Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
- Utah’s bowl-game winning streak halted at nine victories
- Boise State holds nothing back, beats Utah 26-3 in MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
- Former Las Vegas High standout returns to Las Vegas with Boise State
- Tailgaters, ready for MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, undeterred by drizzle
- Cimarron-Memorial grad Eddie Wide will star for Utah in Las Vegas Bowl
- Utah, Boise State players scuffle in Las Vegas
- Utah and Boise State arrive in Las Vegas with something to prove
While others questioned Boise State's motivation, coach Chris Petersen preached validation.
Boise State spent its season dreaming of going undefeated and possibly crashing the BCS National Championship Game before falling to UNR in overtime of its second-to-last game of the regular season. Therefore, it wasn’t unfair to wonder whether the Broncos would show up emotionally for the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas against Utah.
Petersen never worried about it.
“I think we needed to go out and prove it one last time,” Petersen said. “I think this bowl game was very important to our team.”
“Taking care of business here would make us feel really, really good about our season.”
Cue the celebration then, because Boise State was downright dominant in a 26-3 shellacking of Utah on Tuesday night.
The Broncos out-gained the Utes by more than 300 yards and finished their year with a 12-1 record.
“I think we had a great season,” Boise State junior quarterback Kellen Moore said. “We didn’t take care of business with one opportunity at Nevada, and they deserved that victory. But this is still a great team. We are one of the best teams in the country.”
Moore, who finished fourth in Heisman voting, showed why he was one of the country’s best players against Utah. He won bowl MVP honors after throwing for 319 yards and two touchdowns on 28-for-38 passing.
But he and his team looked like they were possibly deflated at the start of the game. Moore had two uncharacteristic turnovers in the first quarter, a fumble and an interception, that gave Utah the ball with great field position.
Utah settled for two field goal attempts from kicker Joe Phillips after nice stands from the Boise State defense. Phillips missed a 39-yarder but nailed a 44-yard field goal to give his team a 3-0 lead.
“For whatever reason, the first quarter didn’t start out well,” Moore said. “We didn’t make many plays but, fortunately, football is a long game and defense played well in the first quarter to keep us in it.”
When the second quarter began, the Broncos looked every bit like the team that has gone 38-2 over the past three seasons.
They ran a simple power play at the start of one possession that junior running back Doug Martin broke for an 84-yard touchdown. It was the longest play in Las Vegas Bowl history.
“One-play drives are huge momentum changers,” Moore said. “It was great to get one of those in there.”
The Broncos offense was far from done. They added a field goal from Kyle Brotzman and got the ball back once more with a minute to go in the half.
Twenty-six seconds later, junior wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker glided into the end zone after a 25-yard strike from Moore.
“Those are always fun,” Moore said. “The pressure is on you. You’ve got a minute to go with a timeout or two and just getting completions and moving the ball every play. I think we do a real good job of that.”
Boise State took a 16-3 lead into halftime and kept pushing for more in the second half. Senior wide receiver Austin Pettis stood out as the game concluded, scoring a touchdown and finishing with 12 receptions for 127 yards.
The Broncos defense continued swarming the Utes, finishing with three takeaways and four sacks. Senior defensive back Jeron Johnson led Boise State with 10 tackles.
He said the Broncos were challenged by the Utes taunts throughout bowl week. In addition to trash talk through twitter and a shoving match at the game’s welcome reception Sunday, the two teams tangled as they ran onto the field Wednesday night and exchanged some words.
“We were called out a little bit,” Johnson said. “You all saw it.”
And hardly anyone has survived after calling out the Broncos in recent years. Utah found that out the hard way.
It may not have been the BCS game Boise State craved, but that ended up making little difference.
“We were excited to play,” Johnson said. “There was no disappointment.”