Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 | midnight
- Roller coaster final month for Arizona State players ends in disappointment
- MAACO Bowl Las Vegas live blog: Boise State blows out Arizona State, 56-24
- Arizona State befuddled by late-season collapse
- Talking Points Blog: Bowl Pick’em Against The Spread Entry 2
- Elite senior class powers Boise State into MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
- Boise State and Arizona State to play in 2011 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
Doug Martin never asked to get his job as Boise State’s starting kick returner back.
Martin was as surprised as anyone when Boise State coach Chris Petersen assigned him to practice with the first team kickoff return unit in preparation for Thursday night’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas against Arizona State. The senior running back hadn’t returned a kick in more than two months.
But Petersen wanted to get the ball in Martin’s hands as much as possible against the Sun Devils.
“He got a little beat up during the season at the running back position, so we had to be smart as far as where we were going to save some hits on him,” Petersen explained. “It was the last game, so let’s go.”
Perfect timing. Martin became the first player in the last five years to return a bowl game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown when he notched a 100-yard score at the start of the action at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The 14-second sprint was a preview for the rest of the evening, as Boise State ran up and down the field against Arizona State in a 56-24 victory.
Martin racked up 301 all-purpose yards, a MAACO Bowl Las Vegas record, and two touchdowns in his MVP performance.
“We wanted to prove to the world and the nation that we’re here and we’re winners,” Martin said.
Martin is a major reason why the Broncos have gone an unprecedented 50-3 over the last four years. Petersen called Martin perhaps the best running back he’s ever coached.
But Martin routinely gets overlooked by senior Kellen Moore, the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history. Not on this night.
“He’s just been so consistent,” Moore said of Martin. “He gets positive yards every play. He’s as good as any running back in the country.”
Most scouts label Martin as the top available running back in next year’s NFL Draft. He showed why against Arizona State.
Although Moore threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns on 25-for-33 passing, the Broncos relied every bit as much on Martin.
He set up a Boise State touchdown to make the score 21-0 at the start of the second quarter by running the ball on five of eight plays in the drive, which culminated in a trick-play, reverse-pass touchdown from receiver Matt Miller to tight end Kyle Efaw.
Martin also keyed on a scoring drive at the end of the third quarter before getting his first rushing touchdown midway through the fourth.
“From the second he got to Boise State, he was our hardest-working guy and probably our strongest guy overall pound-for-pound,” Petersen said. “And he never flinched or never let off for his entire five years. He’s another guy we’ll miss. There’s no doubt.”
The Broncos lose almost everyone off of this year’s team, which will likely rank in the top five in season-ending polls, save for a few standouts. One of the few notable players who will return is junior cornerback Jamar Taylor.
Taylor also had a memorable MAACO Bowl Las Vegas experience. After two consecutive, uncharacteristic turnovers from Moore, Arizona State had the ball at the one-yard line trailing only 28-10.
On a fourth-and-goal play, Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler dropped back to pass and Taylor immediately recognized what he was up to. Osweiler lofted a fade to the east corner of the end zone, but Taylor came down with the ball and took it back 101 yards for a touchdown.
“Play of the game,” Petersen said. “If he wouldn’t have made that play, it’s game on and a much different feel.”
Petersen adamantly denied that the victory over Arizona State marked the end of an era for Boise State. But it’s hard to envision the Broncos without players like Martin and Moore marching the offense down the field with authority.
They’re thankful they went out on top.
“It means a lot,” Martin said. “I can’t even think about it right now, but in 10 years or 20 years, it’s going to be an awesome feeling.”