Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 | 6:02 p.m.
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- Rebels can either embrace challenge of Boise State or wither after UNR loss
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- Brewer: With the exception of football rivalry, UNLV is clearly superior to UNR
- All UNLV Football Coverage
BOISE, Idaho — When No. 24 Boise State gets to the end of the year and looks back on its season, one that’s on track for another BCS bowl appearance, Saturday’s game will be far from its mind. Broncos players may have to be reminded of their 32-7 victory against UNLV — ‘Oh yeah, I remember that game’ — because Saturday was as mundane as beat downs get.
Like a teenager holding off a younger kid with one hand and covering his yawn with the other, the Broncos (6-1, 3-0) didn’t seem to take great joy in their task. This was just something that had to be done.
“They whipped our tails today,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “… Good job by them.”
The Rebels (1-7, 1-2) have to hope this game will be as easy to forget as it was for the Broncos, and right now that mostly hinges on the health of starting quarterback Nick Sherry.
With 6:03 remaining, UNLV started at its own 11-yard line trailing 32-7. Sherry picked up one first down, and then on second-and-10 at the 21 he took a shot from the Broncos’ Jonathan Brown. While his pass fluttered into the waiting arms of safety Darion Thompson, Sherry stayed down on the ground.
Though he was sacked just twice, Sherry got hit hard all game. On one drive in the third quarter, the Rebels picked up a first down because of a roughing-the-passer penalty, and then four plays later, on fourth down, Sherry was crushed by defensive end Tyler Horn.
UNLV’s offensive line was a patchwork all game. Left tackle Brett Boyko missed the game with a leg injury, and right tackle Yusef Rodgers couldn’t go the whole game as he works back from a leg injury. Guys were shuffling around all game. On Horn’s sack, he beat Cameron Jefferson at left tackle with a simple speed rush.
Sherry was helped off the field by two trainers and appeared to be in pain as he tried to gingerly sit down on the bench. Hauck said he thought it was a back injury, that he would know more Monday and that he expected Sherry to return for next week’s game at San Diego State. That’s far from a guarantee at this point.
Sherry was still in the game at that point because the Rebels were trying to build something positive in an otherwise dreadful game. The offense, and Sherry in particular, struggled all afternoon. The Rebels didn’t get into the red zone until the fourth quarter, and even then they settled for a short field goal that sailed wide left.
UNLV was outgained 394-210, and other than that 20-play drive that ended with the missed kick, it had just 10 first downs. Sherry was 14-of-31 for 71 yards with two interceptions, by far the worst game of his young career. The rushers didn’t do much better as neither Tim Cornett nor Bradley Randle averaged more than four yards per carry.
The problem, or at least one of them, was that Boise State’s defense, particularly the front line, played as well as, if not better than, advertised. They filled holes and consistently made plays in space.
“They were the fastest team we’ve played thus far,” Cornett said.
Said Jefferson, “They’re a good combination of speed and power, and they have good technique.”
UNLV’s only score came two plays after the missed field goal, when John Lotulelei pursued backup quarterback Grant Hedrick from behind and forced a fumble that cornerback Kenny Penny scooped up and ran in from 30 yards out. It was a good hustle play, the type of thing Hauck wants to see from his players the entire game. There wasn’t much of that in the first half, and it’s a small positive that the Rebels, who had no shot to win at that point, still fought like they did.
That’s the rosy version, though. The more accurate one is that UNLV was under Boise State’s thumb from the opening kick and never found a way to wriggle free.
“We certainly would have had to play more than just marginally better to win today against those guys,” Hauck said.
The defenses, especially the one in San Diego, will get less skilled and less ruthless as the season comes to a close. If Sherry isn’t healthy, though, that may not matter.
The home team left Bronco Stadium with bigger goals in its future, a conference title on its mind. The Rebels traveled home hoping to forget a game they never had a chance to win.