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November 4, 2009

Boise St.-Louisiana Tech Preview

(AP) -- With help from an opportunistic defense, Boise State remains in prime position to earn another BCS bowl bid.

The fifth-ranked Broncos just need to avoid an ill-timed upset over the season's final five games starting Friday night at Louisiana Tech, where wins haven't come easily.

After failing to force a turnover in consecutive games, Boise State (8-0, 3-0 Western Athletic Conference) has intercepted four passes and recovered four fumbles over the past two games. Those takeaways have helped the Broncos produce a pair of blowouts, 54-9 at Hawaii and 45-7 last week against San Jose State.

"The coaches are harping on that in practice and turnovers have been a point of emphasis," said cornerback Kyle Wilson, who returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown Saturday. "Any little detail the coaches focus on in practice, it shows up in the game. We definitely got challenged a couple of weeks ago, and we're stepping up to it."

In the win over the Spartans, one of those turnovers helped Boise State score 17 points in a seven-minute span before halftime. Kellen Moore rushed for one touchdown and threw for another in that span.

Moore passed for 278 yards and three touchdowns while remaining first in the nation with a quarterback rating of 171.0.

"I think right before half, that was a big swing for us," Moore said. "We weren't executing as well as we should have at the time, but we got a couple of touchdowns in there after our defense made some plays and that was a key point for us."

Moore has thrown 24 TDs - second most in the Football Bowl Subdivision - and just two interceptions. He's helped the Broncos score 41.0 points per game, the nation's third-best average.

Boise State also has the nation's 10th-ranked defense and is 11th in allowing an average of 13.6 points. It has forced six fumbles and 13 interceptions for the nation's fifth-best turnover ratio.

While the Broncos moved up one spot in the AP rankings this week, they remained seventh in the BCS standings and last among the FBS' unbeaten teams.

That means if Boise State finishes unbeaten, it should reach its first BCS bowl game since the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. But it will need help for an unprecedented run to the title game.

That all would evaporate with a loss to the WAC rival Bulldogs (3-5, 2-3), who have suffered close defeats in each of the past two weeks.

Their rally fell short in a 23-21 loss at Utah State on Oct. 24 as they couldn't complete a tying 2-point conversion with 6:15 remaining. In last week's 35-34 loss at Idaho, Louisiana Tech allowed the winning touchdown with 52 seconds left and couldn't convert a 56-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

Running back Daniel Porter and receiver Phillip Livas left last week's defeat because of injuries. Both players are questionable as the Bulldogs try to avoid a season-high third straight loss.

Porter has rushed for a team-best 640 yards and seven touchdowns, and needs 24 to move into fourth on the school's all-time list. Livas is the team's third-leading receiver with 205 yards on 19 catches.

"I've never been as proud as I am of this team," coach Derek Dooley said after the loss to Idaho. "We played with so many guys out and lost Livas and Porter during the game. You lose your top two playmakers on offense and all of a sudden you're searching."

Dooley's team dropped to 0-5 on the road but will try to earn their 11th win in 12 home games since a 45-31 loss to the Broncos on Oct. 20, 2007.

Boise State is searching for its eighth consecutive win over Louisiana Tech since dropping the inaugural meeting as WAC schools in 2001 in Ruston.

Moore threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns to lead Boise State to a 38-3 home win over Louisiana Tech last season.

Boise State plays one other road game in its final five contests, at Utah State on Nov. 20. It hosts two teams with winning records during the closing stretch, Idaho on Nov. 14 and Nevada on Nov. 27.

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