Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008 | 9:23 p.m.
Another week, another fade pass caught for a score by Phillip Payne.
This time, it's a game-winner.
Never mind how the game got to overtime when it never should have in the first place. The Rebels defense held Iowa State to a field goal, and Omar Clayton needed one snap to find Payne on the left edge of the end zone for his third TD pass of the game. This one gave UNLV a 34-31 win and improved the Rebels to 3-1 on the season.
Frank Summers had 161 total yards and two touchdowns for the Rebels, eclipsing the 100-yard rushing mark for the second straight week. Omar Clayton finished with 229 yards through the air, 25 more on the ground and four total scores.
Payne's TD grab was just his second catch of the game and gave him five scores on the season.
UNLV led 21-0 at halftime, but the game was pushed into extras by a frantic 9-play, 98-yard ISU drive, capped by a 28-yard TD pass from Austen Arnaud to R.J. Sumrall.
The Rebels now welcome rival Nevada-Reno to Sam Boyd Stadium next Saturday at 7 p.m.
Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels for full postgame coverage, including stories, reactions, photos and video coverage.
End of regulation, game tied 28-28
Austen Arnaud, who continued to get stronger as the game went along, just capped a nine-play, 98-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown strike to R.J. Sumrall over the middle, leaving just three seconds on the clock and Sam Boyd Stadium stunned. It was the first time Iowa State had seen a tie on the scoreboard since it was 0-0 in the first quarter.
UNLV had a couple of near picks on the drive, but the secondary just left Arnaud with too much of a cushion to work with on too many occasions.
For the second straight week, UNLV goes to overtime, but this time, the circumstances which got the game there are a bit different. Even if UNLV pulls this one out, there are some definite red flags.
2:31, fourth quarter, UNLV leads 28-21
The last thing you would call this game is pretty, and ISU just added more proof to that statement on its last offensive possession.
With the ball near midfield and a chance on its hands to tie things up late at Sam Boyd Stadium, Austen Arnaud had beautiful passes on second and third down dropped down the middle by R.J. Sumrall and Darius Darks, respectively.
UNLV took the ball back and put Frank Summers to work again, with a few decent gains pushing him over the 100-yard mark for the second straight week. The one downside there is that the drive stalled for the Rebels at their own 46-yard line, which gave ISU the ball back on its own two-yard line with 1:34 to play following a Dack Ishii punt. The ball landed at about the 20, and took a run straight towards the pylon in the front-left corner of the end zone, zooming out of bounds just before crossing the goal line.
7:44, fourth quarter, UNLV leads 28-21
We were starting to think ISU was just standing around listening to the Benny Hill theme during its two timeouts with the ball deep in UNLV territory, twice facing fourth down situations inside the UNLV five. The Rebels stood tall - thanks to big hits from Nate Carter, Ronnie Paulo, Daryl Forte and Jacob Hales - but the Cyclones finally closed.
On fourth-and-goal at the one, Austen Arnaud sold the farm on a naked bootleg and walked into the end zone untouched, pulling ISU within one score and plenty of time left.
This next offensive possession is now huge for UNLV. Last week, Frank Summers and the offensive line got stronger as the game wore on, and a duplicate of that right now wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for Mike Sanford. They need to milk out a good amount of the nearly eight minutes left in the game.
Aaaaand as I typed that, Omar Clayton was sacked for a loss of three. Buckle your seat belts.
:08, third quarter, UNLV leads 28-14
Comeback thwarted ... for now.
Frank Summers capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive that consumed more than five minutes of the game clock with a 12-yard TD run after the o-line completely sealed off the left side of the defense. The Tank now has 130 total yards and two touchdowns.
That push back against back-to-back Cyclone touchdowns may have said more than anything UNLV has done to this point in this game. They kept a red-hot ISU offense off the field, and by the time they let them back on the field, there were just 15 minutes to go in the game. A couple of big defensive stands could send a good amount of the cardinal and gold in the stands packing to enjoy the rest of their vacation.
5:10, third quarter, UNLV leads 21-14
The momentum swing is pretty visible, now.
Following the Wolfe fumble, Austen Arnaud looked like a taller, much thinner Earl Campbell in barreling through a pair of UNLV defenders en route to a 10-yard touchdown run. It cut the Rebs' lead to seven points at 21-14.
The tables have certainly turned so far in the second half, with the ISU offense picking up six first downs so far (they had just one in the first half).
But credit Omar Clayton with pushing against the trend. First, he hit Casey Flair down the middle for 22 yards into ISU territory on third-and-10 - it was a pass that was in between about four Cyclone defenders. Then, after a Joe Hawley personal foul pushed the Rebels back a bit, Clayton hit Wolfe over the middle for another first down on the heels of a nice C.J. Cox pickup up the middle.
7:31, third quarter, UNLV leads 21-7
Well, those correctable mistakes might need to be corrected again. Or at least one of them.
What helped UNLV so much in hte second half last week at Arizona State was not shooting itself in the feet with costly penalties. It happened on Iowa State's first possession of the second half. On a third-and-five from the UNLV 43, Geoffery Howard took R.J. Sumrall down on a hook route, drawing a pass interference flag and keeping the drive going. The pass wasn't going to be caught, which made the flag sting even more for the Rebs. A play later, Austen Arnaud threw a beauty of a ball to Sumrall in the end zone from 28 yards out for ISU's first score of the game.
ISU tried to hand the yards back with a personal foul call for a facemask grab on the ensuing kick. So the Rebels have that going for them (even with UNLV's pass interference flag, the Cyclones still have them waaay outnumbered tonight in avoidable errors).
But UNLV added another one to its total, as Ryan Wolfe fumbled a caught ball away early into the ensuing drive, and Jesse Smith scooped it and rumbled to the 10-yard line. It was the Rebels' first turnover of the season.
Halftime, UNLV leads 21-0
Some numbers to munch on for the next 20 minutes before firing The Mtn. back up ...
-Frank Summers had another slow start on the ground, but again things opened up. After picking up 19 yards on his first nine carries, he has 56 yards on 14 totes at the break. He also has 50 yards and a touchdown on two grabs.
-Omar Clayton apparently wasn't shaken by a vicious late hit on his touchdown run in the first quarter. He is 8-of-12 for 131 yards and two TD passes, and has another 28 yards on the ground. His consecutive pass attempt streak is still alive at 130.
-Casey Flair leads the UNLV receivers with 56 yards and a score on five grabs. Freshman sensation Phil Payne has yet to catch a ball.
-The Rebels have been pretty creative running the ball, using receivers Michael Johnson and Ryan Wolfe to get things going on the perimeter. They've combined for 61 yards on six carries.
-UNLV has 14 first downs through two quarters. ISU has one. That could be the most telling stat yet.
-Another good one: UNLV has 288 yards of total offense. ISU has 38.
-Ben Jaekle's 40-yard field goal miss just before the half was the Rebels' first missed field goal attempt this season. Maybe he was looking ahead to kicking against his brother next week?
Just my prediction ... I'd say this one, barring a miracle, could be in the books. ISU, like I said in the pregame, truly doesn't have a quarterback, even when it believes it has two. That cheap shot by Leonard Johnson went a long way, as UNLV has yet to let up since Omar Clayton was violated like that 65 MPH speed limit I put to shame last weekend while acquiring my first Nevada speeding ticket.
1:51, second quarter, UNLV leads 21-0
Leonard Johnson's probably feels pretty stupid right about now. Since that hit, Omar Clayton's only gotten better. This time, he capped a drive with a three-yard gun shot while rolling right to Casey Flair in the back of the end zone, putting the Rebels up 21-0 just before the half.
A couple of interesting plays set up the score. First, Clayton lobbed a fade pass from midfield down to Flair (yes, a fade to someone other than Phillip Payne). Then, Payne came into the game on a second-and-three situation from the ISU 15. The safety drifted over to help, and it opened up a bigger hole for Frank Summers, who set up the score with a 12-yard jaunt down the seam.
ISU surprisingly got pretty conservative with its play calls after the score, giving the Rebels teh ball back at their own 20 with a minute to go before the break.
6:30, second quarter, UNLV leads 14-0
At what point this year do you legitimately start considering Dack Ishii a weapon? The Rebels third-string-quarterback-turned-punter, who entered the game averaging 42.5 yards per kick, just slugged one deep into no man's land, and after a bobbled fair catch attempt, the Cyclones started their next possession with the ball bumping uglies with the goal line.
Granted, a bit of momentum slipped as a T.V. timeout made the Rebel defense stand around for a couple minutes, but ISU continued to look lost on offense. They advanced the ball one yard on three snaps, and in turn took over possession at their own 49-yard line.
Ishii is averaging nearly 50 yards a kick tonight on three tries. That said, Brendon Lamers looks awfully bored on the sideline (Lamers was supposed to be the starting punter in camp, remember?)
12:03, second quarter, UNLV leads 14-0
Is ISU throwing in the towel already? I mean, no, but its last fourth down decision certainly indicates that confidence might be wavering on the visiting sideline.
Facing a fourth-and-the length of my big toe situation at the Rebels 45-yard line, Gene Chizik opted to kick the ball. Then, after UNLV gave him time to reconsider by calling a timeout, he still sent the punt unit out there. I'm sorry, but if you don't think you can pick that up, or don't even want to try, that's not really gonna fire up the troops. Granted, the punt pinned UNLV deep and the Rebel offense kicked it right back, but for a team with one first down so far as we're into the second quarter, Iowa State is looking as timid as you'd expect.
1:26, first quarter, UNLV leads 14-0
Apparently the cheap shot had little to no effect. Following the UNLV defense's stand, Clayton first hit Casey Flair on a sideline route for a first down gainer. Then, he slipped one into the flat for Frank Summers, who found space for the first time today down the sideline, breaking a weak tackle effort by Brandon Hunley at the 10-yard line and finishing the job on a 48-yard score.
Yes, folks, these are the Rebels. Can't make it up.
4:41, first quarter, UNLV leads 7-0
No, there are no open UFC tryouts going on at Sam Boyd Stadium. Iowa State's Leonard Johnson learned that lesson the hard way. Or maybe he just had a table reserved at Rain that he's dying to get to.
The ISU freshman defensive back Leonard Johnson was just ejected after picking up his second personal foul on the same drive, but UNLV got the last laugh, as Omar Clayton put the Rebels up top 7-0 with a 23-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play, 95-yard drive.
His first infraction came on a one-yard Frank Summers run on first-and-10. Outside of the pile-up, Johnson came up and jacked Casey Flair in the chest with the play long dead, drawing four separate flags. On taht play, ISu also lost leading tackler Michael Bibbs, who just left the field on crutches.
Then, after Clayton crossed the goal line, Johnson came up and gave a complete cheap shot which left the Rebel QB on the turf for a couple of minutes to collect his thoughts. Johnson was ejected, and the penalty was enforced on the kickoff. Apparently wanting to send a message, UNLV kicker Ben Jaekle rocked the kick almost to the UNLV locker room.
Why ISU would want to add fuel to the fire, I have no clue. But they certainly did. The Rebel defense responded by putting up its third straight stand against the ISU offense, still having not allowed a first down on the evening. (By the way, kudos to Gene Chizik for making Johnson stay on the bench despite getting tossed. Make him feel the humiliation, because he certainly deserves it)
On a sidenote, Clayton's consecutive pass streak without throwing an interception is still alive at 122. Though No. 122 was a wide open interception try which Brandon Hunley dropped. Hey, every streak needs a little luck to push it along.
12:06, first quarter, game tied 0-0
Three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out. It's been a pretty lackluster start out at Sam Boyd Stadium if you love high-powered offenses.
But UNLV you'd have to say holds an early edge in terms of momentum. While their two stops of ISU's offense were genuine, the Rebels' first possession was cut short by Omar Clayton tripping just shy of the first down marker on a third-and-five keeper.
The pass rush for the Rebels is overpowering early on, especially Thor Pili. On ISU's second drive, which started at midfield, he first had a three-yard tackle for loss on QB Austen Arnaud, then sacked the Cyclones' sophomore gunslinger a play later, forcing a fumble which ISU pounced on, losing eight yards.
As for the atmosphere here, there are still plenty of seats available. Not an awful crowd, but not what it could be next week should UNLV make the oddsmakers look smart. PLENTY of ISU fans made this trek.
Pregame, 5:24 p.m.
Well, as expected Rebel football fever - or, we'll call it Rebel football mild fever ... about a 99.7 - is apparent out here at Sam Boyd Stadium. Ron Kantowski for a moment forgot about our Cubs winning the NL Central today when we pulled off of the 215 and actually saw a backup at Russell Road. Yes, a backup. Traffic cops and everything. Seriously. Don't believe me? Come check it out.
Our estimations earlier in the week of there being about 4-5,000 more butts in the seats appear to be pretty dead on. There's a full-fledged tailgate party going on in the grassy nole, and life is good if you're a Rebels fan.
Though, of course, all of these festive faces probably won't return a week from now for the Nevada-Reno game should things not go as expected for Mike Sanford's club tonight against 2-1 Iowa State.
Right now in the press box, the game of choice - or at least for me - is Georgia-Arizona State. All an ASU win over the Dawgs would do is make UNLV look that much better. And so far today, the Mountain West is doing a heckuva job repeating its success of a week ago. At the moment, the league is 3-0, with TCU currently up 14-0 on SMU and New Mexico well behind Tulsa, 35-0, at the break.
We at the Sun have analyzed the crap out of this game so much this week that, well, there's really not much more to say right now. That said, on to this week's three big predictions ...
1) Frank Summers, barring injury, has the most golden of golden opportunities in front of him tonight. For a team playing under a second-year coach who in his last position was a national champion as a d-coordinator, this Cyclones crew has an awful run defense. Their 182 yards allowed per game rank 11th in the Big 12. If you're a college fantasy football owner - do those exist even? - Frank The Tank is about as safe a bet as you'll find today.
2) Iowa State cannot win this game. I say that because they commit what I consider to be the biggest sin in college football - voluntarily using a two-quarterback system. Heck, even Steve Spurrier can't get it right. If he can't, no way Gene Chizik can. It's one thing if it's a Chris Leak-Tim Tebow deal, where the two guys play completely different games, but with Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates, they're pretty much the same. When you say you have two quarterbacks who deserve to start, in my book that means you don't even have one.
3) Jimmy Clausen will continue to make me money the rest of this season, just like he did today, laying yet another egg for the Domers. If there's one team I'm betting against the rest of the year, it's Notre Dame. Now if Arizona State can just wrap up that parlay for me (See? Again ran out of things to talk about regarding this game).
Talk to you after kickoff.