Final Score: Boise St. 56 Arizona St. 24
The 20 th. Maaco Las Vegas Bowl was the first of the bowls for the Pac-12, and the end of a couple of eras Beaver fans are familiar with. As is often the case in Las Vegas, things ended differently for some than others.
It was the the end of the coach Dennis Erickson era at Arizona St., and it not only ended badly, it ended almost before it started. Because the end of the Kellen Moore (and more) era in Boise ended very well, as almost every episode in the era has.
If the Erickson era has been a train wreck, it has at least been interesting watching. You see things in Arizona St. games you don't see anywhere else, and the Las Vegas Bowl was no exception.
Having been snubbed by the BCS for an at-large berth for the second year in a row, despite being ranked 8th. by the AP, 7th. in the BCS, and 6th. in the Coaches'poll, the pre-game question was whether Boise St. would be mentally into a second consecutive Las Vegas Bowl they didn't really want, or deserve, to be relegated to.
The question was answered instantaneously.
Doug Martin took the opening kickoff coast to coast, and the Broncos had a lead they would never relinquish only 16 seconds into the game.
Moore fired the 141 st. and 142 nd. touchdowns of his Bronco career, to Tyler Shoemaker and Matt Miller, before the Sun Devils managed a field goal.
You see things in Boise St. games not seen elsewhere as well, as coach Chris Peterson always throws in more than a few "trick" plays. When Moore's handoff to his brother for a wide receiver pass mis-fired, Peterson and the Broncos didn't close the play book, they just turned a page.
Grant Hedrick, Moore's understudy, ran a quarterback option to Miller, who threw to an undefended Kyle Efaw who the Sun Devil defense had completely lost track of for the touchdown 43 seconds before halftime that extended Boise St.'s lead to 28-3 at the break.
Adding to the unusualness of the evening, Arizona St.'s Rashad Ross took the second half kickoff coast to coast to put some spark into the Sun Devils.
And then things got really weird.
Arizona St. quarterback Brock Osweiler drove the Sun Devils into Bronco territory, but the Boise St. defense forced a fourth down. Osweiler ordered the punting team back off the field, but his pass was incomplete, and the Broncos took over on downs.
However, Moore fumbled an exchange from center, and nothing was lost by Osweiler's bold move. Ironically, the Arizona St. field goal in the first half came about after a center snap sailed by Osweiler, killing that drive.
Osweiler drove the Sun Devils into the red zone, but the Bronco defense stopped Arizona St. at the one yard line twice, and forced yet another fourth down. With Erickson trying to call timeout, but unable to get the attention of anyone on the ACC officiating crew, even after sending a player as a runner toward the officials, Osweiler underthrew a fade route into the end zone. Which Jamal Taylor picked off and took over 100 yards to the opposite end of Sam Boyd Stadium.
The second Boise St. non-offensive scoring play of the game of over 100 yards produced a 14 point turnaround, turning what cold have been a 28-17 game into a 35-10 one. And got the officiating crew a long, stern lecture from an exasperated Erickson.
Not all the Boise St. points came off big plays, though. Moore led the Broncos on their second 80 yard drive of the game, to go along with a 72 yard one, which D.J. Harper capped with a 4 yard run on the first play of the 4th. quarter to push the lead to 42-10.
The action was far from over, though.
38 seconds later, the Broncos' Travis Stanway scooped up Cameron Marshall's fumble, and sprinted 26 yards to a 49-10 lead.
Osweiler refused to give up, and hit Gerell Robinson for a 21 yard touchdown just over a minute later. Robinson finished the game with 13 catches for 241 yards.
But Moore and Martin collaborated for a 74 yard drive that chewed up nearly 6 and a half minutes, and was aided by a penalty on the Sun Devils for throwing a penalty flag. Arizona St. is well known for penalized ways, but this may be the first time they have thrown the flag themselves.
Martin capped the drive with a 2 yard touchdown run. "The Hampster" had a huge night, rushing for 151 yards on 31 carries. With his kick returns and pass receptions, Martin had 36 touches for 2 touchdowns, and 301 total yards, a Las Vegas Bowl record.
Osweiler mounted one last scoring drive, and finished with a 395 yards passing, after completing 30 of 47 throws. He finished with the highest total passing yards in a single season in Arizona St. history.
But Moore got to end the game with a kneel down, which ended his college career with a record of 50 wins in 53 games.
Moore did have a pair of interceptions, which gave him 28 for his 4 year career, against his 142 touchdowns.
Moore completed 26 of 34 passes, 76%, for 293 yards.
The Bronco defense, which leads the nation in three and out possessions, and had the 2 scores of their own, totally shut down the Sun Devil rushing game. Marshall managed only 12 yards on 11 carries, and James Morrison led Arizona St. in rushing, with 15 yards.
Once the losses on the errant snap to Osweiler and his several sacks were subtracted, the Sun Devils finished with minus eleven yards on the ground.
The career of the 21 Boise St. seniors, led by Moore, Martin, Shoemaker, and two way All-American offensive tackle Nate Potter (2nd. team All-American on the field, and an academic All-American), among others deserve recognition for their accomplishments.
In the last 4 years, the Broncos are 5 points away from having run the table for their career. (Peterson's greatest weakness could be coaching kickers, as Moore had the Broncos in position where better kicking would and should have produced wins in even those losses.)
Moore, Martin, and crew never trailed at halftime, a testament to preparation. And they never lost to a team from a BCS-Automatic Qualifier conference, including against Oregon St., and twice against Oregon.
The win improved the Broncos' record to 12-1, and with this group, are also the first team to ever win at least 12 games for 4 consecutive seasons.
Moore's win total, the run of 12 win seasons, and the run of never trailing at halftime could all stand for a very long time.
Coupled with TCU's win last night in the Poinsettia Bowl, Boise's win evened the Mt. West's bowl record at 2-2. The Pac-12 is now off to a 0-1 start, and the conference will be underdogs in 5 of their 6 remaining bowls. California is up next, against Texas next Wednesday in the Holiday Bowl.
Arizona St. by contrast ended the season 6-7, meaning they never posted a winning record under outgoing coach Erickson in 4 tries after his first season in Tempe.