Ron Kantowski:

For Rebels, loss to UNR a new low

Humiliating loss renews calls for coach’s ouster, but trading up would be no small task for program

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Brad Horn / associated press

Nevada-Reno quarterback Colin Kaepernick (10) rushes during the second half of the team’s 63-28 victory over UNLV at Mackay Stadium in Reno on Oct. 3, 2009.

UNLV vs UNR

UNR ran for a school record 559 yards on Saturday and beat UNLV 63 to 28. The Wolfpack earned their fifth straight victory over the Rebels in the Battle for the Freemont Cannon.

UNLV vs. UNR

UNR's Brandon Wimberly leaps over UNLV's Travis Dixon during the first half in Reno at Mackay Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

UNR POSTGAME: Where to start ...

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Ryan Greene and Alex Adeyanju clean up the last bits of UNLV's devastating 63-28 loss at UNR and spin it forward, as life gets no easier for the 2-3 Rebels in the coming weeks.

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What are your thoughts on UNLV coach Mike Sanford?

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Next game

  • Opponent: BYU
  • Date: Oct. 10, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
  • TV: The Mtn. (Cox ch. 334)
  • Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM

It was just three weeks ago that the UNLV football team almost beat Oregon State of the Pac-10. Two weeks ago, it did beat Hawaii. Both games were close, and exciting. Sure enough, the defense looked suspect. The defense always looks suspect at UNLV. But you could argue progress was being made.

I know I did.

Then the Rebels lost a game they had no business losing, at Wyoming. Then they got folded, spindled and mutilated — heavy on the mutilation — at Nevada-Reno on Saturday. The final score was 63-28. It could have been 84-7 had the Wolf Pack not lost four fumbles.

This just might be the nadir of a program that specializes in nadirs.

I have been watching UNLV lose football games for 22 years. I can’t think of a worse defeat, or a more humbling one.

Yes, the Rebels lost 62-3 to Tennessee in 1996. But Peyton Manning was the Tennessee quarterback. They lost 69-0 to Houston in 1989. But Andre Ware was the Houston quarterback. Ware won the Heisman Trophy that year. I also remember a couple of games where Air Force scored in the 60s, but that’s Air Force. It runs the option. The Rebels never could defend the option.

Back in 1991, there was a season-opening 50-8 setback at UNR that also was pretty humiliating. The Rebels had a guy named John Ma’ae playing quarterback. I’ll never forget one play where the Wolf Pack chased him around in circles before a backpedaling Ma’ae, by this time in his own end zone, flung the ball backward over his shoulder for a UNR safety. It looked like something out of the Keystone Kops.

But if memory serves, at least the Rebels made the Wolf Pack punt once or twice. They did not allow UNR to gain 773 yards by running the same two simple plays it had run in the previous year’s game.

As I said, the Rebels never could defend the option.

Even more frightening is that nearly halfway through the season, it appears they can’t defend any other play, either.

I don’t know what Athletic Director Mike Hamrick was thinking last year when he tacked on three more years to Rebels coach Mike Sanford’s contract. As far as lovely parting gifts — Hamrick ran off to Marshall this summer before UNLV could run him off — that was the home game of Concentration and what’s behind the curtain on “Let’s Make a Deal” all rolled into an extension worth about $425,000 per year.

Let me be the 29th person in the local media who has said that Mike Sanford is a nice guy. But after his defense was torched for 773 yards Saturday, it would have been appropriate had he dumped that contract extension in a snowbank in the Sierra Nevada. That way, at least he would have something in common with John C. Fremont, since he has never known what it’s like to possess his cannon.

Sanford’s contract includes a $225,000 buyout that, unless he has a couple of Sherman tanks masquerading as redshirt freshman defensive ends and activates them soon, figures to be utilized at the end of this season.

There goes paving the parking lot at Sam Boyd Stadium.

There’s a bit of a sticky wicket in firing Sanford because there are an acting president and an acting athletic director who might be reluctant to act. And there is that buyout, which costs money, and then you’d have to hire a new coach, which costs even more money that UNLV doesn’t have.

But one of the Nevada System regents told me the other day there’s no way Sanford can survive without going to a bowl game and implied that he, himself, would stand in the median on Maryland Parkway and Tropicana with a fireman’s boot if that’s what it takes to buy Sanford out.

Rebels fans, of course, want him out now. Turn the team over to offensive coordinator Todd Berry, they say. He seems to know what he’s doing and has head coaching experience (5-36 at Army). They truly believe Jim Rogers or Cliff Findlay or Steve Wynn can write a check that would lure Urban Meyer away from Florida, or that the next Amos Alonzo Stagg is coaching the D-line at some Division I-AA school and all we gotta do is find him and pay him what we’re paying Sanford.

Maybe so. Stagg’s first coaching job was at Williston Seminary. So perhaps Jerry Koloskie, the Rebels’ interim athletic director, needs to get on the next bus to Easthampton, Mass. Or schedule Williston Seminary instead of UNR, should Sanford stay around until 2012, the expiration date on his contract.

But, seriously, what coach do you get to replace him if this season continues to spiral out of control?

I’ve seen the Rebels promote from within (Wayne Nunnely), hire the offensive coordinator from the national champion (Jim Strong), steal UNR’s head coach (Jeff Horton), entrust the program to a coaching legend (John Robinson) and hire the godfather of the spread offense (Sanford) — at least according to him.

Their combined efforts have produced three winning seasons in 22.

I’m not saying that it can’t be done at UNLV. I am saying the thought has crossed my mind once or twice.

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  1. cant really remember a college coach getting smoked half way through the season... think its better to make some moves now (cink? berry?) or ride this season out... ha.. byu is already a 2 TD favorite.. ugh.. that line HAS to move... 40 point spread by friday?

  2. UNLV's defense accounted for 773 yards of offense for Nevada. I'm sure Mike's a good guy but at the very least the defensive coordinator should be let go.

    http://www.firemikesanford.com

  3. The only way I would advocate keeping Sanford is under this one condition: Make a phone call to Rocky Long today and offer the D-coordinator job to him staring immediately. From my understanding Long walked away from New Mexico simply because he didn't want to pressures of being a HC anymore. This is the condition I would hire him under - I want you to only think about running this defense & that's it. I watched a documentary a few years back on the 1985 Chicage Bears team that won the superbowl & before the season the owner & GM of the bears hired Buddy Ryan to coach the defense & he did not have to answer to Mike Ditka. They used to butt heads all the time but Ryan would tell Ditka I don't have to answer to you, I am here to coach this defense. What a great plan, & it worked to perfection!! Does anybody remember those great defenses N.M. used to have with their 3-4-4 & 3-5-3 schemes that they used to play? I could only imagine how much better this defense would be with a great defensive mind like Rocky Long calling the shots. To me that would be the safest & smartest move instead of blowing up the whole team. But who am I, like the university is going to listen to any of the fans?

  4. I love UNLV and I'm proud to say that I'm an Alum. Saturday was the first time that I was EMBARRASSED to say I graduated from there. Please Sanford, resign. If our program wasn't pathetic before, it certainly is now.

  5. Mike Bradeson as the interim Head Coach

    Coach Brad would be perfect for the job Do it

  6. I will say it here first, why not try and get Chris Ault to come to UNLV. Stop and think about what this program needs. Why not????

  7. Ault is old.

    His record vs. AQ conference opponents is as bad as Sanford's. He beats UNLV and some of the pathetic WAC teams AND THAT'S IT.

    No way could he compete in the much tougher MWC.

    We don't need another has-been looking to ride it out for a few years before they retire.

    We need someone young and hungry.

    No more rejects from Utah. No more senior citizens.

  8. I didn't know Long was the D-coordinator at SDSU. Well in that case the whole coaching staff needs to go then. I'm sorry but Bradeson is a horrible position coach, Cinkovich would do better. I am a former DB myself, his coaching is flawed, their tackling is horrible, their pad levels at the point of attack suck, he is no good IMO.

    There is no way UNLV hires Ault from Reno. He is a UNR lifer and will never leave the Wolfpack, besides he HATES the rebels, Ault will die in reno!!

  9. I was unable to stay up and watch Game Time on Sunday night, so I don't know how Sanford represented himself. But, nothing short of an apology to the students and alumni of UNLV, as well as the people of Southern Nevada, would make this even close to right. I am EMBARRASSED to call myself a UNLV Football fan. What was the point of the media lockdown last week? How could Sanford and Sons be so ill-prepared for this game? I wasn't even expecting a win against Reno. But, show some heart, and don't throw in the towel after three quarters. Outscored 42-7 in the second half? What did he do, draw up his mom's recipe for lentil soup on the chalkboard at halftime? Sanford should've done the right thing on Monday: tendered his resignation at the end of the season and/or fired the Defensive Coordinator. How do you spin this as anything but a complete failure? I'm sorry, but even NICE GUYS can suck at their jobs. Get the eff out of Vegas, Sanford. You've more than worn out your welcome.

  10. @NevadaSouthernRebFan:
    His post game explanation was "I have no idea what just happened". He said he is going to find out who wants to play and give it their all and anybody who doesn't give it their all he doesn't want on his football team.
    (Those were his exact words). Nonetheless the team has quit on Sanford 5 games into his 5th season. When a coach no longer has control of his team the season is lost and the coach must go. I was once part of a team in HS that was split down the middle & half of the team was protesting our coach, so what did they do they quit on the field? All I can tell you is that it led to fist fight after fist fight between the players, & one player threw down on the practice field with our LB coach, it was an ugly mess, it cost us our season. It wasn't turned around until the next year. UNLV isn't far behind that scenario I had to play through. The difference between Sanford & my HS coach is that my HS coach could actually coach. The problems on our team came from a group of knuckleheads that didn't like a no nonsense coach and they revolted. I think what is going on here is the players know he is too soft and their way of protesting Sanford to get him out of here is by quitting on the field.

  11. I hear you, Bet. Funny thing is, I really have nothing against the players. Some of the blogs on here have gone after them pretty hard, and maybe it is partially deserved. But, this is a clear case of these guys not getting prepared, motivated, and coached each week. The "party like" atmosphere Trotter complained about before last week's Wyoming fiasco is a perfect example. We have given Sanford and Sons ample opportunity in five seasons to turn this thing around. Better coaching would've given us victories against Oregon St. and Wyoming this year. Instead, we get excuses, finger pointing, and an embarrassing 700+ offensive yards given up against our in-state rivals. These student athletes deserve better out of their commitments to the program. They deserve a coach who teaches the game of football, and inspires them both on and off the field.

  12. Do we even have a D-Line? Starr Fuiamano is a glass house. I can't take much more of this. I'll take Cink or Bradeson as interim HC right now.

  13. Coach Cink should get a shot at HC, at least on an interim basis. He has the natural leadership qualities and understands the game. He's a great motivator and recruiter and has local ties. More importantly, he's familiar with UNLV's program and knows first-hand what NOT to do as a HC in Vegas to succeed (similar to Bronco Mendenhall replacing Gary Crowton at BYU).

  14. First off, whoever thinks Chris Ault is coming to Vegas should get real. The man personally enjoys beating UNLV. He retired from the AD position up there solely to get the football program back on track after losing the cannon 5 straight times. Look at what happened in the fourth quarter. UNR didn't need to score 35 points in the fourth quarter. That's all Chris Ault.

    Meanwhile, it's 11:50 A.M., and I haven't gotten word of one firing at UNLV. Not the DC, not the line coach, not the head coach. I guess the captain has accepted that the ship will sink.

  15. I am disgusted to be an alumni of UNLV today. Disgusted.

  16. Hire Darwin Rost

  17. Of course it CAN be done....in fact, UNLV had a winning tradition in football until Maxson decided that going after Tark was going to be really tough, but firing Tark's lifelong friend (Harvey Hyde) would irritate Tark enough that Tark would leave....

    Hyde was a great football coach, and like every coach before him at UNLV, he left UNLV with a winning record and the year before his firing, he took UNLV to its first D1 bowl game and beat Toledo in it.

    After Maxson was hired on he went after Tark (and Hyde) almost immediately. Hyde was let go because of his relationship with Tark. Ever since Maxson threw away a budding winning tradition, all because of his ego, UNLV football has gone nowhere....before that time UNLV was 126-70 with a .555% winning percentage....including 3 or 4 season that UNLV NEARLY went undefeated. It seems during that time, we had TWO losing season 1972 and 1982, and had THREE one loss seasons....we've had FIVE total winning season since Hyde's ouster (24 years ago!).

    OF COURSE UNLV CAN BECOME A DECENT FOOTBALL PROGRAM; BUT THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT NEEDS TO STEP IT UP AND HIRE THE RIGHT GUY AND THEN GET OUT OF THE WAY.....We've been dealing with Maxson's legacy/curse for far too long. Time to right the ship....hire a very good AD that actually has ties to the school. Somebody that cares if we win or loss and can raise the funds to do things we NEED to do.

  18. Amen, Rebel X! The ghost of Bob "Why Don't People Show Me the Same Love at Piero's Like They Show Tark?" Maxson still looms over everything but the golf team at UNLV. Let's exorcise that demon once and for all.

  19. As for the next coach....I think we should go unconventional and hire a hungry coach that is willing to do this job the right way with the salary restrictions and other obstacle we have.

    My guy: JAY GRUDEN!

    Brother of NFL coach Jon Gruden. Jay comes from a coaching family (Dad and brother both coached in the NFL), he was a four-year QB at Louisville and holds records at the school. On top of all that, he's been a VERY successful coach in the Arena League and is now offensive coordinator with Florida's new UFL team.

    I'm not sure he has the professional coaching style...but I could see this guy turning an off-the-map college program into a winning program because he's innovative, smart, and above all (like his bro and dad) he works his butt off.

    Bring on JAY GRUDEN!!!! He'd have to hire a few good recruiters with NCAA experience (and keep Uperesa and Cinkovich from the current staff). I'm 100% certain that a hire like this would turn the ship around.

    ...and that's just off the top of my head. There's SO many options when hiring a coach at a school like UNLV...don't act like hiring Horton from our in-state rival, or Sanford from a conference school means we've done pretty much everything we could do to win and failed. We haven't!!!! The next AD needs to be smart about this hire....I've always felt that you go after a guy on a gut feeling or knowledge that the coach will be sucessful....you can't just try to chip away some success from another successful program, you gotta know the game somewhat and have and eye for talent. Our AD's have gone for the safe pick (I love Kruger and have since the beginning....but lets face it, George Karl wanted the job and had so much potential...but the AD just played it safe, like they always do). Time to move away from the overly safe pick and go with a little risk but high reward option. IMO, Gruden would be almost no risk (he's just a proven winner), and it could be a job that he'd absolutely love to take (as I'm sure the AFL and UFL don't pay great...although, I think he's an NFL scout too). He's got the ties to NFL that players/recruits would LOVE...and he doesn't just have passion (Sanford's redeeming trait), he has smarts, leadership and organizational skills to match.

    Think outside the box this time!!! The safe pick(s) have been the wrong picks in hiring UNLV's football coach....time to use your brain and think about this next hire.....or just hire Gruden and get us on track immediately.

  20. 2 p.m... has anybody been fired yet?

  21. Do you folks at the Sun do any kind of screening for the same individual signing up under multiple handles?

    Seriously, Ron K., you've got at least three posters on here right now who write EXACTLY alike under different handles.

    It's the same 'Sybil' poster supporting his positions using multiple different handles, as if his ALL CAPS exclamations and absolutist declarations could somehow be disguised by different user names.

    It would be comical if it wasn't so sad.

    Want a quick way to sniff him out -- watch this!!

    Hey, how many think UNLV should be build an ON-CAMPUS FOOTBALL STADIUM?

  22. BIGB. ......SANFORD has nothing to do with those players being in the NFL. It is the players that got themselves into the NFL. There were good enough to overcome the coach.

    5 years and how many games won? WOW

  23. It is amazing how many persons outside Nevada believe that Sanford and his defense coach should take the next plane out of town. Sadly enough, I really do not believe UNLV will get rid of them. It is obvious that UNLV does not care how many games the Rebels loose. UNLV is supposed to be a top school, with top alumni, with top students, with the power to contact money people. Didn't the guy that hired Sanford made a beeline out of UNLV? Was this payback time for him?

  24. where is that guy who put k-state back on the map?
    Prince?

  25. Chris Ault was a Rebel Assistant Coach at one time and The late Bill Morris tryed to get him hired as Rebel Head Coach

    Chris is happy in Reno and will retire when he's ready from Nevada

  26. @bahasunrise-

    You're talking about UNLV, right? Same school that didn't even make the Forbes' list of the top 100 public universities? The same school that can't fill 18,000 arena seats or 38,000 stadium seats in a city of 1.75 million? The same school who's fundraising ranks them dead last in their conference?

    Just checking.

  27. i know how frustrated everyone is.. but it seems like all this is falling on deaf ears. want to prove your point... dont go to the byu game..or if you do go wear blue... THAT might send a message. i dont want to betray stud seniors like wolfe and co. but i dont know what else would make our point. we arent going to get the sun to interview kiloskie or cink or therell, we may be on our own.

  28. 4:32...
    Still no breaking news that:
    Sanford Has Turn In His Keys!
    Too bad. I guess can hope and pray.

  29. There are MANY coaches who would crawl on their hands and knees to Las Vegas and take this job.

    A couple proven head coaches with western roots who are out there are former Utah State, Louisville, Mich St. coach John L. Smith and former Boise State, Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter.

    Also, although Dan Hawkins has struggled at Colorado, maybe we could get him now.

    I say qualifications are previous HEAD coaching experience with some rivalry wins and bowl games. This is NOT a job for inexperienced coaches. Some jobs are...this isn't one of them.

  30. I have a strange feeling that since there has been no action, no word from the university, not even a peep from Maryland Pkwy. that Sanford isn't going anywhere. The only writer that I have seen in the local papers say that Sanford needs to be fired is Ed Graney from the RJ. Why isn't the Sun putting pressure on the university with articles calling for his dismissal? Do the writers of the Sun have an affinity with Sanford?
    I could take over this team tomorrow & recruit 30 thugs from the hood on the west side and win more games then this coaching staff.

  31. RJ has an article that the UNLV President is upset with the state of the football program and that he is evaluating Sanford on a game to game basis.

    Should someone tell him how the next two games will be played out..

  32. Bam, why would any coach be on their hands and knees for this job in Vegas. I really like to hear this one. There is no tradition, academics suck, what is the incentive??

  33. Vgassucs: Chance to build traditon, oversee the building of an on campus stadium and coach in the Mountain West Conference, which looks to be ready to enter the BCS.

    Also, what is your evidence that "academics suck"? I am a UNLV alumni and graduate student and I can tell you although UNLV's ranking may suck, academics do not.

    Coaching here would be an opportunity to be a part of an up and coming university in a growing city with a lot of high school talent to mine. Lots of coaches out there can win if the administration gives them the proper support by building facilities.

  34. Don't be so ashamed of the UNLV football team, they going to bounce back. They can't do any worst than this past Saturday's game.

  35. Lets see how Coaches with only a few years at their new schools have been doing of late.

    Tom O Brien - NC State - Bowl game
    Butch Davis - NC - Bowl Game
    Steve Sarkisian - Washington - lost every game last year and has beaten USC with a team that is very competitive.
    Paul Johnson - GA Tech - Bowl Game
    Kevin Sumlin - Houston - Bowl Game
    Both Colorado State and Air Force - new Coaches with less than 3 years experience - bowl games
    Paul Brewster - Minnesota - Bowl game in year 2

    Mike Ball signs with Nevada because UNLV only recruited him after the Wolfpack wanted him - so he said Aloha! This has been the story of UNLV local recruiting, kids are in their backyard and they go elsewhere because other schools notice them first.

    Larry Coker was at UNLV practice checking out the facilities when he was unemployed. Dont think that he was looking for Coaching lessons - he wanted to let people know he wanted the job. John L Smith - absolutely! Dirk Koetter - absolutely. Glen Mason - in a minute. Turner Gill - in a minute! If Hawkins gets the boot, take him in a second. Take a look at Brady Hoke's contract - he took it with salary around Sanford. At least he was smart enough to get proven coordinators - not some guy who coached at ARMY? Phil Fulmer where are you? Coach Fran - your subscription website deal is done - how about Coaching in a conference where you got TCU turned around?

    UNLV needs a proven Head Football Coach. Sanford is the equal of Ty Willingham at Washington last year - dead man walking. Oh yeah - he too closed practice to the media.

    J ROB showed that people would get excited about football in Las Vegas until he decided to take early retirement after year 3. It can happen again. But, Sanford can stand in line at VONS and no one would even know who he is. No personality, no excitement. Sorry but Cink, Bradeson or anyone else are not solutions short or long term. Clean house - bring a proven bunch of Coaches into town and get people excited.

    Too bad UNLV does not have an AD from the Big 12, Big 10 or SEC that could provide them an understanding of how important football could be. If we had one - we would hear the dreaded "vote of confidence" commentary. Which we all could read between the lines about.

    There are answers, but they need to come from out of town and with experience. If Larry Coker decided to spend time scouting the UNLV program, dont you think that there are others who would do so as well.

  36. @kirkland

    That was a good blast!! I couldn't have said it any better myself. I totally agree about Cink & Bradeson, I only stated that on an interim basis that Cink is the best of the worst on this staff. It is a proven fact that good coaches can go into any school & win in 2 years. It has happened all around the country. I think Fulmer would be great for Vegas I just don't know how much coaching he has left in him. Coker in a minute!!
    There is so much individual talent here in Vegas at the skilled positions we need a coach who can keep these kids in town & put a league winning program on the field I judt don't think that the administration is really behind UNLV athletics at all.

  37. Not enough out-of-state star high school atheletes would ever consider coming to this morally bankrupt, culturaly empty, wasteland. Coach Sanford must have to promise his soul to the devil to get any gifted athletes to even talk to him.

    Move UNLV Football down to Div II and at least be realistic about recruiting versus performance expectations.

  38. Green_Dragon
    Wow. I better sit down and have a long talk with my son about UNLV. The reason that he is there and I am paying a lot of money for him to be there is because of his major, Resort Management and the hands-on experience he is getting and will get.

    I really feel sorry for the guys on the team. They should not have to pay such a high price just because UNLV Regents don't give a hoot about the football program.

  39. Hire ME!!
    I would love to Coach that program to a bowl game!

  40. @dipstick

    want to talk about grades of the team? 20 players last season made the All-Academic MWC team and nine players including but not limited to Ryan Wolfe, Kamu Kapanui, and a few other have already graduated with degrees. It's probably not much to do with grades seeing as how the football team was one of the higher MWC performing academic teams. That is all.

  41. I couldn't believe what I was hearing: Yesterday I was listening to 920AM in the afternoon and they were talking about an interview they had with Sanford on Monday and this is what Sanford said:

    "The thing that hurt us the most against UNR was that we were not able to simulate their team speed during practice all last week and we had no idea that they were that fast".

    I cannot believe he is still making these kinds of excuses. President Smatresk should fire him right now simply after making an excuse like that.