BOISE, Idaho -- Boise State's dominant defense set the tone again, leading the Broncos (No. 22 BCS, No. 24 AP) 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, and 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," said Boise State coach Chris Petersen. "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 Rebel 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 5½ 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 just 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 an 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."
But the Boise State offense also did its job.
Joe Southwick turned in one of his best games of the season thanks in part to an offensive line that gave him plenty of time to pick apart the Rebel secondary. Southwick was 22 of 30 for 243 yards, and he could have had more had his receivers held on to a couple of deep throws. Southwick exited the game late in the third quarter after Harper's second TD put the Broncos up 32-0.
The Broncos, locked in a tie for first with Nevada, offense rolled up 394 total yards, but also played a big role in spoiling a shutout for the defense.
UNLV's only score came midway through the fourth quarter when backup Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick took off downfield but had the ball jarred loose by Rebel linebacker John Lotulelei. The ball bounced into the hands of cornerback Kenneth Penny, who dashed down the sidelines untouched for the touchdown.
Sherry was 14 of 31 for 71 yards and had six carries for minus-12 yards. Bradley Randle led UNLV with 64 yards rushing on 16 carries and Tim Corbett added 61 yards on 16 carries.
For UNLV, it's the second disappointing loss in two weeks. Last week, UNLV gave up a 17-point lead at the half in losing at home to rival Nevada. Early in the week, Hauck wondered about his team's ability to rebound after such a devastating loss, but was pleased he didn't see any emotional or physical let down.
"I thought it was a physical game. If you are lacking intensity, then it wouldn't be as physical," Hauck said. "So, I wouldn't say we were lacking intensity at all, I would just say that we didn't play well enough to beat that team."
The Big 12's research shows that expanding the conference back to 12 teams will maximize its chances of making the College Football Playoff.
Now that the NFL draft is over, we take a look at possible replacements for the players selected from schools in the Pac-12 North.
Brandon Marcello of SECCountry.com joins The Paul Finebaum Show to discuss the arrests of four Auburn football players.
Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News joins The Paul Finebaum Show to delve deeper into Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis' resignation.
ESPN's Herm Edwards joins The Paul Finebaum Show to discuss the Laremy Tunsil situation and the use of marijuana in sports.
LSU has landed its second ESPN 300 QB in two weeks, as No. 38 prospect Lowell Narcisse -- a 6-foot-3, 224-pound player from Louisiana -- has pledged to the Tigers for their 2017 class.