Boise State Football

Instant Analysis: Boise State shows little improvement in dispatching woeful UNLV

Final score: Boise State 38, UNLV 13

Records: Boise State is 5-0, 2-0 Mountain West; UNLV is 1-4, 0-2

Why the Broncos won: Boise State’s defense continued its impressive play, the special teams showed significant improvement coming out of the bye and wide receiver John Hightower was a major playmaker on offense.

The Broncos shut out the Rebels in the first half but then allowed them to break through on a third-quarter drive helped by a personal foul and an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. Punter Joel Velazquez answered the criticism of his performance through four games with much better punting and made a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half. And Hightower caught a 76-yard touchdown pass, drew a pair of pass interference penalties on a touchdown drive, rushed for 51 yards on two carries and was the quarterback on a tricky reverse play that resulted in a touchdown.

[Related: ‘It wasn’t pretty’ but Broncos win; Boise State ‘sputters’ too much for a major bowl contender; Weaver sets Mountain West record; Scoring summary, tweets]

Main takeaway: The Broncos’ offense clicked on the opening drive, giving them the first score of the game for the first time this season. But the rest of the night was largely ugly with an anemic run game against a defense that has no business shutting down the Broncos, a few key protection breakdowns, two penalties for blindside blocks and miserable execution on third- and fourth-and-1. The Broncos still were far too good for the Rebels. But if this team wants to be taken seriously as a top-15 team, it’s got to find consistency on offense and that starts with fixing the run game.

Player of the game: The Broncos might have been in trouble without Hightower, whose game-breaking speed was on display all night. He even had a kickoff return for a touchdown that was wiped out by penalty.

Play of the game: Hightower’s 76-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter was a showcase for his speed. He blew past his defender by several yards and it appeared quarterback Hank Bachmeier overthrew him. But Hightower, who always seems to have another gear, caught the ball in stride and ran away from everyone for the TD.

What’s next: Boise State returns home to face Hawaii (4-1, 1-0) on Saturday (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).

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