Las Vegas Doug Martin shook Boise State out of its brief postseason funk with an 84-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and the 10th-ranked Broncos dominated the rest of the way Wednesday night to beat No. 20 Utah, 26-3, in the MAACO Bowl.
Boise State had turned the ball over three times and was trailing 3-0 when Martin went up the middle and outran Utah defenders down the left side to give the Broncos a much-needed spark. From there, Boise State’s defense shut the Utes out, and Kellen Moore threw two touchdown passes as the Broncos cruised to an easy victory.
“It was a startup for our team,” Martin said. “A momentum changer.”
The victory was small consolation for Boise State, which missed out on a possible Rose Bowl appearance on two missed field goals last month against Nevada. But the dominating win against a team that was at one time ranked No. 6 in the country was a reminder why the Broncos rode high in the polls before suffering their only loss in two years.
“Boise State is a heck of a football team,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “When you play a team the caliber of Boise State, you have to play better than we did tonight.”
Martin’s run came after a mistake-prone first quarter in which Boise State kept giving the ball away and making costly errors. Utah wasn’t much better, and when the Broncos began finding their stride the game quickly turned one-sided.
Moore, who fumbled on the third play of the game and threw an interception later in the first quarter, rebounded with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Shoemaker in the closing seconds of the first half to give Boise State a 16-3 lead. He added another 18-yard TD pass to Austin Pettis in the third quarter in a game that was more lopsided than the final score.
Boise State (12-1), which had been ranked as high as No. 2 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll this year and once seemed headed for a New Year’s Day bowl, came into the game a 17-point favorite but early on looked little like the team that was everyone’s favorite BCS buster. That changed with Martin’s run, with the Broncos taking control on both sides of the ball against a team that was a BCS team itself two years ago and had won nine straight bowl games.
Moore, who finished fourth in Heisman voting earlier this month, finished with impressive numbers despite his rocky start. He completed 28 of 38 passes, including 12 to Pettis, who was playing the final game of a college career in which his team won 51 of 53 games.
The game was the last for Utah (10-3) before going into the Pac-12 Conference, where the Utes can play for an automatic big bowl bid. Boise State is also switching conferences, heading to the Mountain West where the Broncos still will have to impress both voters and computers to get a Bowl Championship Series bid.
Boise State was plenty impressive against Utah, shutting down quarterback Terrance Cain and the Utes running game.
Utah didn’t help itself by losing three fumbles and being penalized 10 times for 83 yards in a sloppily played game.
Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman, whose chip-shot misses cost his team a BCS bowl game and his school millions of dollars, became the all-time NCAA leader in points kicking with a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter. Brotzman added another field goal in the fourth quarter but had a mixed night, getting one attempt blocked and dropping a pass while wide open on a fake punt.