Greg Sorber / Associated Press
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 | 8:05 p.m.
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- Take Five: Getting to know New Mexico (10-24-2009)
- For UNLV linebackers, playing with pain is part of the job (10-23-2009)
- Notebook: Payne quietly taking big strides in 2009 (10-22-2009)
- Mondays with Mike: Rebels focusing on red zone improvement (10-20-2009)
- As defense improves, Rebels falter elsewhere in 35-15 loss to Utah (10-18-2009)
- Rebels hope to change course against winless Lobos (10-17-2009)
- 2009 UNLV Football Stats
Final, UNLV wins 34-17
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — UNLV is no longer the owner of the nation's longest road losing streak in conference play. And calls for coach Mike Sanford's job will be on hold for at least a little while as his team rejoices.
It got a little tighter than Sanford may have liked in the early fourth quarter, but the Rebels snapped that 20-game skid away from Sam Boyd Stadium and improved to 3-5 on the season with a 34-17 victory over New Mexico on Saturday night in Albuquerque.
New Mexico, now 0-7, remains the Mountain West Conference's lone winless club.
For UNLV, the night belonged to senior receiver Ryan Wolfe, who with a six-yard reception in the second quarter became the conference's all-time leading receiver with his 263rd career grab. He would finish the night by moving that count to 270 with 11 catches for 118 yards and a 28-yard touchdown on catch No. 264.
UNLV also got an encouraging performance by junior quarterback Omar Clayton, who so far this has battled with uncharacteristic turnover issues. For the night, he was 20-of-30 for 204 yards and two touchdown passes. He led crisp, lengthy touchdown drives on the Rebels' first two possessions of the night, grabbing a lead that UNLV would never relinquish.
Despite allowing a couple of touchdown drives to the Lobos in the second half, the embattled UNLV defense came up big when it needed to. Leading the effort was senior linebacker/defensive end Jason Beauchamp, who had eight tackles, three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, giving him a career best 5.5 for the season. Junior safety Travis Dixon had six tackles, one for a loss and two pass breakups.
There won't be much time for the Rebels to celebrate, as they face their toughest road test of the season next weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, where they'll face No. 8 TCU. The 7-0 Horned Frogs are sure to rise in the national polls following their 38-7 thumping of No. 16 BYU in Provo earlier on Saturday evening.
For full coverage of tonight's game, including photos, video, stories, stats and The Rebel Room Postgame Podcast, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
11:39, fourth quarter, UNLV leads 31-17
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It took a little luck, but after New Mexico handed possession right back to UNLV, backup quarterback Mike Clausen took two plays to make the Lobos pay, putting the Rebels up two scores at 31-17.
Clausen first had a seven-yard run, then ran four yards off the left edge for his first score of the night.
Spelling Clayton here and there, he's 2-of-3 with his arm for 11 yards and has 39 yards on seven carries with the score.
14:21, fourth quarter, UNLV leads 24-17
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Kyle Watson had a chance to put UNLV up by 17 points, but after his 38-yard field goal sailed wide right, New Mexico rubbed it in.
Senior quarterback Donovan Porterie ripped off another impressive second-half drive, with this one coming to a close on a 13-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Lucas Reed, who stretched to make an outstanding grab near the sideline.
Porterie is now 18-of-27 for 218 yards and two touchdown passes. Remember, despite last year's knee injury, this kid is no slouch. He was the New Mexico Bowl Offensive MVP two years ago, but right now, UNLV's secondary is showing a little too much respect to the New Mexico senior gunslinger.
This is all of a sudden a game again.
UNLV failed to put its foot on the Lobos' collective throat early on and is now paying for it, as the Rebels' ensuing possession stalled out right at midfield. However, UNLV got a gift as New Mexico muffed the punt and Terrence Lee recovered it at the Lobos' 11-yard line.
The Rebels badly need a score, because a loss here would be beyond crippling for both the Rebels, and possibly the head coaching tenure of Mike Sanford at UNLV.
4:45, third quarter, UNLV leads 24-10
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — UNLV got its first score of the second half on a 33-yard field goal by Kyle Watson, who earlier tonight missed one from 44.
The kick was set up by a beautiful 20-yard grab by Phillip Payne along the right sideline. The sophomore now has three catches for 38 yards, while Omar Clayton looks like the Clayton of 2008 with 159 yards and two TD tosses on 15-of-19 efficiency.
The defense took back some momentum, too, stopping New Mexico on its ensuing possession. Jason Beauchamp's second sack of the night forced a Lobos punt, giving the senior 5.5 sacks on the season, which is a career high.
11:14, third quarter, UNLV leads 21-10
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico quarterback Donovan Porterie looked like a different player in his first possession of the third quarter than he had at any earlier point in the night, leading the Lobos downfield for their first touchdown of the game to start the second half.
An impressive drive was capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Daryl Jones in the back of the end zone.
Porterie is now 15-of-24 for 174 yards and a touchdown on the night.
UNLV's tackling had looked stellar in the first half, but the Lobos broke several potential stops on the drive to chug out extra yardage.
However, UNLV is on the move on the ensuing drive, with Omar Clayton continuing to look poised.
Halftime, UNLV leads 21-3
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There was little fanfare from anyone involved when Ryan Wolfe caught a six-yard swing pass from Omar Clayton, making him the Mountain West Conference's all-time leading receiver with career grab No. 263.
But No. 264 caused quite the celebration, as the 28-yard scoring play put UNLV up 21-3 and firmly in command of lowly New Mexico heading towards the break in Albuquerque.
Wolfe's 264 career grabs currently rank him 17th in that category in NCAA Division-I/FBS history.
On the night, he has five catches for 64 yards and now his second TD of the year, while junior QB Omar Clayton has looked sharp after recent turnover troubles. He's 11-of-13 for 120 yards and two TD strikes, while racking up 46 yards on three carries.
The score was primarily set up by a trio of tough runs by junior Channing Trotter, who at the break has nine carries for 40 yards and his seventh touchdown of the season.
Here are a couple other numbers to chew on at the break ...
— UNLV forced a pair of UNM three-and-outs, as the defense has looked relatively stout. The secondary has also provided sticky coverage on deep pass attempts by Donovan Porterie. Recording sacks in the first half were Jason Beauchamp and Martin Tevaseu. For Tevaseu, his first sack of the season couldn't have come at a better time. It was a nice reason to smile for the senior at the end of a rough week in which he attended the funeral for his 19-year-old sister, who was killed in a car accident last weekend in Oakland.
— In backup duty, sophomore quarterback Mike Clausen was 1-of-2 passing for seven yards, but more important were his 28 tough rushing yards on five carries.
— UNLV allowed only 120 yards of total offense to New Mexico in the first half. No matter how lowly the foe is, it's a much-needed boost for a beleaguered unit.
— Meanwhile, the UNLV offense has 17 first downs and has racked up 252 yards of total offense.
All signs point to UNLV snapping its road losing streak in conference play and Mike Sanford getting a night off from answering questions — or rather deflecting them — regarding his job security.
8:03, second quarter, UNLV leads 14-3
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After New Mexico's James Aho hit a 44-yard field goal to put the Lobos on the board at 14-3, UNLV's coaching staff made an odd move.
After the Rebels had two dominant drives behind the first-team offense, Mike Sanford inserted backup quarterback Mike Clausen, backup tailbacks Chris Brogdon and C.J. Cox and his entire reserve offensive line.
The drive looked OK, but Kyle Watson missed what would have been a career-long 44-yard field goal, and New Mexico's offense all of a sudden came to life, putting a drive together that is currently just inside the UNLV 40-yard line.
Was it a little to early to try toying with the Lobos? Probably.
4:05, first quarter, UNLV leads 14-0
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Well, if the first quarter tells us anything, it's that 'the streak' is in serious jeopardy.
UNLV coach Mike Sanford would probably love that.
The Rebels, trying to end a skid of 20 consecutive road losses on MWC play, are now up 14-0 on New Mexico and look brutally efficient on offense with 4:05 still to go in the opening frame.
The latest scoring drive was capped by Channing Trotter powering in from two yards out for his seventh TD run of the season. He has six carries for 23 yards so far.
On that drive, nothing turned more heads, though, than the running of UNLV QB Omar Clayton. Coming into tonight, he only had 72 rushing yards to his credit in six games played this season.
So far, after runs of both 15 and 18 yards on the 64-yard drive, he has 46 yards on three rushes.
The most impressive play of the drive was on third-and-nine from the New Mexico 15-yard line. Clayton stayed strong in the face of a heavy blitz and completed a pass to Jerriman Robinson in the flat, and the senior wideout chugged forward for just enough yardage to move the sticks.
As for the defense, UNLV forced a three-and-out on New Mexico's first offensive possession.
9:42, first quarter, UNLV leads 7-0
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For a team that hasn't won a road Mountain West Conference game since what feels like the Nixon administration, UNLV looked awfully comfortable in its opening drive.
The Rebels capped a beautiful jaunt down the field with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Omar Clayton to Phillip Payne on a third-and-five play.
On that play, Clayton stiff-armed the pursuing Kendall Briscoe to stay alive long enough to get Payne his fifth TD grab of the 2009 season.
Channing Trotter ran the ball four times for 17 yards on the drive, while Ryan Wolfe caught a pair of passes, meaning the senior needs two more receptions to become the MWC's all-time catch leader.
Very impressive, but now we've gotta see how the defense holds up. That's still the key.
Pregame Part Deux
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A few minutes before kickoff, and we're indulging in the TCU-BYU contest on the television above our seats in the New Mexico press box.
I wish I could say I was surprised by the dominant fashion in which TCU has shot ahead of the slow-footed Cougars, 14-0 early in the second quarter. But I'm not. There was no reason to believe that this year's TCU-BYU showdown would be any different than last year's 32-7 Horned Frogs thrashing of the Cougars last season in Fort Worth.
Why is this relevant? Because UNLV heads to Fort Worth next weekend.
I'm no forecaster, but the Rebels better get their win this weekend if they want that coveted mid-season pick-me-up. Because something tells me it won't come next weekend.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In relation to what else is going on in the Mountain West Conference this evening (No. 8 TCU at No. 16 BYU), consider this showdown between 0-6 New Mexico and 2-5 UNLV the undercard.
Still, this game will hold significance for both sides.
For New Mexico, it's arguably the Lobos best remaining shot in 2009 for a win.
For UNLV, well, everyone knows how much embattled coach Mike Sanford needs it.
It's homecoming here in Albuquerque, and the weather is pleasant. Also, an unusually large turnout of New Mexico fans to watch a winless team.
That said, UNLV ending its 20-game road losing streak in conference play won't come any easier than anticipated.
The funniest thing about the build-up to this game, actually, has been the money trend.
UNLV opened as a 3.5-point favorite, and in less than a week — last I checked — New Mexico is now a 1.5-point fave.
As I told a friend who inquired earlier when asking who he should take, 'Stay away.'
A few pregame notes to chew on ...
— Senior defensive tackle Martin Tevaseu is in uniform tonight for the Rebels and carrying a very heavy heart. His 19-year-old sister was killed in a car accident back in Oakland last Saturday, and he spent much of the week at home with his family. He will play tonight, but won't start.
— Statement of the day by a previous UNLV opponent? UNR snapping off 6-1 Idaho, 70-45. Yes, 70-45. Colin Kaepernick ran for 230 yards and four TDs, then threw for two more. The Wolf Pack is now 4-3 and completely in the hunt for the WAC title.
— Statement of the day by a MWC program? San Diego State, overcoming an early road deficit to win at Colorado State, 42-28. The Aztecs are now 3-4 and very dangerous.
Stay tuned, as we're about 20 minutes from kickoff.