ATLANTA — Kellen Moore and those BCS Busters from Boise State are off and running again, coming into the heart of mighty SEC country to beat up Georgia.
Moore threw for three touchdowns — giving him 102 in his career — and the No. 5 Broncos romped past the 19th-ranked Bulldogs 35-21 Saturday night, boosting their hopes of making another run to a major bowl while dealing a huge blow to embattled Georgia coach Mark Richt.
Moore, the nation's top-rated passer last season and expected to be a leading Heisman contender, carved up Georgia's 3-4 defense after a sluggish start. He completed 28 of 34 for 261 yards, with his first scoring pass — a 17-yarder to freshman Matt Miller — giving him 100 for his brilliant career.
He had two more before to lead the Broncos to yet another marquee opening victory.
In the last three seasons, Boise State has started the season with victories against Oregon, Virginia Tech and now Georgia.
After a 12-yard scoring pass to Kyle Efaw gave Boise a 14-7 lead at halftime, Moore got the ball back on the first possession of the second half and directed a drive that broke Georgia's back. Completing seven straight passes covering 69 yards, he set up Doug Martin's 7-yard touchdown run that put the Broncos up 21-7.
Then, late in the third quarter, a big punt return helped finish off the Bulldogs. Chris Potter brought it back 49 yards to the Georgia 28, a facemask penalty gave Boise State another first down and Moore threaded a 3-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Tyler Shoemaker for a three-touchdown lead.
The red-clad Bulldog fans began heading for the exits, leaving a small contingent of blue-clad fans who made the long trip from Idaho to watch their team open another season with a de facto road victory over a major-conference opponent. Last year, it was Virginia Tech.
Boise State (1-0) had never beaten a Southeastern Conference team, and its 0-4 record included an ugly 48-13 loss at Georgia's Sanford Stadium back in 2005.
But these program have gone in dramatically opposite directions since that season, when the Bulldogs went on to claim their second SEC title in Richt's first five years. They haven't won another, dropping all the way to 6-7 a year ago for their first losing season since 1996. If the 11th-year coach can't turn things around quickly — and this wasn't a good start — his job could be in jeopardy.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have outgrown being America's Cinderella team, qualifying for major bowls two of the last five years even while playing in the lightly regarded Western Athletic Conference. They joined the Mountain West this season, but know they still have no room for error if they want to be playing with the big boys in January.
No problem in this one.
Georgia's Aaron Murray put up a couple of long touchdown passes in the second half — one after a punt was nullified by an offsides penalty. But it wasn't nearly enough against Moore and his seasoned team, even with the Broncos missing a couple of foreign-born starters who didn't make the trip because the NCAA was reviewing their eligibility.
Both teams started sluggishly, slipping and sliding on a field with which neither was familiar.
Georgia was called for three penalties on its first possession, then went three-and-out on its second. Finally, the Bulldogs broke loose with a play that Boise State couldn't have seen coming.
Brandon Boykin, a cornerback and returner for the Bulldogs, checked in for the offense. He took a handoff coming around right end, got a couple of good blocks and was gone — 80 yards for a touchdown on the first carry of the junior's career.
That huge play roused a red-clad crowd that left little doubt this was no neutral-site game.
The Broncos traveled across the country for the second year in a row to play in an NFL stadium not far from the campus of their opponent. Last season, they opened with a victory over Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., home of the Washington Redskins. This time, they agreed to play at the Georgia Dome, normally the home of the Atlanta Falcons but only 75 miles from the Bulldogs' campus.
Used to bucking the odds, the Broncos took a little time to get going, then seemed to figure out a 3-4 defense that was expected to carry Georgia in the early going while the team breaks in a new group of receivers — A.J. Green is now in the NFL — and touted freshman Isaiah Crowell at running back.
Crowell showed a few flashes of his potential but wasn't much of a factor, finishing with 60 yards on 15 carries. Murray took quite a beating at quarterback and, appropriately enough, took the last of his six sacks on Georgia's final offensive play. He went 16 of 29 for 236 yards.