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August 29, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

UNLV FOOTBALL:

Instant analysis: Rebels’ win a thing a beauty — finally

UNLV vs. Wyoming Football

UNLV football players sing the UNLV fight song after handing Wyoming a 42-16 loss during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, November 13, 2010 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »

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Now that UNLV has found the win column again, what kind of result do you expect Thursday night against Air Force?

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This is how UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck expects to win.

By controlling the clock, line of scrimmage and pace of the game Saturday with a run-first philosophy on offense, the Rebels finally started to resemble the team Hauck is building toward with a 42-16 win against visiting Wyoming.

In two years, when Hauck is in the final year of his three-year contract and the Rebels are expected to be more competitive, the way in which they were victorious Saturday will be a blueprint for future successes.

They started strong, and while Wyoming moved the ball in the third quarter in mounting a comeback, the Rebels’ didn’t break. Give credit where credit is due, they would have likely squandered the lead early in the season.

That was far from the case Saturday.

The Rebels established themselves as the aggressor early, gained momentum with the successes and didn’t break in the second half when Wyoming rallied. In the fourth quarter, they closed with 14 consecutive points to cement the win.

The victory was the second in 10 games for UNLV (2-8, 2-4 Mountain West) and snapped a six-game losing streak. The Rebels had lost their previous four games by an average of 40 points.

In those lopsided defeats, they had no presence of a rushing attack — against BYU last week, for example, they gained 22 yards and 28 carries.

Against Wyoming, the Rebels rushed for 197 yards on 44 carries, including three touchdowns by freshman Tim Cornett.

OK, a victory against a two-win Wyoming squad isn’t a marquee win by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s sure better than losing to a two-win Wyoming team, right?

Here are four observations from Saturday’s game.

1) Four touchdowns later, I’m convinced Cornett is the real deal: When Cornett was offered a scholarship in January, I couldn’t help question why the Rebels’ coaching staff would take a chance on the speedster from Texas. He only played varsity for one year, and I assumed they were taking a stab at the prospect because of his 4.4 second 40-yard dash speed and the fact he was from Texas, a hotbed for high school football. I was wrong. Cornett is special. He rushed for 70 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries against Wyoming and is one piece of the puzzle the Rebels can build around in future seasons. He runs the ball with a purpose and isn’t afraid. He capped the scoring with a 12-yard receiving touchdown.

2) Defense, defense: UNLV only surrendered three points in the final three quarters — a major accomplishment when you consider they gave up a combined 146 points in the last three weeks. More importantly, the defense didn’t break in the third quarter when Wyoming had the ball for nine of the quarter’s 15 minutes with several attempts to break into the UNLV lead. In a game full of positive results, that’s a major step in the right direction.

3) Omar leads the way: Senior quarterback Omar Clayton hasn’t had the year he envisioned. He’s been inconsistent all year and has been benched five times during blowouts. But he was back to his 2008 form Saturday, completing 13 of 18 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 50 yards and 11 carries. It was his best performance in an otherwise dismal season. Just think if he plays like this during the final three games.

4) The bar isn’t that high: During the break between the first and second quarters, the Rebels’ 2000 Las Vegas Bowl championship team was honored for what is widely considered one of the top seasons in school history. They won their final four games to finish 8-5, including a victory against Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl. Earlier this fall, the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl champion UNLV squad was inducted into the school’s hall of fame. That team had a 7-5 record. The bottom line is that it doesn’t take much in a program primarily associated with losing to become legendary. I’m still one of those who feel Hauck will lead a team to that status — remember, that’s seven or eight wins.

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