Published Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 | 6:40 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 | 10:04 p.m.
UNLV or UNR?
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In preparation for this Saturday's Battle for the Fremont Cannon at Sam Boyd Stadium between UNLV and Nevada-Reno, Ryan Greene chats with Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Dan Hinxman for a closer look at the No. 25 Wolf Pack. You'll find out just how Chris Ault's team is approaching this one mentally, along with who are some key names, outside of the obvious, to keep in mind.
Final, UNR wins 44-26
It wasn't quite as resounding as last year's game, but Nevada-Reno still soundly took it to UNLV, claiming the Fremont Cannon for a record sixth consecutive season on Saturday with a 44-26 victory at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Senior running back Vai Taua finished with 188 rushing yards on 19 carries, ending three of those totes with touchdowns. That included a 72-yard dagger late in the third quarter. He also scored on a 22-yard pass play in the first half.
It was a somewhat quiet night for UNR star quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but he still guided the offense of the No. 25 team in the land to more than 500 yards of total offense and nearly 400 on the ground alone.
UNLV's Omar Clayton was 14-of-23 through the air for 214 yards, a score and an interception. He also ran for a TD, while junior receiver Phillip Payne was his lifeline for much of the night with eight catches for 170 yards.
The Wolf Pack improves to 5-0 on the season, and keeps its dream of unseating Boise State atop the WAC mountain alive, while the Rebels drop to 1-4 and now gets to travel east to face Big East power West Virginia next Saturday.
For full coverage, including stories, analysis, photos, video, stats and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition podcast, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
8:59, Fourth Quarter, UNR leads 44-20
UNLV got strangely conservative to cap its last drive, but UNR then showed that it has no intention to slow down.
The Rebels rode the Omar Clayton to Phillip Payne route to the red zone yet again, as the All-MWC receiver now has seven catches for 152 yards.
But he was taken out of the game on a third-and-goal play from near the goal line, and a 5-yard TD run by Marcus Sullivan was called back because of holding. On fourth-and-goal from the 15, UNLV decided to take a field goal while down 21.
Nolan Kohorst hit a 33-yard attempt, but UNR then just simply muscled its way down the field again, moving itself ahead of the 21-point spread set by Vegas oddsmakers.
Vai Taua capped a drive that took only 2:58 with a 2-yard TD plunge out of the wildcat formation. It was his fourth score of the game, and the Wolf Pack is now in cruise control while headed towards the finish line, leading 44-20.
15:00, Fourth Quarter, UNR leads 38-17
The 65-yard pass from Omar Clayton to Phillip Payne netted just a 24-yard Nolan Kohorst field goal, as the Rebels didn't get too risky after being set up at the UNR 10-yard line.
The Wolf Pack didn't take long to make the Rebels pay for being conservative.
On the first play of its ensuing drive, UNR went 72 yards on one play, as Vai Taua found a nice seam up the right side of the UNLV defense, racing for a score. He now has 186 yards and two TDs on just 18 carries, and another TD on a 22-yard first half catch.
The Rebels are now on the move again, as Phillip Payne continues to work the Wolf Pack secretary. For the second consecutive year, he's over 100 yards receiving against UNR, with seven catches for 152 yards.
2:42, Third Quarter, UNR leads 31-14
UNR got gutsy on its first drive of the third quarter, UNLV caught a break, but still, the Rebels couldn't make up any ground.
A few minutes later, UNLV finds itself trailing its rival by three scores with time running short.
On a fourth-and-one attempt inside the UNLV 10-yard line on the opening possession of the second half, Isaako Aaitui forced a Courtney Randall fumble, which was recovered by Sidney Hodge at the six. UNLV went three-and-out, though, and UNR took 10 plays to humbly move 37 yards and ended the drive with an Anthony Martinez field goal.
UNLV, facing a three-score hole, got a nice start to its next drive with a 65-yard pass play from Omar Clayton to Phillip Payne, and UNLV still has an offensive pulse.
Halftime, UNR leads 28-14
With the way the game was going when UNLV tied UNR 14-14, the Rebels couldn't afford mistakes if they wanted to keep pace in what has lived up to the billing as a shootout.
A huge fumble late in the half dearly cost the Rebels, and they now find themselves in a 28-14 hole at the break.
UNR originally took the 21-14 lead thanks to a 2-yard Vai Taua run to cap yet another drive in which the Pack chipped away five and six yards at a time against the weary Rebels defensive front.
Then, UNLV's Michael Johnson fumbled off of a swing pass, setting UNR up inside the Rebels' 30-yard line. Taua then took a swing pass of his own from Kaepernick and scooted 22 yards down the sideline for an easy score.
Now, UNR gets the ball out of the half with a chance to drive potentially the first nail into the coffin of a UNLV team that has yet to force a punt tonight.
Here are some key numbers from the first 30 minutes ...
— UNR has 157 yards on 25 carries, racking up 16 first downs. UNLV has only 52 rushing yards on 19 attempts.
— Colin Kaepernick is 7-of-8 with his arm for 73 yards and a TD. His lone incompletion was a Will Chandler interception, which couldn't produce any points for the Rebels.
— Taua leads all rushers with 90 yards on 15 carries.
— UNLV's Omar Clayton is 8-of-12 for 76 yards and his first interception of the 2010 season.
— Time of possession is basically dead even, (14:59 for UNR, 15:01 for UNLV), but one bad mistake tells the story. Clayton's interception throw was on a desperate toss at the end of the half, and was just the second thrown this season by a UNLV quarterback.
7:41, Second Quarter, game tied 14-14
Omar Clayton did his best Colin Kaepernick impersonation, and sparked by a 33-yard run on third down from the senior quarterback, the Rebels are again tied up with the Wolf Pack, 14-14, mid-way through the third quarter.
Clayton has four carries for 53 yards, with all of it coming on that drive, capped by an 8-yard TD run.
Also providing some life on the drive was Phillip Payne, who is more involved tonight than he has been in any game so far this season, with three catches for 36 yards. All three receptions have gone for first downs, too. UNR is having a very tough time covering him.
13:19, Second Quarter, UNR leads 14-7
UNLV is getting some strong open field hits in on UNR quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his constituents, but the problem is that they are typically coming at the end of six- or seven-yard gains.
This time around, those gains added up to another touchdown drive for the Wolf Pack, who now has 136 total yards and 11 first downs. The latest drive was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Courtney Randall.
As for a stat update on Kaepernick, he's 5-of-5 with his arm for 42 yards and has another 33 yards off of five carries.
5:17, First Quarter, game tied 7-7
Considering how easy UNR made scoring on its first possession look, UNLV needed to make a statement quickly to keep this thing from getting out of hand.
They did, thanks to a costly Wolf Pack mistake.
On a fourth down punt from midfield, UNLV kicker Brendon Lamers was knocked down, drawing a key 15-yard flag. But UNLV didn't need to take advantage of it, as UNR muffed the punt and the UNLV recovery set Omar Clayton and the offense up at the 17-yard line.
A 12-yard pass to Phillip Payne set up UNLV's first score of the night, which was a 1-yard plunge from Bradley Randle. For his first career score, the Rebels' scat back leapt over a pile of bodies at the goal line.
It wasn't the prettiest of routes to scoring, but it did awaken a crowd that was on the verge of growing disinterested after UNR's opening possession.
10:18, First Quarter, UNR leads 7-0
Well, that didn't take long.
Give UNLV some credit for its confidence, as it decided to take the ball first after winning the coin toss in order to establish something strong and keep UNR's Colin Kaepernick off of the field for as long as possible.
An uninspiring 3-and-out by the Rebels set UNR up at its own 40-yard line.
Eight plays later, Kaepernick was scooting across the goal line on a 16-yard TD jaunt.
The UNR star was 2-for-2 through the air on the drive for 23 yards, while senior running back Vai Taua had 18 yards on four carries.
UNLV needs to respond quickly, and its ensuing possession got off to a promising start with a 10-yard completion from Omar Clayton to Phillip Payne.
For one night, UNLV can throw out the rough take-off of the Bobby Hauck Era, as records don't really matter in this rivalry.
In the eyes of some, how Hauck's first season in Las Vegas is defined could have plenty to do with how the Rebels (1-3) look tonight at Sam Boyd Stadium against rival Nevada-Reno (4-0).
The Wolf Pack comes to town ranked 25th in the country and with dreams of potentially fighting Boise State over Thanksgiving weekend for a — gasp — BCS berth.
Look, over the past week or so, we've spent more than enough time talking about the atrocious recent history the Rebels have in this rivalry, with their current 5-game skid against the Pack having peaked last October in the form of a 63-28 loss that was nothing short of an absolute embarrassment.
It's also no secret that if UNLV wants any chance of covering a 21-point spread, let alone contending tonight, the defense has to somewhat contain Heisman hopeful Colin Kaepernick.
UNLV has a shot to hang in here, believe it or not.
If the Rebels are going to do so, here are my three keys to UNLV success:
1) Did they buy in?
This is Hauck's first chance to prove that he'll have more success against the Rebels' biggest rival than his predecessor, and he's taken on a very strong presence around his players this week.
UNLV's best hope to make it a game is by punching UNR in the mouth, figuratively, in the first quarter and showing UNR that a blowout will not be a given.
If UNLV can establish some ground early, given the atmosphere tonight, I like the Rebels' chances to keep it somewhat close. 'Somewhat' is the key word there. UNR is really damn good.
2) Omar. Plain and Simple
Senior quarterback Omar Clayton's numbers last week against New Mexico weren't wild, but they were efficient, as he was 14-of-20 for 194 yards, three TDs and no picks. He moved the ball well, picked up first downs, didn't turn it over and made enough big plays.
That wasn't the case in UNLV's first three games, as you may remember. If he can do so again, it will keep UNR's offensive juggernaut off of the field and give the Rebels a fighting chance. Somewhat.
3) Rush 'em again
UNLV recorded four sacks last week after its pass rush was non-existent in the season's first three games.
No need to elaborate: A similar performance wouldn't hurt this time around.
Talk to you a bit after kickoff, as we're about 20 minutes from game time, and UNR's players finished warm-ups by collectively stomping on the UNLV logo at midfield. It's gonna be a fun night.