UNLV FOOTBALL:

Back on track, Clayton gets another shot at TCU

Junior QB finds his form in time to face defense which ended his 2008 season

Image

Greg Sorber / Associated Press

UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton stiff-arms New Mexico’s Frankie Baca during Saturday’s game. UNLV won 34-17.

Game Preview: UNLV vs TCU

After snapping a 20-game road losing streak in conference play, the Rebels travel to Fort Worth, Texas to take on the nation's sixth-ranked school, TCU.

The Rebel Room

A tough Texas trip

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech talk about what to expect from UNLV's trip to face a loaded TCU squad this weekend in Fort Worth. The guys both are taking TCU, but have differing philosophies on how it'll all play out. Plus, a look at what's the latest from UNLV's first couple weeks of hoops practices.

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Next game

  • Opponent: TCU
  • Date: Oct. 31, 1 p.m.
  • Where: Fort Worth, Texas
  • TV: Versus (Cox Ch. 38, HD 738)
  • Radio: ESPN 1100 AM
  • All-time series: TCU leads, 6-1
  • The line: TCU by 35

Week after week this season, Omar Clayton has sat and watched game film on Sundays with his UNLV teammates.

The junior quarterback, for the most part, looks like the same guy who sparked the Rebels' 3-1 start in 2008 and, in the process, became one of the Mountain West Conference's most promising young dual-threat gunslingers.

Then again, that was just 'for the most part.'

The little slip-ups and miscues, no matter how infrequent, have been costly.

"It's very hard, because it's one or two snaps," Clayton said. "It's not like the whole game is horrible, but you go back and look at those plays and they changed the whole game for you, changed completely how you played.

"I went on a long stint of not really playing like myself."

That string of weeks filled with what-ifs came to a halt in last Saturday's 34-17 victory over New Mexico.

In the win, he was a steady 20-of-30 for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Clayton also ran the ball five times for 60 more yards.

But the most important stat to him — besides the win — was his zero turnovers. He hadn't done that since the team's opener against Sacramento State on Sept. 5.

"I think it was great to snap out of it so I didn't get set in those ways," Clayton said. "So it felt really good just to have a nice, clean performance last week."

Health isn't what Clayton gives the praise to for his improved play last weekend, but rather more attention to detail. He says he's still not completely past some lingering pain in his right shoulder and left knee from previous bumps and bruises this season.

Part of the reason his turnover woes have gone so noticed this season is because of how few he committed last season.

Heading into last season's 44-14 loss at home to TCU, Clayton was a model of consistency, with 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions to his credit in 245 pass attempts.

The Horned Frogs threw him off his game, to say the least.

They pressued Clayton, made him uncomfortable and forced him from the pocket. He never really found a rhythm.

That night, the then-sophomore was 5-of-13 for 45 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He ran the ball nine times for 29 yards, and on the ninth carry, his season came to an end, when a helmet to his right knee tore his MCL.

He enters Saturday's game with an improved completion percentage from last season (up from 58.9 to 63), but nine interceptions to go with his 10 touchdown tosses.

Now, having apparently re-discovered that old form, Clayton takes on TCU again, this Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth. He'll be doing so in front of an estimated 20 family members and friends. Clayton played two years of high school football at nearby Plano East High.

The Horned Frogs are 7-0, ranked sixth in the latest BCS polls and have a menacing, blitz-happy defense comprised of several pieces from last year's equally-successful unit.

"I think that they have 11 really good players on the field, where some defenses thrive because they have a few really good players and those guys make all the plays," Clayton said. "These guys, you kind of look at everybody as being able to make plays."

Clayton also knows that the TCU defense will be just as thirsty for blood and negative yardage this time around as it was a year ago, with five wins to close out the regular season being all that stands between the Horned Frogs and a potential BCS berth.

Even on the heels of an emotional, resounding victory over BYU, UNLV refuses to give credit to the idea that this could be a game where the Horned Frogs look past the Rebels or play sluggish football.

"I think if somebody told me I had a chance for a BCS bowl, then I'd come out every week pretty focused, so we expect that from them," he said. "It's always good to have those really good teams in the conference who you know in the preseason will probably have a high ranking, and if they perform, it'll probably go up.

"TCU's very deserving of its ranking. They're a good team this year. It's really fun to go play against those guys."

Fundraiser for Saldi

UNLV linebacker Bryce Saldi, who is in a rehabilitation center in Plan, Texas, still recovering from a head injury suffered this summer, will have a fundraiser held in his honor at Southlake Carroll High School on Friday night.

Saldi helped Southlake to three 5A Division-I championships in his prep days. The fundraiser will include a pregame barbecue tailgate outside of Dragon Stadium where donations can be made, TEAM SALDI T-shirts ($20) and bracelets ($5) and a raffle, with proceeds going to the Bryce Saldi Trust in order to help offset medical expenses.

Due to UNLV's travel schedule, a few officials and players will hopefully be able to arrive just in time to catch the "Embrace Bryce" event, and coach Mike Sanford along with a few players hope to be able to visit Saldi in the rehab center.

You can send your best to Saldi by clicking here.

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  1. "In the win, he was a steady 20-of-30 for 204 yards and two interceptions."

    2 Touchdowns, I got your back Ryan.

  2. Gunslinger and a name too.

  3. Ha. Thanks Camron. Been a long week :)

  4. omar claton had 30 yards passing wow!