UNLV-ISU Notebook: Early cheap shot fueled Rebels’ fire

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  • Opponent: UNR
  • Date: Sept. 27, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
  • Where: Las Vegas

The fact that Omar Clayton's night could have been cut brutally short because of a cheap shot adds even more sparkle to an already-stellar showing Saturday night from the UNLV sophomore quarterback.

He finished the night with 235 yards on 15 completions and three TD passes. Clayton also ran for another score in the first quarter. And it was at the end of that play when Iowa State added fuel to a fire which didn't need to grow any bigger.

The Rebel quarterback sprinted 20 yards down the right side of the field untouched into the end zone. But almost two full seconds later was when Iowa State's Leonard Johnson came up and slammed him to the turf in an act that not only drew a 15-yard penalty, but also got the ISU freshman tossed from the game just over seven minutes into it.

Clayton remained on the turf for a couple minutes after the blow before leaving the field under his own power.

"I took a head-to-head shot when I wasn't expecting it, so that's enough explanation right there," he said, dousing the fire.

Receiver Casey Flair elaborated a bit more.

"I was blocking the guy, Omar walks in the end zone, I let the guy go and he goes and cheap-shots him," he said. "It fired us up. That's our starting quarterback and it's disrespectful. You just don't do that. The play was over. That's just one of those things that really fired us up."

What helped get the Rebel sideline going was that Clayton showed so quickly that it didn't bother him.

"Just try to get up, that's the main thing," Clayton said. "You don't like to show the other team that you got hurt on the play, but you just try to get up, take one for the team and keep playing."

The personal foul was deemed flagrant by the officiating crew, who probably was in no mood to take it easy on Johnson, who had already committed a personal foul earlier just five plays earlier.

The Rebels had two personal foul calls on the night - a bugaboo of Sanford's squad in the past - with one being called against left guard Sifa Moala after he took up for receiver Phillip Payne, who was punched on the play.

Mike Sanford praised the fact that his team opted to retaliate by scoring two more first half touchdowns rather than getting testy with the Cyclones.

"I'm not gonna go into all the detail of what happened, but there were a lot of personal fouls being done by them," he said. "One of the things that was a challenge for us - as you guys know - is we've had an issue with personal fouls in the past. They were trying to incite us to do stupid things, we did them a couple times, but there were a lot of times you didn't see where we held back, and I'm proud of our team for that."

Ishii settling into new role nicely

It was at Utah two weeks ago when Dack Ishii - the third-string quarterback gone starting punter - boomed one 63 yards (aided by a generous bounce, of course). But since then, he's done nothing to make Sanford go back to Brendon Lamers on fourth downs.

In fact, he's only tightened his grip on the job.

Ishii, who entered the game having averaged 42.5 yards on 15 kicks, bumped that number up a little bit Saturday, averaging 45.5 yards on six attempts, including one which pinned ISU back at its own two-yard line late in the fourth quarter.

"The thing that's tremendous about him is he's a senior, and we didn't know he was gonna end up being our punter," Sanford said. "He earned the job, and he's become a big weapon for us."

Dual-threat QBs continue to find success on Rebels

Saturday marked the fourth time in four games this season in which the UNLV defense has not allowed an opposing ballcarrier to finish with 100 yards. But it also marked the third time in four games in which the opposition's leading rusher was a quarterback.

Austen Arnaud led the Cyclones with 51 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. It was similar to previous performances this season by Utah State's Diondre Borel (15 carries, 70 yards) and Utah's Brian Johnson (5 carries, 80 yards).

"We probably need to have one guy that, all he does, is watch the quarterback," Sanford joked.

This and that ... The announced attendance Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium was 25,567. That's quite a boost compared to the 18,815 who attended the Aug. 30 opener - UNLV's previous home showing. Though, by estimation, 4-5,000 of those fans were in Iowa State colors ... Ben Jaekle missed a 40-yard field goal for the Rebels just before the half. It was the first missed field goal try by a Rebel kicker this season ... The win made UNLV 1-4 all-time against Iowa State, and gave the Rebels their first ever back-to-back wins against BCS conference opponents ... Mountain West teams posted a 5-1 record on Saturday, making the league 12-2 in the past two weeks ... An official from the Poinsettia Bowl were on-hand to watch the game ... It appears that freshman C.J. Cox has surpassed Channing Trotter as the team's No. 2 tailback. For the second straight game, he saw backup duty behind Frank Summers, picking up 15 yards on two carries ... The Rebels are off to their best start since 2003, when John Robinson's squad began the year 4-1 (they finished the seasons 6-6). That was also the last time UNLV won more than two games in a season.

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