BOISE, Idaho (AP) Jeremy Avery never complained or sulked when he was informed by coaches back in August that his role in the Boise State backfield would be diminished this season.
That doesn't mean the news that he'd start the season as the third-string tailback, with fewer packages involving him in the Broncos' thick playbook, was easy to swallow.
If Avery, a senior who has logged more than 3,000 yards rushing and receiving, felt angry or slighted by the reduced role, he never showed it. Instead, Avery has been patient and positive, and in the wake of a season-ending injury to D.J. Harper, wants to make the most of his chance.
He did just that Saturday, scoring three touchdowns in a 57-14 rout of Toledo.
"You never know what is going to get thrown at you. I learned about myself," Avery said. "I took that role and kept on playing. When opportunity knocks, you have to go for it."
The victory extended Boise State's unbeaten streak to 19, now the nation's longest after top-ranked Alabama was upset by South Carolina. The Alabama loss also enabled the Broncos (5-0) to move back to No. 3 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll after falling a spot last week.
Against Toledo (3-3), Avery carried the ball just seven times for 42 yards, sharing the rushing load with Doug Martin. But the small and shifty running back was clearly the go-to guy when Boise State got close to the end zone.
He scored a touchdown on the opening drive from 5 yards out, then scooted 12-yards into the end zone untouched on a reverse that put the Broncos up 22-7 early in the second quarter.
Then, in the final minute of the first half, Avery streaked down the left sideline, made a difficult adjustment and jumped high to snatch a 26-yard pass from Kellen Moore. One play later, Avery lined up as quarterback in a wildcat formation and scored on a 5-yard run to complete the backbreaking drive and give the Broncos a 36-7 cushion at the half.
His three TDs gave him 22 for his career, moving him into seventh place on the Broncos' all-time list.
Head coach Chris Petersen has been effusive in his praise for Avery's attitude toward his reduced role and putting the team first. But Avery knows it's not the first time Petersen has asked a productive upperclassman to step back for the good of the team.
Two years ago, Petersen asked star tailback Ian Johnson, then a senior and the second all-time rusher in school history, to share more of the rushing duties in his senior season, a move that at the time created more carries for Avery.
Avery was part of an offense that rolled up 207 yards on the ground and 500 overall on Saturday night, with most of those coming by the third quarter, when Avery and the rest of the starters gave way to backups.
Moore, already one of the nation's most accurate passers, was precise and productive again, connecting on 16 of 22 passes for 267 yards and three TDs, including a 51-yarder to Titus Young.
"It's a long season and everybody is going to have a piece of the pie, and tonight was his time to have a bigger piece," Peterson said of Avery after the game. "We've always been pleased with our running backs, how they've shared the ball and nobody mopes around."