JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
East Carolina won the Hawaii Bowl last night when Ben Hartman knocked this kick through.
Pirates of the Aloha State
East Carolina gets a program-defining win in the Hawaii Bowl
If Boise State is where East Carolina coach Skip Holtz wants his program to be, he's not too far away.
Ben Hartman booted a 34-yard field goal as time expired to help the Pirates hold off a determined Broncos rally and pull out a 41-38 victory in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl yesterday at Aloha Stadium.
A crowd announced at 24,079 saw Boise State erase a 24-point second-half deficit and tie the game at 38 with 1:25 remaining. Pirates senior running back Chris Johnson, who set an NCAA bowl record with 408 all-purpose yards, had a first down that would have ended the game. But the ball was stripped by cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Safety Marty Tadman scooped up the loose ball and raced 47 yards into the end zone. The extra point evened the score.
It was Johnson's second fumble of the season.
"I cut upfield and just didn't put two hands on the ball," said Johnson, who finished with 223 yards on the ground. "My teammates told me they had my back."
Sophomore quarterback Rob Kass, who didn't take a snap until the final two drives, completed his only pass of the game to Jamar Bryant for 36 yards on third down. Three plays later, Hartman, who was just 11-for-20 on field goals this season, drilled the 34-yarder to seal the Pirates' first bowl victory in seven years.
"I just couldn't throw a good game down the drain," Hartman said.
It was a redeeming kick for the sophomore, who missed his last three field-goal attempts of the regular season.
His struggles almost forced his coach to hand the place-kicker duties to punter Matt Dodge.
"At the staff meeting today, I'm almost embarrassed to say it, I said I was going to kick field goals with Matt Dodge," Holtz said. "Thank goodness good players overcame bad coaching."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
East Carolina players and coach Skip Holtz hoisted the trophy after beating Boise State to win the Hawaii Bowl yesterday.
Holtz spent the week leading up to yesterday's game heaping fistfuls of praise on Boise State, calling the Broncos a program "where we want to be."
It looked exactly the opposite at the outset, as the Pirates dominated both sides of the ball in the first half en route to a 31-14 halftime lead.
Boise State did not record a first down in the first 18 minutes, and the Pirates defense held the Broncos to 3 yards in the first quarter.
At one point early in the second quarter, the Pirates had outgained Boise State 211 to 3 in total yards.
"It was about two and a half quarters before we even started to play," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "(Holtz) got his team much more ready to play out of the gates than I did."
Boise State was also missing two of its biggest playmakers on offense. In addition to wide receiver Jeremy Childs, who didn't make the trip for violating team rules, junior running back Ian Johnson carried the ball just four times for 11 yards. He did not practice all week due to an ankle injury, but said he felt healthy enough to play. Several other prominent Broncos also did not play or had limited effectiveness due to injury.
"The trainers said if I felt good, go for it, and I was ready," Ian Johnson said. "It was up to the coaches and I just didn't get my number called."
Instead, it was the Johnson from East Carolina who stole the show and was named the Pirates' most valuable player. In addition to his 223 rushing yards, Johnson had 32 yards receiving and 153 return yards.
"We had to run the ball if we had any chance in this game," Holtz said. "What the rest of the country saw today is what we've seen for three years. He can pick 'em up and put 'em down."
Johnson's 408 all-purpose yards was 49 better than Alabama's Sherman Williams, who set the record in the 1995 Citrus Bowl against Ohio State.
East Carolina 41, No. 24 Boise State 38
ECU--FG Hartman 36
Boi--Smith 89 kickoff return (K.Brotzman kick)
ECU--C.Johnson 68 run (Hartman kick)
ECU--Lindsay 3 run (Hartman kick)
ECU--C.Johnson 18 pass from Pinkney (Hartman kick)
Boi--Putnam 3 pass from Tharp (K.Brotzman kick)
ECU--Lindsay 3 run (Hartman kick)
ECU--B.Simmons 3 run (Hartman kick)
Boi--Avery 25 pass from Tharp (K.Brotzman kick)
Boi--FG K.Brotzman 31
Boi--Harper 1 run (K.Brotzman kick)
Boi--Tadman 47 fumble return (K.Brotzman kick)
ECU--FG Hartman 34
RUSHING--Boise State, Avery 10-69, I.Johnson 4-11, Young 1-8, Tharp 6-7, Harper 3-3. East Carolina, C.Johnson 28-223, Pinkney 11-53, Harris 3-24, Lindsay 4-8, Kass 2-6, Dodge 1-5, B.Simmons 1-3.
PASSING--Boise State, Tharp 30-44-2-270. East Carolina, Pinkney 12-19-0-118, Kass 1-3-0-36.
RECEIVING--Boise State, Pettis 9-89, Young 7-47, Hawkins 5-35, Avery 4-43, Bissell 2-23, Blaser 1-16, O'Neill 1-14, Putnam 1-3. East Carolina, J.Bryant 6-78, C.Johnson 3-32, Harris 1-22, Sonnhalter 1-16, S.Rogers 1-6, Crowell 1-0.