Tied with three other teams for the second- ranked Boise State Broncos come off a bye week in order to clash with the UNLV Rebels in Mountain West Conference action at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday night.
The Broncos, slotted fifth in the latest edition of the BCS rankings, have won nine straight games thanks to a 37-26 triumph over the Air Force Falcons back on October 22. The 26 points allowed were the most by the BSU defense this year, twice as many as were given up the previous week in a 50-point victory over the Colorado State Rams in the first-ever MWC matchup for Boise State. The Broncos are one of three teams still undefeated in conference play, the other two being TCU (3-0) and a surprising Wyoming (2-0) squad.
As for the Rebels, victories have been few and far between this year but the team did manage to put another tally in the win column last Saturday thanks to a 38-35 shootout against Colorado State at home. The triumph snapped a three- game slide for UNLV and was just the second in seven opportunities overall this year.
The good news for UNLV is that it has a 3-3 mark against the Broncos all-time, the bad news is that the teams have not met since 1977 when BSU claimed a 45-14 win over the Rebels. UNLV has won all three matchups played in Las Vegas, but they've come by just a combined 12 points and are again ancient history to say the least.
Also boding well for Boise State is the fact that, under head coach Chris Petersen, the team is 22-2 when it has at least 10 days to prepare for its next opponent, including a 6-0 mark in such outings on the road.
Even though the Broncos were inactive last week, there was still plenty of news being made in Idaho as coach Petersen was again named to the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Watch List, an award which he's already won twice while putting together an incredible 68-5 (.932) record which makes him one of the most successful head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision since taking over for Dan Hawkins.
Not only was Petersen recognized for his efforts on the sidelines, but four of his players were named mid-season All-Americans (Shea McClellin, Kellen Moore, Nate Potter and Billy Winn) by a variety of publications. Moore, who is also a semifinalist for both the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien Awards, has been named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week four times in seven games this season, and is currently tied with Colt McCoy (Texas, 2006-09) on the NCAA���s all-time list for wins by a quarterback with 45.
"It's a neat honor, but I'm in a fortunate situation," Moore says about matching McCoy. "I've been fortunate to play for four years in a successful program with great people."
Moore is the one who guides the offense on the field for coach Petersen, the Washington native having thrown for 123 touchdowns (fourth all-time) and 12,877 yards (10th in NCAA history). The signal-caller, who has been taken out in the second half of several games this season once it became obvious that the Broncos were well on their way to another victory, has also strung together 20 straight games with multiple TD passes, tossing at least three scores in all but one game this season.
With Moore being the face of the BSU offense now for several years, it is easy to forget that lurking behind him in the backfield is someone like Doug Martin, who has recorded one rushing TD in five straight games and has gained at least 100 yards in three of his last four outings, thanks in part to a strong offensive line that, in addition to opening up running lanes, has allowed a mere three sacks this year.
As dominant as the Boise State offense can be, overlooking the defense is a mistake that many opponents have made again this year. Granted, BSU's run defense has been knocking around a bit, allowing 134.4 ypg, but that really doesn't matter much when the Broncos are leading by three and four touchdowns on a regular basis. What's more impressive is a pass defense that has held foes to just 166.1 ypg, tops in the MWC and sixth in the country right now. If teams can't throw against the Broncos then they can't even begin to think about keeping up with BSU on the scoreboard.
Phillip Payne may have broken UNLV's all-time TD receptions record with his two scoring grabs against Colorado State last week, but it was the five-yard TD run by quarterback Caleb Herring with just 1:20 remaining in regulation that captured the headlines for the Rebels in their three-point home win. As a team, the Rebels finished with 244 yards and two TDs on the ground, while Herring and Sean Reilly completed 11-of-16 passes for a mere 117 yards and a couple of scores as well.
Defensively the Rebels allowed CSU to run for 250 yards and two TDs and pass for another 230 yards and a score, but at the same time UNLV logged four sacks and an interception. It also didn't hurt that Deante Purvis returned a kickoff 98 yards for a TD in the first quarter for the hosts either.
"Our defense and our special teams came up with a lot of plays" noted UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck. "Those kids played hard. I think we tackled very well. We overran some plays, but that's a credit to Colorado State's game plan. One of the things we have done better this season is playing the run. Their scheme gave us some run fit problems and it almost cost us the game."
For coach Hauck, getting inspired play from his defense is something he desperately needs given how much the program has been beaten up this season. After seven games, the Rebels rank 110th in the nation in total defense with 455.6 ypg allowed and ahead of only two other teams in the country as far as points allowed are concerned, permitting a hefty 40.6 ppg right now.
Take away the 78 points scored in the two victories this season over Colorado State and Hawaii, and the scoring punch for the Rebels is severely depleted with just a combined 54 points in five setbacks. Part of the problem is that the offensive line has not been able to keep Herring upright this year, the big guys up front submitting to 3.6 sacks per outing which is the highest number in the MWC and 118th in the country coming into action this week.