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East Carolina boots Boise State

December 24, 2007|From the Associated Press

HONOLULU -- All Chris Johnson could think about after his record-setting game was how he let his team down.

Johnson set an NCAA bowl record with 408 all-purpose yards and Ben Hartman kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired Sunday night to give East Carolina a 41-38 victory over No. 24 Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl.

Johnson ran for 223 yards, caught three passes for 32 yards and returned six kickoffs for 153 yards. But he committed a costly fumble late that almost forced overtime. It was his first fumble of the season.

"I let my team down," he said. "But when I got back to the sideline, they told me they had my back and they loved me."

Johnson made up for it with his big game.

"It feels good to end my career like this. I wanted to come out here and show the country that I am the best back in the country," he said.

Hartman's kick gave the Pirates (8-5) their first postseason victory since the 2000 Bowl.

"I felt good going out there. I felt real confident," Hartman said. "I just knew if I did my thing, it was going to go in."

With East Carolina trying to run out the clock near midfield, Marty Tadman scooped up Johnson's fumble and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown to tie the score, 38-38, with 1:25 left.

The Pirates took possession at their 39 with 1:16 left and drove to the 17 to set up Hartman's kick.

The Pirates stormed the field in celebration and chased after Hartman, who dashed toward the locker room.

Hartman said he took off because he was scared about getting squashed underneath a pile of teammates.

The Broncos (10-3), making their sixth consecutive bowl appearance, almost repeated their last-minute magic from a year ago when they stunned Oklahoma in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 13-0.

But this time, it was the Broncos who fell a little short without any trick plays and an ailing Ian Johnson.

Johnson, who was nursing a sprained left ankle, carried the ball only once for one yard in the first quarter and finished with 11 yards in four carries.

Taylor Tharp was 30 of 44 for 266 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions for Boise State.

Patrick Pinkney threw for 117 yards and also rushed for 53 more for East Carolina.

The Pirates appeared to have the game in hand when they took a 38-14 lead early in the third quarter on Brandon Simmons' three-yard scoring run.

The Broncos, however, hung in and reeled off 24 straight points.

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