Johnson, Boise State cap perfect regular season at NevadaNov 26, 2006 - 12:22 AM RENO, Nevada (Ticker) -- Ian Johnson and Boise State appear headed to their first Bowl Championship Series game.
Johnson returned from a one-game absence to rush for 147 yards and three touchdowns as the 12th-ranked Broncos completed an unbeaten regular season and captured their fifth straight Western Athletic Conference title with a 38-7 rout of Nevada.
In order to qualify for a BCS bowl in their first season under coach Chris Petersen, the Broncos (12-0, 8-0 WAC) have to finish in the top 12 in the BCS standings or finish in the top 16 with a higher ranking than a champion from a BCS conference. Boise State is 11th in the standings but also five spots above Georgia Tech, the highest-ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, leading hundreds of its fans to storm the field after the game.
"I believe our kids thought it was attainable and that's the most important thing," Petersen said. "But now we have to go out and prove we belong."
Boise State, which is 45-3 in conference games since joining the WAC in 2001, held just a 3-0 lead before Johnson scored on a six-yard run with 12:03 to play in the first half.
Johnson, who sat out last week's rout of Utah State because of a partially collapsed left lung, opened a 17-0 advantage with a four-yard run less than four minutes later. The score came immediately after Wolf Pack quarterback Jeff Rowe lost his balance and dropped the ball on the field and the Broncos recovered.
The Broncos put away the game with two more touchdowns in the first nine minutes after the break - a five-yard run by Vinny Perretta and a 45-yard pass from Jared Zabransky to Legedu Naanee.
Johnson's national-best 24th TD run, a three-yarder, made it 38-7 with 6:41 to go.
"You know, we didn't feel like they respected us, so that gave us something extra to go out and prove," Johnson said.
Zabransky completed 20-of-27 passes for 299 yards with an interception that Nick Hawthrone returned 45 yards for Nevada's only points late in the third quarter. With the touchdown, the Wolf Pack extended their NCAA-best scoring streak to 316 games, which dates to 1980.
"I did not have the offense ready to play as well as they needed to play," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "That's disappointing, very difficult."
"They were amazing," Petersen said of his defense. "I never thought they would perform this well. Nevada is so good that not even in my wildest imagination would I think our defense would perform this well."
Rowe was just 6-of-15 for 35 yards for the Wolf Pack (8-4, 5-3), who had won their previous five games.
"The offense didn't score one point," Rowe said. "The responsibility is on me."
Robert Hubbard ran for 105 yards on just 12 carries for Nevada. It was his fifth 100-yard game of the season.
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