Defense was, again, the name of the game. If not for a fumble recovery for a touchdown, Boise State would have tossed a shutout of Nevada Las-Vegas Saturday. Instead, the Broncos had to settle for a 32-7 win that was more lopsided than the score would indicate.
Even without defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, the Broncos defense stifled the Rebels, and Jerrell Gavins finally had the game he needed, culminating a strong showing at corner with his own fumble recovery for a touchdown.
What the Broncos have to consider, though, is the lack of scoring power in the second half of the game. After marching out to a 25-0 halftime lead, the Broncos only scored seven points in the second half.
Granted, there were a lot of subs going on, but Boise State started out with a good offensive series, taking the ball from its own 25 and consuming more than five minutes of the game clock before missing a 43-yard field goal attempt.
Remember the New Mexico game? Boise State only had seven points in the second half of that game as well and barely held on to win 32-29. The difference against UNLV, though, was the defense was not picked apart for 29 points in the second half.
The dominating defense was enough to impress, and Boise State inched up to No. 21 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the USA Today poll.
With that in mind, let’s grade out the performances of Saturday’s starters against UNLV.
Quarterback Joe Southwick looked solid through the first half and even was solid in the third quarter before giving way to backup Grant Hedrick. Discount the Hail Mary interception at the end of the first half. Southwick took a shot for last-second points and came up short.
His feet got him out of pockets that were either penetrated or collapsing, and aside from some passes thrown behind receivers, Southwick was firing bullets. He finished the game 22-for-29 and 243 yards. He also ran the ball twice for 13 yards and took some vicious hits in the backfield, but was not sacked.
A touchdown pass or two would have helped the grade, but Southwick looked confident and comfortable in control of the Bronco offense. The short game in the red zone still needs work, but this was a fine performance from the redshirt junior.
Grade for Joe Southwick: A-
Sixth-year senior D.J. Harper didn’t find a lot of holes to run through, but still managed an average per carry of 4.9 yards. Harper finished the game with 59 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns and two receptions for another 11 yards.
This was not quite up to what is expected from Harper from a yardage standpoint, but the effort was most certainly there, even if the holes were not. The Bronco running attack only managed 137 yards on the game. Attribute a lot of that to an aggressive Rebel defense that was penetrating well.
Grade for D.J. Harper: B+
Starters: X receiver—Matt Miller, Z receiver—Chris Potter, H receiver—Geraldo Boldewijn, tight end—Chandler Koch.
Boise State uses a platoon system in its receiver corps that is determined by a variety of things such as down and distance. Nine different players caught passes in Saturday’s game as the Broncos put up 257 yards through the air.
Ironically, though, the passing attack was much stronger than the ground game. Boise State’s only offensive touchdowns were scored rushing.
Miller and Potter were the two leading targets of the aerial attack, accounting for nine catches for 105 yards cumulatively. Boldewijn only caught one pass for 18 yards, and starting tight end Koch came out without a catch.
As is customary for the Bronco receivers, another part of the game includes blocking, and they did a decent job of that. Keep in mind, that the receiver corps did a solid job overall, but this only grades the starters.
Grade for Matt Miller: B
Grade for Geraldo Boldewijn: B
Grade for Chris Potter: B
Grade for Chandler Koch: C+
Starters: Left tackle—Charles Leno, Jr., left guard—Joe Kellogg, center—Matt Paradis, right guard—Spencer Gerke, right tackle—Brenel Myers.
The offensive line got off to a mediocre start and was decent in the passing game, but allowed Rebel defenders through on a number of occasions. The Rebels had eight tackles for loss during the game. In addition, Bronco quarterback Joe Southwick was tattooed a couple of times after releasing the ball on passing plays.
There were no fumbled exchanges on the snap, so Paradis gets graded a bit higher for that aspect of his job. On one down, backup quarterback Grant Hedrick appeared to be tripped up coming out from under center by either Paradis or Gerke. That’s shared blame between the linemen and the quarterback.
One of the Bronco turnovers was generated when Hedrick, under pressure in his own backfield, coughed up the football.
Overall Grade: C+
Grade for Spencer Gerke: C+
Grade for Matt Paradis: B-
Grade for Charles Leno, Jr.: C+
Grade for Joe Kellogg: C+
Grade for Brenel Myers: C+
Starters: End—Tyler Horn, tackle—Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, nose—Mike Atkinson, SE—Sam Ukwuachu.
No Demarcus Lawrence, no worries. Sophomore Tyler Horn applied the pressure, was credited with a pass breakup and registered one of the two Bronco sacks on the game. The only time that UNLV was truly successful in running the ball was when it went wide.
Rebel quarterback Nick Sherry was hounded and harassed and finally knocked out of the game in the second half. Boise State limited the Rebels to only 139 yards on the ground and helped keep Sherry off balance to upset the passing game.
Atkinson and Tjong-A-Tjoe applied pressure up the middle while Horn and Ukwuachu helped collapse the pocket. The quartet combined for eight total tackles, one of the sacks and two pass breakups. While the tackle totals may indicate otherwise, it was a dominating performance.
The Broncos defense did not surrender any points to UNLV. The Rebels’ lone score came on a fumble recovery returned for the touchdown.
Grade for Mike Atkinson: A
Grade for Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe: A
Grade for Tyler Horn: A
Grade for Sam Ukwuachu: A
Starters: Tommy Smith, J.C. Percy.
For once, J.C. Percy was not at the top of the tackles list for the defense. Backup linebacker Blake Renaud had that honor with 10 total tackles, while freshman linebacker Tyler Gray chimed in with nine tackles.
Starting linebackers Percy and Smith accounted for six total tackles. But credit the depth of the Broncos on defense and the platoon system for keeping fresh predators on the field. The linebacker corps was a solid part of the effort Saturday.
Grade for J.C. Percy: A
Grade for Tommy Smith: A
Starters: Safety—Jeremy Ioane, safety—Lee Hightower, nickel—Dextrell Simmons, corner—Jamar Taylor, corner—Jerrell Gavins.
Hello, Jerrell Gavins! The redshirt senior had the game that has been expected all season. Only three total tackles, but Gavins returned a fumble for a touchdown and had an over-the-shoulder interception that was a thing of beauty.
Taylor also turned in another standout performance with nine total tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack for a 12-yard loss. He also had a pass break up.
Hightower didn’t try to knock down ball carriers as much and was wrapping them up, which is a welcomed sign. Ioane was also solid, while Simmons turned in a six-tackle performance.
The Rebels came into the game averaging 253 yards through the air per game and left the Saturday game with only 71 yards of passing offense. That speaks to great coverage from the defensive secondary and applied pressure from the front seven.
Saturday’s game was a superb defensive performance.
Grade for Jeremy Ioane: A
Grade for Lee Hightower: A
Grade for Dextrell Simmons: A
Grade for Jerrell Gavins: A+
Grade for Jamar Taylor: A+