BOISE — Boise State’s defense forced as many turnovers in each half Friday night as it did in seven games last season.
The Broncos had three takeaways in the first half and three more in the second half, finishing with a ridiculous six for the game in a 54-13 rout of UTEP at Albertsons Stadium.
It was the first time since a 2013 win against UT-Martin in which the Broncos forced six turnovers on defense in a single game.
Boise State has eight turnovers through two games after finishing with just three takeaways on defense all of last season.
"Last year we didn't have many turnovers so it showed we emphasized it as a whole unit," safety JL Skinner said. "I loved it because I played on a team that had three turnovers in one year and we had six tonight I believe? It was just improving every week and finding more ways to create more turnovers.
"It was really a bad taste in our mouths, for the DBs especially. We wanted to create more turnovers."
True freshman Seyi Oladipo had two interceptions and Tyreque Jones had an interception for the Broncos, who also got two fumble recoveries from Ezekiel Noa and a fumble recovery from Scott Matlock.
Boise State was one of just two schools in the country not to have a fumble recovery last season. They had three Friday night, including one from Matlock deep in UTEP territory that set up a touchdown.
UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison was hit and fumbled the ball at the UTEP 5-yard line early in the second quarter. Matlock picked it up and returned it to the 3, and Andrew Van Buren scored on a 3-yard run on the next play to give the Broncos a 24-6 lead early in the second quarter.
At the time it was Boise State’s first fumble recovery since Demitri Washington had one in the 2019 Mountain West title game against Hawaii. Noa followed with two of his own later in the game.
The interceptions were the first two for Oladipo in his career. The true freshman enrolled at Boise State in time for spring practices and earned strong reviews from coaches and teammates heading into the season.
It was the second straight game a Boise State player had two interceptions. Tyric LeBeauf had two picks in the loss at UCF.
Boise State turned the six turnovers into 20 points.
"They did an unbelievable job and we were close to getting another one," coach Andy Avalos said of the defense. "The secondary, to be able to do that and to get some strips too and finish on the ball and not compromise the tackling.
"We just have to keep taking the opportunities we get to attack the ball and take it from the other team and take it out of the air when we can."
WHIMPEY EJECTED FOR TARGETING
Boise State linebacker Riley Whimpey was ejected for targeting in the third quarter, meaning he will be ineligible to play in the first half of next week’s game against Oklahoma State.
The call seemed questionable at best as Whimpey appeared to hit the ballcarrier in the chest as he was falling to the ground. Fans booed as the targeting call was quickly confirmed via replay.
Boise State cannot appeal the call to the Mountain West. An NCAA rule says players ejected in the second half due to targeting also must miss the first half of the next game — which for the Broncos is a big one.
Kekaula Kaniho missed the first half Friday night due to a second-half targeting call at UCF.
IGIEHON TAKES LEAVE OF ABSENSE FOR PERSONAL REASONS
Boise State senior defensive tackle Scale Igiehon took a leave of absence for ‘personal reasons’ and did not play against UTEP.
According to a statement released 45 minutes prior to kickoff, “Boise State senior Scale Igiehon will take a leave of absence from the Broncos’ football team while dealing with a personal matter. No additional details will be released at this time.”
Igiehon didn’t play much against UCF in the season opener, but has nine career starts the past three seasons and was expected to play a major role on the defense.
Last year, Igiehon started four games and had nine tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss and one sack.
COBBS SCORES ON 81-YARD PUNT RETURN
Boise State’s Stefan Cobbs scored on an 81-yard punt return in the first quarter. It tied for the sixth-longest punt return in Boise State history, and was the longest since Avery Williams and Kekaula Kaniho combined in an 84-yard return against Colorado State on Oct. 19, 2018.
The game was tied 3-3 when Cobbs caught the ball at the 19-yard line, broke past a few UTEP defenders and raced down the Boise State sideline and into the end zone.
"It was huge," Avalos said. "It was a huge momentum shift for us there. We were able to get a lot of momentum and run away with it from there."
Cobbs later scored on a 61-yard pass from quarterback Hank Bachmeier before leaving the game in the second quarter due to injury.
SHAKIR MAKES TWO ONE-HANDED CATCHES
Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir made a pair of impressive one-handed catches along the Boise State sideline.
"You just don't see things happen like that all the time," Avalos said.
Shakir finished with seven catches for 166 yards.
"I don't even know how he made a couple of them catches," Skinner said with a grin. "I'm not even going to lie to you guys, but it's 'Shaq' so sometimes 'Shaq' just does what 'Shaq' does. I don't even have an explanation for it. It's just 'Shaq'."
Asked if he had a favorite catch on the night, Shakir said, "No, I mean I don't make those plays without the O-Line doing their job and Hank (Bachmeier) getting me the ball so shout out to those guy right there. I really appreciate them, and I really appreciate Hank for trusting me to make those plays."
Boise State announced that one unidentified player missed the game due to COVID protocol. ... Starting offensive linemen Jake Stetz and Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez didn’t play. Both have been battling injuries. … Tyler Crowe led Boise State in rushing with seven carries for 45 yards. The Broncos rushed 37 times for 121 yards and three touchdowns as a team.