Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009 | 10:13 p.m.
Final, Utah wins 35-15
UNLV certainly had its opportunities to get back in it with Utah in the second half, but red zone inefficiency couldn't overcome costly first half turnovers. In the end, Utah ran away relatively easily with a 35-15 victory.
The Rebels are now 2-5 on the season, while No. 24 Utah improves to 5-1.
Terrance Cain was 16-of-23 for 160 yards and two touchdown passes for the Utes, and ran for another score to go with 18 yards. As for Cimarron grad Eddie Wide, he led the Utes with 106 yards and a back-breaking 37-yard score on 16 carries.
For UNLV, Omar Clayton was 23-of-43 for 225 yards and two interceptions.
The Rebels now take their 20-game road conference losing streak on the road to Albuquerque, where next Saturday they'll face 0-6 New Mexico, who is dealing with some turmoil of its own.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, video, photos, stats and The Rebel Room Postgame podcast, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
8:25, fourth quarter, Utah leads 35-15
Eddie Wide set them up, and — eventually — the Utah defense knocked them down.
After the Cimarron product busted a 37-yard touchdown run on the Rebels defense, UNLV got the ball all the way down to the Utah two-yard line, but couldn't score on a fourth-and-goal try.
Now, Utah is grinding out the clock and appears headed to a 5-1 record.
Wide, in his first start in his hometown as a Ute, is about to eclipse the 100-yard mark on the ground for the third straight game since Matt Asiata's season-ending knee injury.
:10, third quarter, Utah leads 28-15
UNLV's failed opportunities to score touchdowns in the red zone are beginning to pile up, and a two-score deficit won't slim down in the process.
The Rebels tacked on a third Kyle Watson field goal to make it a 28-15 game, but Utah handed UNLV a gift moments later, as Quinton Pointer jarred the ball loose from Cimarron product Eddie Wide. Warren Zeigler came out of the pile with the ball for UNLV, who again came so close to fully capitalizing, and this time it blew up in the Rebels' face.
Set to try another Kyle Watson field goal, Mike Sanford called time out just before Watson attempted the 30-yard kick, hoping to avoid the delay of game penalty.
After the break, Ben Jaekle muffed the hold on snap and tried to throw the ball downfield, but the attempt failed.
Utah now has the ball inside of its own 20, as the UNLV defense again needs to produce.
But hey, at least the Rebels are covering the spread, right?
9:07, third quarter, Utah leads 28-12
After forcing a Utah punt to open the second half, UNLV used a quarterback carousel while driving the ball 63 yards for its first touchdown of the night.
The score came on a two-yard fade pass from Mike Clausen to Phillip Payne, who made the grab despite being interfered with.
Two key plays on the drive took place deep in Utah territory, first with Clausen striking Ryan Wolfe for an 11-yard gain on a second-and-12 play. Then, one snap later, Channing Trotter set up the score with a tough 11-yard run up the gut, giving him 74 yards of total offense on the night after he was basically neglected in the Rebels' last two games.
UNLV failed to complete a pass while going for the two-point conversion.
The defense compounded the damage to Utah by forcing a three-and-out on the Utes' next drive.
The window of opportunity left for UNLV is small, but it's cracked open.
At this point, things appear to be slipping out of UNLV's control yet again, as Utah has capitalized on a series of Rebels miscues to take a 28-6 lead into the locker room.
The Rebels offense looks completely shaken and out of sync, mostly after a pair of interceptions within minutes of one another turned into a quick 14 points for the Utes.
Oddly enough, the UNLV defense hasn't looked that bad.
The Rebels have out-gained the Utes on offense in terms of yardage, 186-139. But Robert Johnson's pair of huge plays on defense — first his fifth interception of the season, then a 64-yard fumble return for a score — has Utah in firm control.
At this point, the only ones with a vested interest in the Rebels tonight still paying attention are probably those who had the home underdogs at +16.5.
Here are some notable numbers from the first half ...
— Channing Trotter has 12 touches in the first half alone for the Rebels, which matches his total number of touches from the last two games combined. He has 64 yards of total offense.
— Omar Clayton is 13-of-25 for 149 yards and two picks. Meanwhile, Utah's Terrance Cain is 8-of-12 for 69 yards and two scores, and has run for 31 yards and another touchdown.
— Utah safety Robert Johnson is so far the star of this game, with a pick, a fumble recovery for a score, a pass breakup, a tackle for loss and four stops all together.
1:11, second quarter, Utah leads 28-6
Terrance Cain's three-yard touchdown run — in which he made a nice fake on UNLV defensive end Malo Taumua — came thanks to the Rebels' biggest offensive miscue of the night.
On a third-down throw, Omar Clayton tossed the ball into triple coverage for Michael Johnson downfield. The ball was overthrown, and Robert Johnson's fifth interception of the season was taken inside the UNLV 10-yard line. Cain capped the short drive a few plays later with the run.
Johnson then came up huge again in stunting another UNLV drive. Clayton was hit as he threw near midfield and was intercepted by Christian Cox. Cox, however, fumbled the ball right to Johnson, who took off down the sideline for another Utah score, making it a 28-6 game with 1:11 to go in the first half.
7:29, second quarter, Utah leads 14-6
After UNLV essentially conceded possession with an Omar Clayton run play on third-and-13, Utah showed it was ready to stay aggressive. A seven-play, 51-yard drive was ended with Terrance Cain's second touchdown pass of the game, as Utah now leads 14-6 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The fast pace at which Utah is operating is catching the Rebels in a state of confusion.
On one 11-yard run on that drive by Cain, UNLV tackle Isaako Aaitui, who had just sprinted in from the sideline, was figuring out where to be on the play when the ball was snapped. Cain spotted the UNLV error and capitalized.
The Utah junior QB now has 64 yards passing, another 27 rushing and appears to be in firm control.
12:48, second quarter, Utah leads 7-6
Kyle Watson got some more work, this time hitting a 27-yard field goal to pull UNLV to within one at 7-6.
Unfortunately, the Rebels missed another opportunity to get in the end zone and grab a lead.
The key play of the drive came on an Omar Clayton roll-out on third-and-eight, as he flung a ball deep for a 44-yard gain to Michael Johnson, setting UNLV up at the Utah eight-yard line.
But a five-yard penalty on Jason Heath, matched with a couple of incompletions led to another Watson field goal try.
The good news for UNLV, however, is that the defense is showing signs of life, as it has now forced two punts in the first half. A small step, but a step in the right direction, nonetheless.
UNLV now takes over at its own 21.
1:58, first quarter, Utah leads 7-3
Utah converted a pair of third down plays on short passes over the middle from Terrance Cain en route to the game's first touchdown.
The 10-play, 77-yard drive was capped by a spectacular one-handed grab by Aiona Key in the corner of the end zone. The 6-foot-4 wideout drew a penalty flag on Terrence Lee, who was draped all over him, but still made the catch.
UNLV, however, is back on the move, following a pair of tough Channing Trotter runs and a first-down gain on a pass from Omar Clayton to Phillip Payne, closing out first quarter action at Sam Boyd Stadium.
9:15, first quarter, UNLV leads 3-0
On its first play from scrimmage after a stalled UNLV drive, Terrance Cain hit John Peel for a 12-yard gain over the middle, but the Utah receiver had the ball jarred loose thanks to a hit by Ronnie Paulo, and Travis Dixon's third fumble recover of the year set the Rebels up at the Utah 15-yard line following a personal foul flag against the visitors.
UNLV worked it all the way down to the Utah four-yard line, but failed to punch it in for six, leading to Kyle Watson's 21-yard field goal conversion — the senior's first field goal since a loss at Wyoming three weeks ago.
The Rebels almost appeared to out-think themselves when they got close to striking paydirt. After Omar Clayton hit Mike Johnson for a six-yard gain on a third-and-four play, Mike Sanford pulled Clayton and threw in sophomore Mike Clausen, but UNLV then wound up having to call a timeout amidst the confusion.
Phillip Payne nearly made a spectacular grab on the edge of the end zone for a touchdown, but still, for this team, any lead is good for confidence.
Another week, another visitor from the state of Utah and another subdued pregame atmosphere at Sam Boyd Stadium.
But inside of the home uniforms, you'd have to think that the pressure is mounted.
The 2-4 Rebels tonight welcome No. 24 Utah to town for a game which UNLV absolutely needs in order to shift the course of the once-promising 2009 season.
If UNLV pulls it off somehow tonight against the 4-1 Utes, Mike Sanford's club would be in a favorable position to get on a roll, as the Rebels travel south next weekend to face New Mexico — possibly the worst team in the FBS ranks.
A UNLV loss, however, well, yeah. Could get interesting real fast.
If you're an eternal optimist, there's reason to believe that UNLV can at least cover the 16.5-point spread. The Rebels have been competitive of late with Utah, outplaying the Utes up in Salt Lake City last year before injuries and a tough road atmosphere got the best of the young Rebels. Two years ago, UNLV shut out Utah at Sam Boyd Stadium, 27-0.
Plus, you can include the fact that Utah has been very shaky away from home this season, eeking out victories at San Jose State and Colorado State and suffering its first loss since 2007 at Oregon on Sept. 12.
A couple of pregame injury notes for you ...
— Senior receiver Rodelin Anthony, who turned his ankle last weekend against BYU, is not in uniform, which means sophomore Michael Johnson will probably see a lot of passes coming his way as the night progresses.
— Junior linebackers Starr Fuimaono (ankle) and Ronnie Paulo (shoulder) are both in full uniform, which means they should both be able to go, if history tells us anything.
Plenty of Utah fans made the trip, plenty of UNLV fans opted to go find something else to do in this city on a Saturday night, which isn't all that tough to do.
Talk to you after kickoff.