LAS VEGAS — Among all the seniors who went out with a bang Thursday, Doug Martin’s final burst was loudest and brightest.
The 5-foot-9, 208-pound running back returned the opening kickoff in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas for a 100-yard touchdown, giving Boise State a lead 14 seconds into the game — a lead it never relinquished in a 56-24 win over Arizona State.
It was Martin’s first kickoff return since Oct. 7. Not only did he flex his considerable muscle on special teams, but he also had three catches for 26 yards and rushed for 151 yards on 31 carries, scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown, picking up bowl MVP honors.
“It felt nice,” Martin said. “… I’m really grateful.”
Martin finished the season with 1,299 yards on the ground (fourth-most in a single season in Bronco history), his best single-season total, eclipsing the 1,260 he ran for last season. Impressive on its own, but adding in the fact Martin didn’t have a carry in two games this season makes it even more remarkable.
“He makes my job a whole lot easier,” quarterback Kellen Moore said. “Bottom line, if you can run the football, you can do so many things off that … he’s just been so consistent. He gets positive yards every play. He’s as good as any running back in the country.”
In the Boise State annals, Martin has posted two of the top seven rushing seasons in Bronco history, his 3,431 career rushing yards are fifth, his 4,885 all-purpose yards are fifth, and his 48 total touchdowns are third. The quiet kid from Stockton, Calif., let his play speak for itself throughout his career.
“The thing I think is so great with Doug … is he couldn’t be more opposite than how he plays,” coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s kind of unassuming when he’s not in football gear.”
The 301 all-purpose yards Martin posted are the most in the history of the Las Vegas bowl. With the Broncos suffering injuries in the backfield with Malcolm Johnson out for the year, along with Martin and D.J. Harper being dinged up at various times, Martin was pulled off kick return duty —until Thursday.
“Last game — let’s go,” Petersen said.
Martin bookended Boise State’s scoring Thursday with his 100-yard kickoff return coming 14 seconds into the game and his 2-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 24 seconds to play capping it.
Ending his career by doing something new brought a big smile to Martin’s face.
“It felt awesome — that was my first (kickoff return) touchdown in college,” Martin said. “We wanted to start fast.”
The Broncos started fast, and Martin finished strong.