Rebels upset No. 15 Arizona State in overtime, 23-20

Blocked field goal puts UNLV equal with last year’s win total

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AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

UNLV players including Wiselet Rouzard, front left, Casey Flair, front right, and Marquel Martin (45) celebrate with teammates after their upset overtime win over Arizona State.

Rebels Upset Sun Devils

UNLV upset Arizona State 23-20 in overtime Saturday night. Watch players and coaches react to the win. Get more of the UNLV-ASU game here.

UNLV upsets Arizona State

UNLV defensive back Daryl Forte (8) tackles Arizona State running back Dimitri Nance (31) in the first quarter. Launch slideshow »

Killin Time: Frank Summers

Go inside the mind of UNLV running back Frank Summers as he talks about life outside football.

Next game

  • Opponent: Iowa State
  • Date: Sept. 20, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
  • Where: Las Vegas

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Defensive tackle Malo Taumua proudly brandished the fresh strawberry on the underside of his right forearm Saturday night. That spot of skin and muscle blocked a field goal attempt and secured UNLV's 23-20 overtime upset of No. 15 Arizona State in Tempe.

Head coach Mike Sanford sat at the podium down the hall from a jubilant locker room covered with the contents of four Gatorade coolers. He couldn't sit still, couldn't stop smiling and couldn't stop praising his young men as he relayed his emotions to a smattering of microphones and tape recorders.

Quarterback Omar Clayton was as defiant as ever, speaking with a "we told you so" tone, ignoring the throbbing pain in his jaw and instead, verbally sending the message one last time for those still not convinced.

Moments like the one the UNLV football team experienced in Sun Devil Stadium can draw these out-of-character reactions from anyone, be it a veteran coach or a late teen/early 20-something athlete.

And the Rebels, now 2-1 and in prime position to swing the program's poor fortunes of recent years in a new direction, plan to let this soak in for a bit.

"The first thing I want these guys to do is enjoy this game, because I'm gonna enjoy it," Sanford said. "Our players believed, our coaches believed, and that's how you win those games. It's not by accident. I'm overwhelmed, but I knew we were gonna win the game, so that's the exciting thing about it. I think the biggest thing about it is this is just the beginning."

It makes the most sense to start at the beginning.

All week, both sides disputed the notion that Arizona State would be overlooking the seemingly overmatched Rebels with No. 2 Georgia set to visit a week later in one of the early college football season's marquee matchups.

"Looking ahead for Georgia is not a bad thing for them, because if they look past us, they leave themselves vulnerable," Clayton said. "Comments like (a couple that ASU made in the local media later in the week) were slightly disrespectful. It shows that you don't respect your opponent, and anytime you do that, you leave yourself vulnerable to things like tonight."

Overlooking UNLV or not, Arizona State didn't appear to be all that interested for the better part of Saturday night's contest. Lacking visible fire or much of a killer instinct, the Sun Devils allowed UNLV to hang around the entire night. The Rebels really didn't find their groove until the third quarter, when a 20-10 deficit was showing on the scoreboard.

The first shot back came throughout the first half of the fourth quarter, as UNLV ran a grinding 18-play drive -- mostly on the shoulders of the offensive line and tailback Frank Summers -- that resulted in a chip shot of a field goal for Kyle Watson. That made it a 20-13 game with 6:28 to go.

"After we got the field goal, and there were six or so minutes left, we knew that if we got the ball back, it would be up to the offense to finally pay the defense back," Clayton said. "A lot of the time last year our biggest problem was our defense would make stops and we couldn't move the ball."

The defense lived up to its end of the bargain, and UNLV took over at its own 26-yard line with 3:03 to play. As the clock dripped, the feeling in Sun Devil Stadium got more and more creepy. Strange things began happening.

Things like Clayton finding a wide open Summers on a wheel route during what could have been a busted play, but instead netted 29 yards. Things like Phillip Payne fooling ASU defensive back Omar Bolden on a fourth-and-4 play at the ASU 18-yard line to shake free for a 9-yard gain. And, of course, things like Payne's grab just seconds later.

On second and goal, with Payne lined up far to Clayton's left, the quarterback lobbed a ball to the edge of the end zone for the 6-foot-3 freshman out of Western High. Payne pushed backward off his feet, extended his right arm far behind his head and snatched the ball as he collapsed with just one paw. That play, with 18 seconds left, is a play sure to live on in Rebels fans' minds until long after Payne is gone from the program.

"Tell you the truth, I didn't even know what the play was," Payne recalled with a laugh. "We figured it was a fade. Goal line, that's what we usually run. I was shocked (after the catch). Happy is not the right word."

Added Clayton, smiling at Payne: "This right here? This is my early Christmas present. He did a great job from Day One. I call him my new toy. I just get to toss him the ball, and I just have tremendous faith that whatever I give him, he's not gonna let the defender get it or go get it himself."

UNLV then lost the coin toss in overtime, and going by the book, Arizona State decided to go on defense first. The Rebels inched down to the 3 yard line, and Kyle Watson gave UNLV its first lead of the game from 20 yards out, 23-20.

ASU, though, got conservative when it took the ball, and after two runs up the gut for 7 yards, Rudy Carpenter fired an incomplete pass to Jovon Williams. ASU had to settle for an attempt to tie the game, but the ball never made it far. Taumua exploded through the line, sent the ball flying backward and continued to run as teammates mobbed him and a celebration erupted.

"I don't even know what happened," Sanford said of the game's final play. "I have to see it on tape. I just think it was a bunch of guys believing they would find a way to win, and they found a way to win."

And just like that, the 2008 season now has an added zest. The Rebels have already matched their win total from each of the past four seasons, and the schedule lays out more than favorably, with six of their final nine games to be played at Sam Boyd Stadium. The first two of those come in the next two weeks, beginning Saturday with Iowa State.

The Cyclones, also 2-1, lost to rival Iowa Saturday afternoon, 17-5.

"We come in on Sunday, we're gonna watch the tape, we're gonna celebrate, we're gonna give awards out and all that stuff," Sanford said. "And at the end of Sunday's meeting, it's a whole new week, and it's all about Iowa State."

Awards should be plentiful, too. The offensive line opened up bigger holes for the ball carriers as the game went along. The offense still has yet to turn the ball over this season. Omar Clayton, who the training staff thought may have had a broken jaw at halftime, finished with 191 yards and two TD passes. The defense grew stronger against the run in the second half and got decent pressure on Carpenter for most of the night. The list goes on and on.

The Sun Devils, on the other hand, now have to face the No. 2 Bulldogs -- 14-7 winners Saturday at South Carolina -- only now they'll do so having suffered a potentially major hit to their BCS aspirations.

"They said we wouldn't be a problem if they looked forward to Georgia," said Summers, who finished with 103 yards on 22 carries. "They can play Georgia now, and best of luck to them."

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  1. Congratulations to UNLV fans from a BYU fan. I was stunned when I saw this score. The Mountain West is making a major statement and I couldn't be happier that UNLV will get some well-deserved respect out of this win.

  2. This is one of the biggest wins in UNLV football history. Sanford has found a leader in Omar Clayton.

  3. THANK YOU!! to Mike Sanford and Frank Summers.

    WOW what a game!! we watched it on FSN AZ Here in Phoenix. Yes we live in Phoenix and we were Glad to see someone Showed up to Play!!
    Great Job to the Rebels!!!

    The folks here in Phoenix were so sure about this one that the AZ Republic News paper sent in a Back up Writer for the Game... What???
    Can you believe that... no 1st string Writers for the AZ Republic sports Page?

    They all Looked Past the Rebels and Thank God Mike Sanford is a Believer, We have never heard of him until now and Now ASU has heard of him.

    ma bey he will be on ASU's short list for the next Head football coach..

    Great Job Mr Sanford and team from Phoenix Arizona!!

  4. Thanks Steve! Some respect has been much anticipated for a long time. I have to admit I didn't think it was really possible until I heard Dave McCann say that the kick was blocked. Even then I had to make sure it was real after the 5 second radio to TV delay.

    Don't rest Rebs, keep the momentum going with more wins.
    Once again Sun, great coverage on all fronts!

    REEEBBEEEELLLLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Um Kent, we have waded through 2 win seasons for 4 years, maximum dissent in the community, embarrassment and disappointment of high expectations. Put simply for a UNLV and football fan, it's been hell. And if Mike Sanford leaves UNLV after rebuilding the program on a whim (if they continue to win), I think God would shove a lightening bolt up his A#* for betraying those who have believed in him and fought against those who just yesterday have been clamoring for his head. Coach, I hope you're reading this.

  6. Please take UNR to the woodshed in two weeks. As a Rebel fan in Reno, I am tired of the constant negative press about UNLV. A little mutual respect would be nice for once. UNR is a decant school, but Chris Ault is an arrogant SOB. Show Nevada, they belong back in Reno and not taking on the big boys from the Big 12 or Mountain West. Great job coach and remember the Cannon looks better in RED!

  7. Great win, we are proud of the team. Keep it up and continue to get better. Great week for the MWC. 4-0 verses the Pac-10.

  8. Don't think you have to worry bout negative press this week in Reno, unless it's about Reno's 69-17 loss to Mizzu.

  9. Congratulations to Coach Sanford and the kids! They accomplished the Unthinkable...now its time for us locals to Step Up and support our football team...I just purchased 5 tickets online to Saturday's game...give Coach Sanford and our football team the support they deserve and attend Saturday's Game! Go Rebels!

  10. Now people in Vegas care.
    Vegas schould have been rooting for the Rebs BEFORE they won a big game. That being said its good to see two FRESHMAN from LAS VEGAS get big plays in (Oeth and Payne).

  11. sorry....ORTH

  12. this by far was the best game i have ever seen in person. drove up from tucson, and watched my rebz win against the 15th rank scum devils!!! the funniest comment made was some sun devil fan saying " i can't beleve we lost to a division 2 school". classic!!! yeah, now-BRING ON GEORGIA! WHERE WERE THOSE BANNERS?

  13. Payne's on handed catch made #4 on the sportscenter top ten, and one of the guys on SC was crying that it should have been #1! That toped off my nigth.

    Great game, great poise shown by Clayton, and how about those recievers, how about Frank the Tank, how about the wheels on Michael Johnson, how about those freshmen, how about that D line and the O line! Just an all around great game. UNLV outplayed 13th ranked ASU in their own house most of the game. This team has made great strides in recruiting talent, whith a big impact in nabing local kids!

    now we have seen the great talent we have on this team (playing Utah tuff for 1 half and handleing ASU), so now its time to show up and support these kids! Give them more fuel for the fire. Should have big numbers at the Iowa State game next weekend! Forget basketball season for now, lets pump up these kids in football!!!!

  14. As a 27-year ASU season ticket holder and 30-year alum who attended the game - and a 10 year resident of the outer S/W LV Valley = congratulations to the UNLV Rebels on their hard-earned and I hope - satisfying victory.

    I was talking to my VERY long-time seat-neighbors at the Sun Devil Stadium (N. endzone, 17 rows off the field) and telling them that I DO think Sanford really is a good football man and they have this FR WR kid named Payne who has some promise; got some AZ kids; and that that Larry Summers kid would get paid next year in the NFL and how I didn't really still understand why UNLV just can't get off the turf, so to speak.

    I just wanted the Rebels to show well, not embarrass Vegas and so forth. You know what I mean. I DID NOT WANT THEM TO FREEKIN' WIN!!!(lol)

    Anyway, UNLV blocked the 2007 Lou Groza(sp) NCAA Award winner in P/PK Thomas Weber. Good job!

    I hope this is something UNLV can build on going forward.

    All the PAC-10 teams who played MWC teams did badly Saturday. On to play Georgia.

    As the team came directly to my lower left to greet their fans, I applauded as well. ASU isn't hurt much by the OOC game, but it is embarassing.

    Good job, Coach Sanford and the UNLV Rebels.