No. 5 Boise St. fights off Louisiana Tech
Early in the fourth quarter, there was nervous pacing along Boise State's sideline.
With an opportunity to show a national television audience why they should once again become a BCS buster, a close game on the road was not what the fifth-ranked Broncos had in mind.
They looked anxious, but they weren't rattled.
"We know we are going to have people's best shots," Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore said. "It's kind of fun playing in tight games I think. Throw in a little pressure and it just shows the resiliency of this team."
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Moore threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns, and Boise State remained unbeaten and in contention for a BCS bid with a 45-35 victory over Louisiana Tech on Friday night.
Tech had pulled within 30-28 early in the fourth quarter on Dennis Morris' leaping catch in the corner of the end zone. The Broncos defense buckled down long enough after that for Boise State to pull away with touchdowns on consecutive drives, first on Moore's 12-yard pass to Austin Pettis and then on Jeremy Avery's 44-yard touchdown run.
"We made more plays then they did tonight when it mattered and we were able to finish it out," Moore said.
Avery finished with 146 yards rushing, while Titus Young caught eight passes for 110 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown for Boise State (9-0, 4-0 Western Athletic Conference).
Boise State has scored no fewer than 45 points in each of its four WAC games this season.
Still, the Broncos could have used a more dominant victory in their quest to prove they are more deserving than unbeaten and sixth-ranked TCU for a Bowl Championship Series bid.
"That's how it always is when we play," Boise State coach Chris Peterson said. "It's never good enough, but it's good enough for us. We are going to try to do better next week and just go from there."
Trailing 27-7 at halftime, Tech (3-6, 2-4) made a game of it in the third quarter, starting with Josh Victorian's first career touchdown on Moore's third interception of the season. It was an ill-advised throw under pressure that hung in the air for Victorian, who raced down the sideline and cut inside Moore to cap a 75-yard return.
"Throwing that stupid pick, I think that really gave them some momentum that they were able to build on and take advantage of," Moore said. "I think that certainly kept them in the game and it is definitely something that I shouldn't have done."
Moore responded by leading a 15-play drive to set up Kyle Brotzman's third field goal, then Tech's offense suddenly came to life. The Bulldogs got their first first down in two quarters on the way to a 73-yard scoring drive capped by Ross Jenkins' 9-yard keeper around the right end to make it 30-21.
Tech's Matt Nelson then caught the Broncos by surprise with an onside kick that he recovered himself. Shortly after, Jenkins found Morris over the middle for 36 yards to the Boise State 12, setting up Jenkins' third-down pass to Morris, who leaped to catch the ball over defensive back Kyle Wilson's head to pull Tech within 30-28.
"It looked like the game was going to get away from us, but I was really proud at how well we did in the second half," Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley said. "We didn't make the plays at the end of the game we needed to win, but if we keep fighting the way we've been fighting, we'll play out of it eventually."
When Brotzman missed his second field goal of the game on the Broncos' next drive, the crowd was going wild, and it appeared the Bulldogs just might upset the highest-ranked team ever to play at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Instead, Boise State put its figurative foot down, forcing a quick punt. Then Moore floated a pass down the sideline to Kyle Efaw for his second 40-yard completion of the game, setting up his scoring pass to Pettis to make it 38-28.
Soon after, Tech failed to convert a fourth-and-6 on its own 44, setting up Avery's game-clinching run that made it 45-28 with 4:52 to go. Tech managed one more touchdown after that.
Jenkins finished 10 of 19 for 114 yards and one interception. Daniel Porter rushed for 92 yards and a score for Tech.
Moore's three TD passes gave him 27 on the season, eclipsing the 25 he had last year as a freshman.
Pettis finished with nine catches for 105 yards. Richie Brockel had a 2-yard TD catch in the first half and Doug Martin scored on 2-yard run for the Broncos.