LIVE GAME BLOG: Final:

Rebels can’t hang on as Falcons close regular season with 35-20 win

UNLV can’t carry over first half momentum, drops to 2-9 with two road games remaining

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Justin M. Bowen

UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck watches his team warm up before taking on Air Force Thursday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Updated Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 | 10:01 p.m.

UNLV-Air Force Football

Senior Omar Clayton of UNLV walks off the field at Sam Boyd stadium for the last time Thursday after Air Force beat the Rebels 35-20. Launch slideshow »

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Final, Air Force wins 35-20

The momentum lost on a failed fourth down conversion attempt early in the third quarter was never regained by UNLV, as Air Force closed out its 2010 regular season with a 35-20 victory over the Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium.

After picking up 15 first downs and scoring 17 points in the first half, the Rebels were held to four and three, respectively, after the break.

Meanwhile, Air Force broke loose, and a trio of touchdown runs — two from quarterback Tim Jefferson and one from Jonathan Warzeka on a reverse — secured the Falcons' eighth win of the season. They also finished 5-3 in Mountain West play.

For UNLV, senior quarterback Omar Clayton closed out his career at home by going 18-of-30 for 223 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

Tim Cornett had 64 yards on 18 carries in the first half, but only four yards on six carries in the second.

The Rebels, now 2-9 overall and 2-5 in the league, will be back in action next Saturday in a 5 p.m. tilt at San Diego State.

For full postgame coverage, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.

1:23, Third Quarter, Air Force leads 28-20

UNLV's Bobby Hauck wanted to make a statement on UNLV's first drive of the second half, and by trying to do so, it gave Air Force a world of momentum.

With a fourth-and-three in the Falcons' red zone, the Rebels opted to go for it instead of taking a short field goal attempt. The conversion attempt failed, though, and in no time, Air Force's Jonathan Warzeka was scoring on a 54-yard run off of a reverse play.

The Falcons then stopped the Rebels offense again quickly, and a Tim Jefferson short TD run gave them an even bigger lead and 147 rushing yards in the third quarter alone.

UNLV recently answered back with a 32-yard Nolan Kohorst field goal to make it a 28-20 game, and now is against the wall in needing a stop to stay within range.

Halftime, UNLV leads 17-14

After tying the game at 7-7, UNLV took advantage of a big Air Force turnover and set the tempo for the rest of the first half.

The Falcons' Nathan Walker fumbled the ball away inside the Rebels' five-yard line, giving UNLV possession at its own two. The Rebels then executed a methodical 21 play drive that ended at the Air Force 15 and ate up more than nine minutes of game block and was capped by a 32-yard Nolan Kohorst field goal.

The Rebels extended the lead after yet another big defensive stop, and Phillip Payne atoned for an early miscue by finishing off a 15-yard pass from Omar Clayton for a 36-yard score.

Air Force buckled down and rumbled down the field late in the half for a score to make it a 3-point game at 17-14.

That's where we stand right now with both teams in the locker room, and UNLV has the look of a team that believes it can hang with the bowl-bound Falcons.

Air Force will take the ball to start the second half.

Here are some numbers of note from the game's first 30 minutes ...

— After his first pass attempt was picked off, Clayton went 9-of-18 for 146 yards and a score the rest of the half. He also set a UNLV record tonight for most career games played by a quarterback with 38.

— UNLV out-gained Air Force in total yardage, 241-180.

— Tim Cornett is following up his big game a week ago in fine form, with 18 carries for 64 yards and a TD.

— The key to UNLV's offensive success: The Rebels are 7-of-9 on third downs.

8:11, First Quarter, game tied 7-7

The start of the game was eerily reminiscent to Saturday's, as the visitor got off to a quick start thanks to a UNLV miscue.

Omar Clayton threw a ball to the left side to Phillip Payne on the second play from scrimmage, but the ball slipped right through the mitts of the normally sure-handed junior.

It was intercepted and returned to inside the Rebels' 10-yard line. From there, Falcons quarterback Tim Jefferson took care of the rest, hitting Zack Kauth on third-and-goal on a fade to the right side of the end zone.

But UNLV answered with a strong 11-play drive. Freshman Tim Cornett, who is the reigning Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week, had seven carries for 33 plays on the jaunt, including a 2-yard plunge up the left side for his fifth score in two games.

On that drive, Clayton was 3-of-4 for 33 yards.

Pregame

In the eyes of many observers, after UNLV got its second win of the 2010 season last Saturday against Wyoming, anything the Rebels accomplish here in the final three games of the year will be considered gravy.

A win over Air Force tonight at Sam Boyd Stadium would be much more than just gravy. It would be an unexpected signature win for first-year coach Bobby Hauck to hang the program's hat on heading into 2011.

The Rebels (2-8 overall, 2-4 Mountain West Conference) will have to hope that momentum and emotions, with this being the final home game for 19 seniors at Sam Boyd Stadium, counts for something in a game that, on paper, has them at a big disadvantage.

Air Force (7-4, 4-3) enters tonight's contest with the nation's No. 2 rushing offense, and it will be an uphill battle for UNLV, who ranks near the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision in run defense. On top of that, not much has changed for the Rebels from a health standpoint. They're still very banged up.

This is the Falcons' regular season finale, so expect them to empty out the tank in the pursuit of a better bowl draw. Also, it looks like star junior quarterback Tim Jefferson, who broke his nose last weekend at New Mexico, will get the start.

Still, weird things have a history of happening for UNLV on Thursday nights, as they're 8-3 all-time.

The crowd is again barren, and it's a cool night out here.

I'll be talking to you just after kick-off, and remember to add the #unlvfb to all of your in-game tweets to join the conversation.

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  1. wonder if Hauck is going to tweet that things were better when Payne wasnt dropping passes that get pick 6.

  2. Between Alabama/Georgia State and UCLA/Washington, I seriously did not know that there was a Rebels game tonight.

  3. excuse me.. but what did you guys do with our real football team. Who are these guys?