Ian Johnson rushed for 111 yards and three touchdowns Thursday to lead Boise State to a 38-16 victory over Southern Miss.
The Broncos (3-1) scored on their first two possessions and built a 28-3 lead late in the first half before the Golden Eagles scored a touchdown in the final minute.
Southern Miss (2-2) scored again early in the third when Jeremy Young tossed a 23-yard TD to tight end Shawn Nelson, cutting the Broncos' lead to 28-16.
But Johnson answered on the next possession, taking the ball off right tackle to score from two yards out to cap a decisive, seven-play, 79-yard drive.
When Young exited with an ankle injury on the Golden Eagles' next possession, the offense sputtered and the Broncos' controlled the game until the end.
The victory marked the second straight win for Boise State, which begins conference play Oct. 7 against New Mexico State. Meanwhile, the loss dampened any remaining hopes Southern Miss held for making a serious run at a Bowl Championship Series game.
Johnson put together his best game of the season, both rushing and receiving. The junior carried the ball 22 times and caught three passes for 80 yards, including a short pass in the flat that he turned upfield for 54 yards to set up Boise State's final touchdown.
Bronco quarterback Taylor Tharp also turned in his best performance of the season. In his fourth start, Tharp completed 19 of 27 passes for a career-high 307 yards and two TDs. His biggest mistake was an interception in the end zone as Boise State was driving late in the first quarter.
All told, Boise State amassed 506 yards, converted on 10 of 15 third downs and only turned the ball over twice.
The Broncos defense kept the Golden Eagles' talented young running back, Damion Fletcher, in check. Fletcher, who rushed for 1,692 yards last season, 11th best in the nation, had just 83 yards on 21 carries. His role early in the game was diminished when Boise State cashed in on great field possession to jump out to double-digit leads.
Young finished 13-of-23 for 190 yards and one TD, but missed much of the second half after rolling his right ankle on the turf in open field. He returned to the sideline on crutches and his status for the Oct. 3 game against Rice is uncertain.
The Golden Eagles had 318 yards total offense and appeared out of sync early, while the defense failed several times to stop Boise State following scores by the offense.