It took awhile for Kellen Moore to heat up Wednesday night at wet and chilly Sam Boyd Stadium.
But the Boise State junior quarterback eventually turned in a Most Valuable Player performance, passing for 339 yards and two touchdowns, to help the Broncos overcome a slew of mistakes in a 26-3 win over Utah in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
Moore, who finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting, might have put up even better numbers against the Utes if not for six dropped passes and another sure TD that was fumbled away.
"We screwed up at times and for whatever reason, the first quarter didn't go well for us," Moore said. "But our wide receivers are big time, and it's just a matter of getting the time to find them."
Moore had only 36 yards passing in the first quarter as the Broncos fell behind 3-0.
But Doug Martin's 84-yard touchdown run -- which put Boise State up 7-3 -- seemed to spark Moore and the rest of the Broncos' offense. He began to connect downfield with his two favorite targets -- Austin Pettis and Titus Young -- and Boise State took control.
"Doug busted that big run, and one-play drives are big momentum builders," Moore said. "Things seemed to open up for us after that."
Broncos coach Chris Petersen said the team's three-week layoff might have contributed to its early struggles on offense.
"You sometimes lose some of your rhythm when you go to a bowl game," Peterson said. "We also didn't make some plays and that made it closer than it should have been."
Moore was intercepted late in the first quarter to short-circuit one drive, then watched as Pettis, headed for a sure touchdown, fumbled the ball out of the end zone, resulting in a touchback.
But Moore never wavered, continuing to rear back and fire away. Late in the second quarter, he hit tight end Tyler Shoemaker in the middle of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown with 18 seconds to play, extending Boise State's lead to 16-3.
In the third quarter, Moore and Pettis hooked up for an 18-yard scoring strike that increased the Broncos' lead to 23-3.
The Utes tried to pressure Moore and mix up their coverages, but once he got going, there wasn't much they could do to stop him.
Pettis finished with 12 receptions for 147 yards, and Young had six catches for 64 yards.
"Kellen Moore is a tremendous player," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Our defense hung in there for a while, but we played a lot of zone coverage because of those two guys (Pettis and Young). We had to simplify things a little, and Kellen made big plays."
Moore, who threw for 3,826 yards and 35 touchdowns this season, said he can look back on his year with few regrets.
The Broncos, who finished 12-1, outscored opponents by an average of 33 points and flirted with a spot in the national championship game until losing 34-31 on a missed field goal in overtime at UNR on Nov. 26.
"I still think we had a great year," Moore said. "It's still a great team. We just didn't take care of business in one game."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.