As defense improves, Rebels falter elsewhere in 35-15 loss to Utah

Offensive miscues and inefficiency drop UNLV to 2-5 with a trip to face winless New Mexico on the horizon

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV coach Mike Sanford yells at quarterback Omar Clayton after a delay of game penalty during the second half of the Rebels’ 35-15 loss to Utah on Oct. 17. Sanford will not return for a sixth season in 2010 on the heels of Saturday’s 45-17 loss at Air Force, which dropped UNLV to 4-7 on the season and eliminated the Rebels from bowl contention.

Utah vs UNLV

With an improved defensive performance, in which the Rebels forced five fumbles and recovered two, the UNLV offense stalled, scoring just one touchdown on five trips to the redzone in a 35-15 loss to No. 24 Utah Saturday night.

UNLV vs. Utah

UNLV's Jason Beauchamp puts his arm around Wiselet Rouzard as they walk off their field following their 35-15 loss to Utah Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

UTAH POSTGAME: Well, it wasn't the defense ...

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech dissect UNLV's fourth consecutive loss, this time a 35-15 defeat at the hands of Utah. The guys look at why the defense wasn't to blame for this one, and what's on the horizon for two programs apparently headed in different directions for the rest of the 2009 season.

Next game

  • Opponent: New Mexico
  • Date: Oct. 24, 5 p.m.
  • Where: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • TV: The Mtn. (Cox ch. 334)
  • Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM

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Well, you can't say the defense was to blame for this one.

But, as has been the case almost all along for the 2009 UNLV football team, if it's not one thing, it's always something else.

This time, inefficiency in the red zone and a couple of key blown offensive opportunities helped lead to a 35-15 victory for No. 24 Utah over the now 2-5 Rebels on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.

"Offensively, it's kind of rough on us, because we feel like we didn't do our job," junior running back Channing Trotter said. "They give us opportunities, and we just didn't do the best that we could with the ball in our hands. Just because this one was closer and we did have a chance to win, I think it makes it a lot harder (than the last two losses)."

In UNLV's two previous setbacks, the Rebels offense hardly had a fighter's chance to overcome the 1,384 yards and 122 points that UNR and BYU combined to put up.

But for much of Saturday's homecoming tilt, the Utes were far from prolific on the offensive side of the ball, which has been a theme for the defending Mountain West Conference champs on the road all season.

In fact, Utah's John Peel fumbled the ball away on the team's first offensive snap, but that would start a string of instances in which UNLV's team didn't take advantage of the opening to the fullest.

After getting the ball to the Utes' three-yard line on that possession, the Rebels wound up settling for the first of three Kyle Watson field goals.

In all, UNLV went 4-of-6 in scoring points on trips inside of Utah's 20-yard line. But only one of those six opportunities resulted in a touchdown.

Of the two empty-handed results, the one which most will remember was a botched fake field goal try with UNLV trailing 28-15 late in the third quarter.

On the play, holder Ben Jaekle rolled to the right and fluttered a pass which found no one. It appeared as though the original plan was for Jaekle to throw a short shovel pass on the attempt, but UNLV coach Mike Sanford did not go into specifics afterward.

"Yes, it was designed," he said. "But it wasn't executed properly, and I'm not going to go into detail on what happened, because we might want to use it again."

Poor execution was a theme for both offenses at the end of the day.

Even though Utah found a way to produce four offensive touchdowns, Kyle Whittingham's club needed a defensive spark to create the necessary separation on the scoreboard late in the first half.

With UNLV trailing late in the second quarter, junior quarterback Omar Clayton threw the first of two interceptions when he lofted a pass down the center of the field to Michael Johnson, who was in the middle of three Utah defenders.

Safety Robert Johnson came down with his fifth interception of the year, taking the ball back to the UNLV eight-yard line, where Utah's offense only needed two plays to score from there.

Then, after the Utes grabbed a 21-6 edge, Clayton was picked again in Utah territory, this time by defensive lineman Christian Cox. Just seconds later, Cox fumbled the ball right into Johnson's hands, and he took it 64 yards down the sideline to put Utah up 28-6 at the half.

Despite that mess late in the first half, UNLV still got back to within 13 points, but wouldn't get any closer.

Utah's five fumbles — two of which UNLV recovered — were masked at the end of the day by late efficiency on offense and the ability to capitalize on each Rebels mistake.

Junior quarterback Terrance Cain finished with 174 yards on 17-of-24 passing with two TD tosses. He also ran for 22 yards and another score.

Carrying much of the load for the Utes was Cimarron-Memorial product Eddie Wide, who ran for 100-plus yards for the third consecutive game. He had 111 yards and a back-breaking 37-yard second half touchdown jaunt on just 17 carries.

For UNLV, Clayton was 23-of-44 in the face of constant blitzes, throwing for 223 yards and the aforementioned two picks.

Trotter, who went relatively unused in the Rebels' past two games, had 17 total touches, picking up 73 yards.

Both teams had 327 yards of total offense, but the UNLV defense hardly took solace in just improving. The lack of results on the scoreboard were what stuck with everyone.

"If one out of three phases of the game works, then we're not going to win the game," junior defensive end Malo Taumua said. "There's times when the offense is clicking, the defense is doing nothing, the special teams is alright, and vice versa. We just need all three phases of the game clicking and we'll be good."

While there's no shame in losing to Utah, who at 5-1 is still prominent in the Mountain West title race, next weekend will be a totally different story.

UNLV, sole owner of the nation's longest road losing streak in conference games with 20, heads to Albuquerque to face New Mexico, which is the league's lone winless program and arguably one of the most futile teams this season in the FBS ranks.

The Lobos have only played one of their six opponents this season to within fewer than 20 points, have been ravaged by injuries and will be without first-year head coach Mike Locksley, who will be wrapping up a 10-day suspension following an alleged altercation with one of his assistant coaches.

Still, UNLV is in no position to take anyone lightly.

"We've got to get a win no matter who it's against," Trotter said. "At this point in the season, it's just getting very very tiring to see us lose. No matter who we play, we absolutely have to win this next game."

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  1. Sanford loses game after game after game after game after game after game after game. He has lost 41 games in only 4 1/2 seasons. It's unfortunate. He's a great guy but it's time for UNLV to move on. The whole "we'll evaluate blah blah blah talk..." from the administration is wrong and needs to end. It's time for the officials to take action.

  2. What else is new? Same thing, over and over again. Same excuses, same losses, same coach.

    UNLV is doing nothing about it and will do nothing about it. I stopped caring.

  3. Yay! the defense improved!

    We only gave up 5 touchdowns instead of 9! Hooray! We only lost by 20 so the next home game should be a sellout!

    This team still can't tackle.

    How much of a joke was that time out - fake FG play? Are you kidding me?

    The fact that Sanford is STILL employed this morning tells you everything you need to know about UNLV Football. The AD/Pres don't care. No one demands results. Mediocrity and ineptitude are the norm, and will be tollerated.

    I still remember Neal S's comment after the UNR game. Does anybody else? Does he?

    Where's the accountability?

    Pathetic.

  4. Not to split hairs True because a loss is still a loss at this point, but the D only gave up 3 legitimate touchdowns. Clayton gave them one on his second interception and virtually another with the first interception this time only being returned back to the eight yard line.

    This game was the first time all season that the Rebels didn't score more than 21 points. One touchdown in the red zone out of 6 tries? Kudos for continuously driving and keeping the Utes O off the field but you've got to finish. No, this was definitely not the defense's fault....this time.

    So many questions with decision making from Todd Berry to Sanford to Omar. I like the spread but we never see anything special as far as trick plays go. That's what the spread affords but they never get called. "Omar back to pass", again and again.

    The last red zone opportunity: Pass, pass, run? Pass. I understand that you want to catch them off gaurd with the run but why not run it when it's second and 7? You've still got two more chances to get it in the end zone after that.

    Something's got to change when you're this far into a program and the decisions still aren't bonified.

  5. Its time for a change.

    www.firemikesanford.com

  6. Sanford should never had told Utah that they were afraid to tackle Summers. He just set himself up for big time paybacks . The plays that were called were the worst.. I won't be sorry to see him leave.. three of Utah's best players last night were from NEVADA !
    What is he thinking ? I say buy him out and " don't let the door hit you on you butt as you shut off the lights"!

  7. Can anyone tell me how a couple of Utah fans can wind up front row, right on the fifty, behind UNLV's bench at the homecoming game? They didn't "poach" the seats either, they actually had the tickets. I saw them. When I asked how they got them they weren't very forthcoming, just kind of grinned.

    There MIGHT have been 500 UNLV students there for their homecoming game, and they had woefully pathetic end zone-to-10 seats. Why on earth UNLV confines its students to end-zone seating in a stadium that barely sells half its season tickets while the opposing team's fans sit right behnd the Rebels' bench is simply dumbfounding.

    UNLV needs to seriously examine its seating schematics. Give the students the seats behind the Rebels' bench between the 30's at $20 and your crowds are sure to pick up, even given the great facility's not-so-great location. Funny though, how 13,000 fans from Salt Lake, 500 miles away, can get to the stadium and comprise half the crowd.

  8. I am as diehard a rebel fan as you will ever meet. I have rearranged my life for Rebel sporting events.

    Last night was the first time in my ENTIRE LIFE that I voluntarily missed a home football game. I just decided that it was more comfortable to sit on my couch and watch us get blow out rather than drive an hour to park in a dirt lot.

    Normally, I would be freaking out and very anxious if I wasn't going to the game. But last night, I was at total peace.

    As hard as it is to believe, UNLV has finally succeeded in losing me as a fan, at least in football. Never thought it could happen. My fiance thinks something is wrong with me.

    I think something is wrong with me that I had cared for so long.

    So long Rebels. Wake me when you decide you are going to take playing tackle football seriously.

  9. Bam, I feel the same way. I'm even done criticizing. This coaching staff (not the players- they have SO much heart) have made me indifferent. It really, really sucks to be a UNLV football fan.

  10. hire Larry Kehres

  11. Drop the football program. Add mens volleyball, wrestling. I bet you'll get more students involved.

  12. I don't think Larry Kehres wants to demolish his winning percentage by coming here as the head coach.

  13. Green Dragon, it's simple. There are only a handful of season ticket holders left. We are constantly surrounded by "foreigners" and it gets real disheartening when we tank it.

  14. @getalife-

    That's why, in other programs, even in the losing seasons, the fans still show up to support the players. Nothing is more disheartening than for these kids to look at the front row and either see empty seats or opposition colors. There is no sense of duty or responsibility by the alumni or locals to support these student athletes. The municipal inferiority complex of Las Vegas prevents that.

    And where are the students? It's as if the athletic department doesn't care if they show.
    Clearly, there was no energy on the Rebels' bench, but it would help if there was some behind it. Reserve the first section behind the bench for the students and discount the tickets deeply.

    When the fans have completely given up, which, as far as the locals and alumni go, appears to have happened, a program is doomed, and I don't mean for the season. If UNLV put any amount of effort into getting the students out to the games, there might be a possibility of saving the program. If not, it's time to seriously consider dropping football.

  15. I went to First Look Friday night for the basketball team, and was happy to do it. I'd rather see a scrimmage that looks like a game, than a game that looks like a scrimmage, which is all we get from Rebel football these days. In all fairness, Mike Sanford is a competent Offensive Coordinator. But is he head coaching material? No. What's the point of scoring 20-30 points a game, when your defense gives up almost twice as many? The Sanford experiment has failed. I would think given the current climate, he'd be as happy to leave Southern Nevada as UNLV fans would be pleased to watch him go. Let him get picked up by some program with a struggling offense. The head coaching pressure will be off him, and we can hire someone who understands the game in its entirety. It's a win-win scenario, a term not often associated with UNLV football.

  16. Can anybody explain the exemption on dust control the silver bowl receives.The dirt was so bad you could hardly see the lights at the soccer park. Why have billboards telling people to rat on each other over dust if your going to let this facility be the worst and do nothing.

  17. Speaking of dust, There is so much of it in the air I thought a Rebel Football game was being played.

    BTW, while I was sitting on the fifty yard line with my season tickets and a UTE fan was SITTING next to me commenting on how great the seats were and that you can never get a seat like that at their Stadium. Go figure.

    ps, She commented on the "dust storm" and how it was a perfectly windless night.

    Time for a change...... you think!!!!!

  18. Can someone please explain why we don't invest in our own? We have local athletes that put up 111 rushing yards against us playing for other schools in the same conference. We have a future hall of famer telling us that we are not embracing athletes from our past. Why not go after more than 19 athletes from the state of Nevada? Why not go after coaches from Gorman or Palo Verde? It is ashamed to think that we seem to get it on the high school and prep school level, but we don't have a clue on the collegiate level. We use Nevada funds to fund the school and its programs, but we think that what's in California, Texas and Arizona gives us the best rate of return on our money when it comes to our football program. Even our rival, Nevada gets it. They hired their own product, ex-quarter back, Chris Ault. What did they get in return, a hall of fame collegiate coach that has given them respect, pride and many, many winning seasons. Many which have been built off of the the sweat of Las Vegas recruits. Wake up UNLV, we have the city, the facilities, the funds...what's the problem? Maybe we should put Bishop Gorman's name on UNLV and UNLV's name on Bishop Gorman, think about it! At least they finally figured out that having a stadium on their own campus enhances the atmosphere and brings in lots of revenue. Fellow UNLV Alum, its time for CHANGE that we can FINALLY BELIEVE in!!!!

  19. @TheNativeSon-

    Well spoken. Now let's see if your fellow Frenchmen of Provence take up the flag and the cause. Or will they side with the enemy once they've deferrentially allowed their side to fade into the fabric of their opponents?

    They're too talented for New Mexico, but if they have no heart, all the talent in the world is futile. The heart fights from faith and there isn't much going 'round your neck of the woods thses days. A team that feels no faith from the community will have little faith in itself and will fail. A UNLV loss against a winless, and, essentially coachless Lobo team will be the first of the midnight tolls for the program. There, either the road slump or the story ends.

    Which will it be, University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels?