Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
It’s a luxury Clayton hasn’t enjoyed much this season. As a third-year starting quarterback, Clayton has found himself as perhaps the most visible figure of a Rebels team that has slogged through a 2-8 season.
So this one felt good.
“When a season goes like this,” Clayton said, “I think the wins feel a little better.”
Clayton earned a night of celebration with his performance against Wyoming. He went 13-for-18 for 163 yards and three touchdowns, creeping within 200 yards of becoming UNLV’s second all-time leading passer behind only Randall Cunningham.
He also rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries.
“He’s had to transition to a completely different offense from any that he’s played in,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “It appeared to slow down for him tonight. He had a great grasp of the plan. I’m excited for Omar.”
Clayton, of course, lost the starting job to Mike Clausen before the season. It took a little more than one half before he gained it back.
But that hasn’t made his senior year any easier. Hauck has pulled Clayton in five of the nine games he has started. He’s struggled mightily in some of UNLV’s most embarrassing losses, including last week’s 55-7 setback at BYU.
But the rest of the offense has continued to believe in Clayton. A reporter suggested to freshman running back Tim Cornett that he was the MVP of the game. Cornett, who scored four touchdowns, quickly made a correction.
As far as he was concerned, Clayton was the biggest reason for the Rebels breakthrough.
“It was real good to see because he works real hard every week in practice and every day,” Cornett said. “I’m real happy it paid off for him.”
Clayton’s final touchdown came on a 12-yard pass to Cornett in the flat late in the fourth quarter. It came about seven minutes after Clayton made arguably the biggest offensive play of the game.
Clayton put the game out of the Cowboys reach when he launched a 41-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Marcus Sullivan to make the score 35-16 with 10 minutes remaining.
“We had tried a couple play-action plays before and that one worked,” Clayton said. “It was great for us to get that touchdown and take command of that game.”
Something could be said for the fact that two of Clayton’s biggest plays went to underclassmen. At this point in his career, Clayton wants to be remembered at UNLV for something positive.
He wants to be linked to the group of youngsters that he thinks can do something special at UNLV.
“The main focus tonight and the rest of the season is just to start to transition as a program,” Clayton said. “We want to finish strong as a team and, as seniors, we want to continue to lead this group and help the younger guys along.”