TULSA, Okla. (AP)—With No. 5 Boise State playing from behind for the first time this season, quarterback Kellen Moore was at his best.
Moore threw two short touchdown passes to Tommy Gallarda, and the undefeated Broncos survived a late scare from Tulsa to escape with a 28-21 victory Wednesday night in one of the last road tests standing between them and another trip to the BCS.
Coach Chris Petersen called it a “solid win” but he doubted it would be the kind of impressive statement pollsters were looking for as the Broncos (6-0) had the college football stage to themselves the same week the BCS standings are to be released for the first time.
“It’s usually never good enough for a lot of people, usually including us and our team,” Petersen said. “Tulsa’s a good team, and this was going to be a good test for us. I think we battled hard against some really explosive playmakers.
“The important thing is that we get a little bit better. Teams don’t stay the same, and we won’t either. We either need to get better or we’re going to get passed by.”
With Boise State down twice early, Moore was perfect on two scoring drives to put the Broncos ahead to stay. He threw an 8-yard lob to Gallarda in the back corner of the end zone for an 8-7 lead, and followed that with a 17-yard TD pass to Austin Pettis as Boise State went ahead 15-14.
The lead eventually grew to 28-14 on the second of two field goals by Kyle Brotzman.
“It was good for us because I believe being down like that woke us up,” running back Doug Martin said.
Tulsa (4-2) got within 28-21 in the fourth quarter when G.J. Kinne and Slick Shelley connected on consecutive passes for 91 yards, including a 55-yarder for a touchdown. The Golden Hurricane had one last chance to tie it in the final 2 minutes, but Boise State forced its fourth three-and-out of the second half to ice the game.
“There’s a lot of momentum going the opposite way when you’re playing on the road,” Petersen said. “We fought hard enough and responded well enough to do what we needed to do.”
Moore finished with 187 yards passing and three touchdown passes. He had a 2-yard touchdown pass to Gallarda in the third quarter.
Martin had 112 yards on 23 carries in his second 100-yard game since moving back to offense after the Broncos lost running back D.J. Harper to a knee injury. Jeremy Avery added 73 yards as Boise State trampled Tulsa on the ground in the third quarter and then held on for the win.
Martin had 83 of his team’s 104 yards rushing in the third quarter as Boise State controlled ball for all but 2:48.
Except for the two long connections between Kinne and Shelley, Boise State’s defense limited the Golden Hurricane—who led the nation in total offense each of the last two seasons—to 30 yards in the second half.
Kinne rolled out of the pocket to the left and missed a wide-open Charles Clay on fourth-and-6 to end Tulsa’s last possession. He finished with 154 yards on 14-for-27 passing.
“G.J was running for his life again tonight and he has been in every game,” Tulsa coach Todd Graham said. “You haven’t seen how good he is yet.”
Tulsa represented one of the few challenges remaining on Boise State’s schedule as the Broncos move into Western Athletic Conference play. The rest of the teams on their schedule have a combined 16-21 record, and in-state rival Idaho (5-1) is the only one with a winning mark.
Petersen wouldn’t look far down the schedule.
“Next week is a new challenge,” he said. “We’ll reload and go then.”
The Golden Hurricane—playing in front of a sellout crowd of 30,000— jumped on top early, capitalizing on a muffed punt by cornerback Kyle Wilson with some trickery on the very next play.
Kinne pitched the ball to A.J. Whitmore, the Golden Hurricane’s usual wildcat quarterback, and he found speedy receiver Damaris Johnson behind the defense for a 53-yard touchdown pass.
It was the first time Boise State had trailed this season, and Moore immediately led a 68-yard scoring drive the opposite way. He hit all three of his passes for 45 yards and converted a fourth-and-1 at the 10-yard line with a sneak to set up his 8-yard scoring toss to Gallarda.
He went 6 for 6 for 62 yards on the Broncos’ next drive, answering Kinne’s 15-yard scoring pass to Trae Johnson with a 17-yard TD connection to Pettis. It was Pettis’ sixth straight game with a touchdown.
“Those were good drives. I’ll tell you, I don’t know if our team even knows we’ve never been behind. When you say that to me, it’s almost news to me,” Petersen said. “You just keep playing, you keep fighting. We’ve played in close games. … You just try not to pay attention to the clock until it’s all said and done.”