ATLANTA — As Boise State celebrated yet another opening victory over a marquee opponent, a blue-clad fan wandered through the mostly empty stands at the Georgia Dome, screaming to no one in particular.
“Too small! Not fast enough! Not talented enough! Can’t hang with the big boys!”
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, boosting their hopes of making another run to a major bowl while dealing a blow to embattled Georgia coach Mark Richt.
“I had a gut feeling it would go pretty well,” said Boise State senior Doug Martin, who ran for a touchdown. “This game definitely has given momentum to our season.”
That’s nothing new.
In the last three seasons, Boise State has started the year with victories against Oregon, Virginia Tech and now Georgia.
“We’ve got some good players who have played a lot of football,” Broncos coach Chris Petersen said. “They like to play on these stages. In some ways, that helps us. They don’t get to play on this stage every day. They appreciate playing against a program like Georgia. They really do.”
No one enjoyed himself more than Moore.
The nation’s top-rated passer last season and expected to be a leading Heisman contender, Moore carved up Georgia’s 3-4 defense after a sluggish start. He completed 28 of 34 passes for 261 yards, with his first scoring pass — a 17-yarder to freshman Matt Miller — giving him 100 for his brilliant career.
Moore added two more to lead the Broncos (1-0) to their first win ever over a Southeastern Conference team.
“Growing up watching football, I have a ton of respect for the SEC,” Moore said. “To play a game like this was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.”
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 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 Bulldogs fans began heading for the exits, leaving the celebration to a small contingent in blue that made the long trip from Idaho. They gathered above the tunnel leading to the Broncos locker room, serenading their team with chants of “Boise State! Boise State!”
The Broncos came in with an 0-4 record against SEC teams, including an ugly 48-13 loss at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium back in 2005.
Boise State and Georgia have gone in dramatically opposite directions since that ’05 season, when the Bulldogs went on to claim their second SEC title in Richt’s first five years. They haven’t won another, dropping 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.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Richt said. “But SEC play hasn’t even started. It’s a long season. We’ve got to get our minds right. A game like this, no question, we know more about our football team than if we played someone and beat them by 40.”