BOISE – Boise State’s dominant defense set the tone again, leading the Broncos to another easy victory.
Senior cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins shut down the Rebels’ corps of fast, young receivers, accounted for two turnovers and teamed up on a second-quarter touchdown that helped put the game out of reach before halftime in a 32-7 rout of UNLV on Saturday night.
With Boise State leading 18-0 minutes before the half, Taylor chased down receiver Marcus Sullivan in the middle of the field and stripped the ball. Gavins, trailing behind, scooped up the loose ball and ran untouched 16 yards into the end zone.
Minutes before, Gavins squelched the Rebels’ best scoring chance with an over-the-shoulder interception in the end zone.
Taylor had a sack to go with his career-high nine tackles to help lead the Broncos to their sixth straight win since losing the opener at Michigan State.
“They’re very important to this team. They have that senior leadership, and they have that senior mentality,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “When those two guys are playing at a high level, I think the rest of the guys feed off them. They’re really important out there.”
They sure were Saturday.
The ability of Taylor and Gavins to lock down on Rebels receivers enabled the front four – minus sack leader Demarcus Lawrence – to put relentless pressure on UNLV’s redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry.
Lawrence, who has 5.5 sacks on the season, was suspended before the game for violating team rules. Petersen declined to provide details for the discipline after the game, but said Lawrence would likely play next week at Wyoming.
The Broncos (6-1, 3-0 Mountain West) held the Rebels to 210 total yards and forced three turnovers, giving the Broncos 22 takeaways this season.
The Broncos, who came into the game allowing a meager 14.6 points per game, have also gone five straight games without allowing opponents to score in the first half.
“We’re playing great as a unit, and everyone’s doing their job,” said Taylor, who helped hold UNLV to 71 yards passing, the third time the Broncos’ opponent has been held to fewer than 100 yards through the air.
The defense also sacked Sherry twice and knocked him around so often that at the end of the game he needed help from a couple of teammates to get to the locker room.
UNLV (1-7, 1-2) coach Bobby Hauck said he expects Sherry will be fine, though plenty sore for the next several days.
“He got roughed up, that’s about all I know about it,” said Hauck, whose team has now lost four straight. “Give Boise credit, they whipped our tail today.”