Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.
- Opponent: Oregon State
- Date: Sept. 12, 8 p.m.
- Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
- TV: CBS College Sports
- Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM
- The Line: Oregon State by 7
- Series History: UNLV leads 3-1
- Last Meeting: Oct. 14, 2002 — Oregon State won, 47-17
Last September, the UNLV football team headed down to Tempe, Ariz., with a 1-1 record, fresh off of a 42-21 thumping at Utah. The squad had a saying in mind as it got set to face then-No. 15 Arizona State.
"Our motto was 'dream big,'" junior defensive tackle Malo Taumua said.
This week, when the Rebels face yet another Pac-10 foe — No. 24 Oregon State — the so-called 'David vs. Goliath' feeling won't be anywhere near the UNLV locker room out at Sam Boyd Stadium.
"When we play Oregon State, it's more expecting to win," Taumua added. "Because we know what it's like to play in Pac-10 country, and now they have to come into our house and play us. (It's) a completely different game, completely different players, completely different team."
While the Rebels this week say there's no comparison between last year's Pac-10 challenge — a 23-20 overtime win in Tempe — and the one they face this weekend, it's hard to deny that some of the confidence UNLV has early in the 2009 season still stems from Mike Sanford's landmark victory as a head coach.
That win was part of a 3-1 start which had plenty around Vegas thinking of postseason possibilities. That, of course, faded during a five-game slide and shut closed with a season-ending loss at San Diego State.
But still, it's hard for many to forget what UNLV did that night, which ended with Taumua blocking a Thomas Weber game-tying field goal attempt in the first OT session.
"That was a game on the road, we had a perfect storm in a lot of ways," Sanford said. "We had a situation where they were looking ahead (a week) to Georgia and a lot of things came together. We played really well. I don't take anything away from that, but this is a completely different deal.
"It's a new year. I think obviously there's some confidence to be gained from beating Arizona State last year."
There's no arguing with Sanford in that last year's Arizona State team and this year's Oregon State club are two different beasts.
The Sun Devils hardly looked the part of a focused team that night, with players and fans alike — there were even signs in the crowd saying so — already thinking about the following Saturday, when No. 3 Georgia came to the desert.
Oregon State, on the other hand, Sanford said, is a team that plays with a chip on its shoulder.
Ninth-year coach Mike Riley is 49-28 in his current run with the Beavers and is an unblemished 5-0 in bowl appearances. Last year, they went 9-4, won the Sun Bowl and even upset Southern Cal early in the regular season.
But they still have a hard time getting out of the enormous shadow that the Trojans cast on the West Coast college football landscape.
"They're probably the most physical team in the Pac-10," Sanford said. "They're not as talented as the 'upper echelon' teams, obviously the Rodgers brothers (running back Jacquizz and receiver James) are as talented as anyone in the league. But what I mean is across the board, they have a bunch of defensive guys who are just tough guys and play hard. They have a really good offensive line that plays hard. It's a completely different deal than anything in the past."
Last year's Pac-10 win may have lost some luster in the eyes of some as the year progressed, as Arizona State was thumped by Georgia a week later, 27-10, and stumbled from there to a 5-7 finish. The loss to UNLV was the start of a vicious six-game skid.
But for several returning UNLV players, the experience of that night at Sun Devil Stadium is still benefitting them to this day.
One in particular is sophomore receiver Phillip Payne, whose one-handed touchdown catch was the highlight of a fourth-quarter comeback from a 20-10 deficit.
At the time, he was just a true freshman, suiting up for his third collegiate game. Since then, he's heard countless times about his phenomenal grab which made SportsCenter's Top Plays just a couple of hours later.
"I might have been the most nervous person on the team," he said. "It all seemed just unreal. I'd never heard keys jingle just before kickoff, and that gave me the jitters. The first play just seemed so much faster than the games before.
"Last year, the theme was 'dream big,' dream that we can beat a big team. This year, it's more of go in and believe we can do it, know that we're gonna go in and win. Not saying that we are, but instead of it being a dream, it should be more of a reality."
Beauchamp's status still unknown
Senior linebacker/defensive end Jason Beauchamp, who sprained his right ankle during Saturday's 38-3 victory over Sacramento State, was held out of practice again on Wednesday afternoon.
Sanford said Beauchamp ran some on the side, and his status for Saturday's game might not be known until game time.
Five Rebels make NFL regular season rosters
With the NFL season set to kick off on Thursday night, five former UNLV players will be on active rosters for the 2009 campaign.
Former Rebels running back Frank Summers will be part of that Thursday opener, as the fifth-round choice of the Steelers back in April makes his pro debut for the defending Super Bowl champs against Tennessee.
Tight end Greg Estandia (2003-05) and linebacker Adam Seward (2001-04) will suit up with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who open up at Indianapolis on Sunday.
Third-year cornerback Eric Wright (2006) will play for the Cleveland Browns, who face Minnesota at home on Sunday, but won't be joined by fellow former Rebel Beau Bell, as the linebacker was among the Browns' cuts last week.
Offensive lineman Johan Asiata (2006-08) will begin the year on the Chicago Bears' practice squad.