Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008 | 2:31 a.m.
- UNLV sports blog about Rebels athletics
- Judgment Days: Commentary from UNLV linebacker Jason Beauchamp
- Shark Bytes: Legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian shares his thoughts
- Opponent: Colorado State
- Date: Oct. 4, 11 a.m.
- Where: Fort Collins, Colo.
UNLV coach Mike Sanford joked earlier in the week about assigning a spy to watch UNR dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick, given his team's recent struggles against quarterbacks with weapons for feet.
Good thing he wasn't serious, because even that probably wouldn't have worked. Heck, a S.W.A.T. team might not have, either.
Kaerpernick, the Wolf Pack's 6-foot-6 sophomore, ran for a school quarterback record 240 yards and three touchdowns as UNR sacked and pillaged Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday night, routing UNLV 49-27, and holding onto the Fremont Cannon for a fourth straight year.
Oh, and Kaerpernick threw for 176 yards with two more scores.
It marked the fourth time in five games this season where the Rebels' opponent was lead in rushing by a quarterback.
"Genetics," UNLV defensive coordinator Dennis Therrell said, describing Kaepernick's Saturday success. "He was a better football player than what I could put on him one-on-one, and that was it. And we couldn't put two on him, because you put two on him and we couldn't defend the pass.
"That was basically what it came down to. You have to give that young man a lot of credit. He's a great football player and he whipped our rear ends all by himself."
Kaepernick did more than give UNLV its second loss of the season. He put the Rebels (3-2) in a position where there's no choice but to bounce back next week at Colorado State to avoid a potential tailspin.
"The only way to put this loss behind us is to go out and win this next game, because if we don't, people will point back to this game and say this team took a turn for the worse when they lost to Nevada-Reno, which won't be the case," said Rebel quarterback Omar Clayton. "We can't let this loss take away all the positives that have happened this season. This is one loss, and we can still accomplish the goals we have this season."
Clayton was one of the reasons Saturday's game early on looked like it would belong to the Rebels.
A generous portion of his 327 yards through the air came in the first half. UNLV took the ball first and ended up with a 47-yard Ben Jaekle field goal. Then, after Kaepernick fumbled the ball away into Jason Beauchamp's grasp, Clayton spotted freshman Phillip Payne with the patented fade toss in the end zone, putting the Rebels ahead 10-0 just more than five minutes in. Clayton even answered UNR's subsequent score with another touchdown lob, this time to Casey Flair on a bomb down the right sideline.
But from there, for several reasons, the tides shifted.
First, UNR sandwiched a Clayton fumble with a pair of short touchdown runs -- one by Kaepernick, one by Courtney Randall. Then, after Jaekle connected on a 52-yard field goal just before the half to pull UNLV to within eight points, Kaepernick sucked the life out of the party yet again.
On the first play of the second half, he darted down the right sideline and took Secretariat-like strides, going 66 yards almost untouched for a score to make it 35-20. Even though UNLV would again get to within eight, the defense wasn't able to consistently get stops, allowing UNR to convert 10 of 14 third-down tries.
By the middle of the fourth quarter, many in the announced crowd of 33,078 -- the eighth-largest in Sam Boyd history -- were on their way up the staircases, and the blue-painted Cannon was being escorted toward the UNR sideline. In terms of the crowd, it may have been an opportunity lost for potentially getting most of those fringe fans back out to Sam Boyd Stadium when UNLV next plays at home on Oct. 18 against Air Force.
In the end, UNR racked up a whopping 444 yards on the ground and 27 total first downs, mostly picked up on zone reads and option plays that UNLV just couldn't adjust to. That's quite the contrast when comparing it to the 54 yards UNLV was able to muster running the ball.
Kaepernick and Vai Taua, who had 123 yards on the ground for UNR, were the first ball carriers to record triple digits against UNLV this season.
"You've got to come out at game time and you've got to do what you practiced, and on defense tonight, we didn't do anything that we practiced all week long," UNLV defensive tackle Jacob Hales said. "It's option football, it's assignment football. We had our assignments and we didn't execute, and that's why we lost. Bottom line."
Added Sanford: "We didn't defend the option well. It's a very specific type of offense that they run, and we worked on it all week, and we did not defend it well. It's obvious."
Sanford is now 0-4 in quests for the Cannon. Next up is 2-2 Colorado State, and fortunately for UNLV, quarterback Billy Farris is not prone to running the ball often.
"At this point right now, it might take a little bit (to swallow the UNR loss), but that'll all be long gone once we're in a bowl game, and that'll take that away," said senior receiver Casey Flair. "That's where our focus is right now, to get to a bowl game and to win a bowl game. We have the capability, we have enough talent on this team, we just have to turn this around and keep it going in the right direction."