57F Bronco Stadium, Boise, ID
Joe Southwick isn't producing like his predecessor in his first year as the starting quarterback, but Boise State keeps getting positive results with a solid running game and an opportunistic defense.
The No. 24 Broncos could have all of those phases clicking when they go for a sixth straight victory Saturday against struggling UNLV, which has dropped 18 straight on the road.
The backup to Kellen Moore the last two seasons, Southwick has put up decent numbers, throwing for 1,237 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions in 2012. Boise State, though, ranks 88th in the FBS with 370.8 yards per game and is tied for 80th with 25.2 points a contest.
That's a far cry from last season, when the Broncos (5-1, 2-0 Mountain West) were ninth in total offense at 481.3 yards per game and fifth in scoring at 44.2.
Boise State posted a season-low 120 passing yards in a 20-10 victory over Fresno State last Saturday. Southwick went 11 of 22 for 113 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but D.J. Harper and Jay Ajayi combined to rush for 213 yards in the Broncos' 46th consecutive October victory.
"Overall, I feel better about our offense after this game. That's a very good defense we played against," coach Chris Petersen said. "That's a hard team to throw the ball on and a hard team to move the ball on and score points."
UNLV (1-6, 1-1) is not. The young Rebels, losers of three straight, are yielding 36.0 points and 478.7 yards per contest after blowing a 17-point halftime lead in a 42-37 loss to Nevada last Saturday.
UNLV's run defense over the last four weeks has been atrocious, allowing an average of 281.3 yards and 15 total touchdowns. That doesn't bode well as the speedy, elusive Harper and the bruising Ajayi have rushed for 516 yards and four scores in the last three games.
"You have to have a 1-2 punch," Petersen said. "You're not going to have the type of running game we want to have if you don't."
While UNLV freshman quarterback Nick Sherry has impressed, ranking second in the Mountain West with 252.1 passing yards per game, the Rebels might lean more heavily on junior running backs Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle, who have combined for 11 rushing TDs.
Boise State is allowing just 173.3 passing yards per game but hasn't been as proficient in stopping the run, giving up an average of 161.3 yards.
The Broncos, who have recorded nine interceptions, surrendered their first passing TD of the season last week.
"We wanted to go out there and prove that we're a great defense, and we were able to do that again," senior linebacker J.C. Percy said.
Boise State is allowing 14.7 points per game and has shut out four consecutive opponents in the first half, continuing to reshape its identity a team that wins with defense and the ground game.
"The fact that Kellen Moore was there the last four years overshadowed a lot of things," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said.
Hauck's team hasn't won on the road since a 34-17 victory over New Mexico on Oct. 24, 2009.
Moore threw five TDs and became the winningest quarterback in college football history with 46 in a 48-21 victory at UNLV on Nov. 5. That was the teams' first meeting since Boise State's 45-14 home win in 1977.
The Broncos, winners of 31 straight October home games, are 3-0 at home in this series and lead 4-3 overall.