember how sloppy last year's BCS title game was between Florida and Oklahoma, in which quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford combined for four interceptions.
Yeah, but it was Florida-Oklahoma.
Monday's game, at the midway point, was getting panned by much of the media in the press box at University of Phoenix Stadium.
It was 10-7 game in which the teams had combined for 12 penalties and eight punts.
Things perked up, though, especially in the last 10 minutes, which were as good as anything you'd want to see.
In a 10-10 game, with Boise State facing fourth and nine from its 33, the Broncos did what they do best -- especially on this field.
Kyle Brotzman stood as if to punt but didn't, instead tossing a 29-yard pass to Kyle Efaw.
"That's a gutsy call, yeah," Efaw said. "I'm glad it worked."
It extended the drive to TCU's 38, seized momentum and led to Doug Martin's two-yard, leaping, game-winning touchdown run with 7:21 left.
"That play was a huge, emotional play," TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes said of the fake.
The play of the game was played out toward the same end zone where, four years ago, Boise State used hook-and-lateral and Statue of Liberty plays to beat Oklahoma.
The Horned Frogs didn't go out without a croak, missing two late chances to tie. First, TCU was stopped on four tries inside the Boise 31 on a drive that ended with 4:14 left.
TCU then got punted back to its own one, with only one timeout and 1:06 left, yet made a serious go of it. The Horned Frogs got as far as the Broncos 30 with 29 seconds left before quarterback Andy Dalton's pass was intercepted by safety Winston Venable.
Boise State (14-0) capped its second perfect season in four years, on the same Fiesta Bowl field. Texas Christian fell to 12-1.
So what did Monday prove?
It proved Boise State and TCU are top-notch programs that shouldn't have to apologize for not playing a game for the ages.
Boise State and TCU have arrived. Six years ago, the idea of either of these programs getting a fair shot for the national title seemed remote.
Yet, the bounce Boise will get out of this Fiesta Bowl sets it up for a serious run at next season's national title.
The Broncos return 21 starters off a 14-0 team and should enter next season ranked in the top five.
"We've got a lot of guys back," quarterback Kellen Moore said. "It's something that we can build on."
Write this down: Boise State can win the national title next season. The Broncos' schedule strength, playing in the Western Athletic Conference, will always make it tough. Preseason position, though, is the most important thing.
"We'll have a decent ranking," Petersen said. "But as I've said all along, it just doesn't matter that much."
Boise State also opens the season against Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., and gets a home crack at another Pac-10 team, Oregon State.
TCU, despite the loss, should also contend for next season's crown. The Horned Frogs return the core of this 12-1 team and should start the season in the top 10.
"I don't think we backed down the mountain at all," Coach Gary Patterson said.
If things break right, it's not insane to think the schools could meet next year, in the same stadium.
Next year, for what it's worth, the Fiesta Bowl is hosting the BCS title game.