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UNLV’s 45-17 loss to Air Force marked by mistakes, blown opportunities

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UNLV’s 45-17 defeat by Air Force on Saturday will be a game coach Mike Sanford and his players think about for a long time.

The loss dropped the Rebels’ record to 4-7 and took them out of bowl contention. It was a game full of missed opportunities and untimely mistakes.

On his postgame radio show, Sanford mentioned a number of aspects of the game that were haunting him — especially injuries.

“We’re a team that throughout this year, when we’re healthy, we can play pretty well,” Sanford said. “But when we get thinned out by injuries, things go from bad to worse. That’s what happened.”

A number of UNLV defenders were nicked up in the defeat and taken out of the game.

Sanford said those injuries were a determining factor in the game, and he criticized Air Force for playing dangerously.

“They are a team that does a lot of things — I won’t get into it right now — but a lot of things that are dangerous and unsafe,” Sanford said. “And they are not within the rules of football, and what ends up happening is you get so many guys hurt that it’s hard to replace them and get the right guys in the game to defend it. That’s what I saw happening.”

Although Sanford declined to discuss specifics, he was likely referring to the number of low blocks Air Force relies on to power its running game. Some accuse Air Force of using chop blocks, an illegal tactic where one player hits a defender high while another goes low.

“I think it was frustrating for me to keep running out there when guys were getting injured from all the stuff,” Sanford said. “That’s all I’ll say. I’d rather not get into a debate about what they do. The bottom line is they do a nice job and I’ve got to give them credit.”

Air Force ran 71 rushing plays for 431 yards, and running back Asher Clark had 160 yards and three touchdowns.

“We’ve got to stop the run,” Sanford said. “We didn’t get that done tonight.”

Clark scored the first touchdown of the game and Air Force running back Jared Tew quickly followed to make the score 14-0 in the second quarter.

Shortly thereafter, UNLV got its best chance to make the game interesting. Quarterback Omar Clayton drove UNLV down to Air Force’s 11-yard line with the score at 17-3 right before halftime.

But on the next play, Clayton threw an interception in the end zone.

“I think it would have been a different ball game — and we threw an interception,” Sanford said. “I think it was one of those scenarios where I don’t think it was a bad throw, but I don’t think Omar saw the back side linebacker coming into play.”

Instead of UNLV scoring, Air Force drove down the field and made the score 24-3 before halftime.

The Rebels never got closer than two touchdowns from the Falcons in the second half. Clayton finished 9-for-18 for 108 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

UNLV now has a bye week, before closing its season with a home game against San Diego State in two weeks.

“We’ve got to finish on a positive note,” Sanford said. “We want to win our last game for our seniors.”

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  1. If it was illegal the refs would have called it. Stop crying and play some football!

  2. It was a game full of missed opportunities and untimely mistakes.

    The same could be said of the entire season. This team was never bowl worthy, not this year.

  3. hire Larry Kehres

  4. The MWC needs to investigate Sanford's claim that the AFA is not playing "within the rules of football".

    That is bold criticism. Where were the referee's?

  5. I don't want to defend Sanford's claim because it enables sour grapes, but while watching the game I noticed several aggregious penalties such as chop blocks that were not called and I was stunned.

    Having said that, the problem isn't that the Rebels are a bad team; they lack consistency. They can't link very many plays together.

    On AFA first series we stopped them on fourth and one but then the next series we let them march ninety-six yards for a score.

    I really don't know what to say other Sanford has to go. These guys are as focused as Mr. Magoo. Poor leadership in coaching breeds that.

  6. As for the cut blocking claim, that is something that has been around the MWC for some time just ask BYU about it. As for a new coach, he has to be able to recruit California and Texas, keep the good players i.e. Caleb Herring at UNLV, and play sound defense. I have heard Nick Holt being floated but he wasn't too successful at Idaho. Also, new coach gets a brutal 2010 schedule with road games at BYU, Utah, CSU, SDSU, WVU, Idaho, and Hawaii; home games vs. TCU, AFA, UNM, Wyo, UNR, and Wisconsin.

  7. Take a look at the films (and scoreboard)Coach. Next year you can complain when your coaching at Las Vegas High School.

  8. The MWC needs to investigate Sanford's claim that the AFA is not playing within the rules of football

    Another Sanford stupid thought

  9. It's time UNLV football goes in a direction other than down.

  10. USA-cadet,you would hope they would call a penalty when it was there however they did not.From your handle ,I'm sure you'd agree...right.
    Just Sanford even mentioning refs,calls etc.. the problem for the loss .Is not what a winner says not a head coach..
    From the start changing personnel based on a opponent is the consitancy problem and why we struggle.
    A defense must be a UNIT, you play together you know each other. You keep a juggling of personel.You get the rebels ranking .D.coordinator Therrell.Whom prior to UNLV was no more then a volunteer's assitants assistant .Should never be allowed near a chalk board
    Some many factors make a good coach and a bad coach has that many area's to foul up.
    From recruitment to game,plays to players ,to positioning on depth charts.You can't fool the player's.Like any relationship there must be trust.

  11. garrymoh,

    Please don't say that... I'm an LVHS alum, and would hate to see that program in the hands of Mike Sanford. :)

  12. All I hear about is mistakes. Just about every week, it's mistakes.