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Both teams came into the contest with a chip on their respective shoulders. Boise State, always undersold, was still stinging from the catastrophe they suffered mere weeks ago in Reno, Nevada. The Utes, on the other hand, felt they were being undervalued by the media. The Utes were also 16 point underdogs. Not exactly the type of position you usually find a 10-win team facing. And you could see the animosity from both sides during the ball game.
The Utah defense stifled the Kellen Moore led Boise State offense in the first quarter. It was the first time the Broncos had been held scoreless in the first quarter since October of last season. But the Utes will look back at the first quarter as the missed opportunity of the season. A corner blitz caused Moore to fumble on Boise's first series, setting up the Utes inside the Bronco 20. They went three-and-out and subsequently missed a field goal. Two more times during the opening frame Utah missed opportunities to get into the end zone, by either dropping passes or committing penalties. All in all, after one quarter, the Utes only led 3-0. They would not score again all night.
Boise State running back Doug Martin changed the momentum with one swift sprint down the sideline. Martin's 84-yard run put Boise State up for good. The Utah offense, led by back-up Terrence Cain, didn't provide any kind of punch beyond the first quarter as they were dominated by the always underrated Bronco D. With just over a minute left in the first half, and leading 10-3, Kellen Moore instigated a fantastic hurry up drive and found Tyler Shoemaker over the middle for a 16-3 lead as the two teams headed for the locker room.
Moore was terrific again, finishing with a 73% completion percentage and 339 yards through the air. Doug Martin had 147 yards on just 17 carries and Austin Pettis hauled in 139 receiving yards and a touchdown. Altogether it was dominating performance for the Broncos, who looked the part of national power in front of a sellout Sam Boyd Stadium crowd.
It was a difficult end to Utah's season. After rising to a Top 10 ranking earlier in the year, the Utes were embarrassed by Notre Dame and TCU and needed a miraculous comeback to upend rival BYU during the final weekend of the regular season. The loss snapped Utah's terrific 9-game bowl winning streak. All is not lost for the Men in Red as they won 10 games for yet another year.
Boise State continues to prove worthy of all the press it receives. They schematically beat their opponents on both sides of the ball and have the speed and talent one expects to witness from a top-tier program. Kudos to Chris Petersen and his staff for continuing the tradition of Boise bowl success. With its move to the MWC on the horizon, the Broncos will enter a conference where the competition is improved from a week-to-week basis. But, if the past decade is any indication, the Men of Smurf will pass that test with flying colors.