for this game

Hartman's game-winning FG carries East Carolina to win

Dec 24, 2007 - 6:21 AM HONOLULU (Ticker) -- East Carolina had to sweat it out, but its bowl drought is finally over.

Ben Hartman kicked the game-winning 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to lift the Pirates to a thrilling 41-38 victory over No. 24 Boise State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Sunday.

It was East Carolina's first bowl win since defeating Texas Tech, 40-27, in the now defunked Bowl back in 2000.

The Pirates (8-5) were enjoying a commanding 38-14 edge following Brandon Simmons' 3-yard touchdown run with 9:02 remaining in the third quarter.

However, the Broncos (10-3) made things interesting in the fourth when D.J. Harper cut the deficit to 38-31 with 7:09 remaining on a one-yard touchdown.

Things continued to spiral for East Carolina when Chris Johnson's fumble was returned 47 yards for the score by Marty Tadman to tie the game at 38-38 with 1:25 left.

"That just happens to a running back," Johnson said. "I was just trying to run hard and cut up for the first down. I had the first down, but I didn't have two hands on the ball and it popped out. I just felt that I let the team down, but when I got to the sideline, they all had my back."

But the Pirates regrouped for the final drive of the game.

"We knew that they could come back and ironically it was (Johnson's) first fumble of the year and they were able to tie the game," Pirates coach Skip Holtz said. "But we didn't give up and we remained intense. I am very proud of this team." On third-and-eight, backup Rob Kass completed 36-yard strike to keep East Carolina's hope alive. After two rushing attempts, the Pirates called upon Hartman for his late-game heroics.

"After I went through my whole routine, I missed a lot of kicks this year by not keeping my head down and I had to just mentally tattoo it to myself," Hartman said. "I felt good going out there. I felt very confident. I just knew that if I did my thing, it was going to go in."

"It was a hard fought game and we knew that (the Broncos) would score points with their good offense," Johnson said. "We just had to stay focused all game and we got the win."

Despite his late-game fumble, Johnson was stellar en route to establishing a new all-purpose yards record in a bowl game with 408 yards to pass the mark previously held by Sherman Williams (Alabama) in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.

Johnson carried 28 times for 224 yards, including a 68-yard TD in the first quarter to give East Carolina a 10-7 edge with 4:25 left.

"It was really emotional," Johnson said. "They were saying that they didn't know who we were and didn't know the program and we took that to heart and wanted to show who we were. And to show that the year that they beat Oklahoma was a different team. We came with a chip on our shoulder."

The Pirates continued to pound the ball in the second as Dominique Lindsay scored on a 3-yard run with 12:31 remaining, while Johnson found the end zone once again through the air on an 18-yard pass from Patrick Pinkney four minutes later to make it 24-7.

With 33 seconds left before the break, Lindsay completed the huge second-quarter outburst with another 3-yard scamper to extend the lead to 31-14 at intermission.

East Carolina's Pinkney went 12-of-19 for 118 yards.

"We started playing from the get go and we just continued to be aggressive," said Pinkney, who also ran for 64 yards. "We just jumped out fast and never gave up."

Boise State finished with just 98 rushing yards due to the limited action of standout tailback Ian Johnson, who had just 11 because of a leg injury sustained in practice on Tuesday.

"I had some big shoes to fill, but I just did what the team needed me to do and I sacrifice my body to make good plays," Broncos running back Jeremy Avery said.

"Ian was an emergency guy for us this game," Peterson said. "With his injury, we knew that he wouldn't be as effective as our other backs. He was better that we thought (Sunday), but Jeremy was healthy and we knew that he gave us a better chance."

Broncos quarterback Taylor Tharp completed 30-of-44 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.

"We are always a fast starting team and we almost always move that ball well on our first drive of the game, but we were just not ready to go and we were not clicking," Tharp said.

Boise State had a golden opportunity to slice the deficit to 10 at the break, but Tanyon Bissell dropped a would-be touchdown from Tharp at the horn.

Austin Smith's impressive 89-yard kickoff return in the opening quarter helped the Broncos grabbed their only lead of the game, 7-3, with 8:10 to go.