Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
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Ryan Greene, Case Keefer and Ray Brewer discuss everything that was UNR's sixth consecutive victory over UNLV in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon, including Chris Ault's random postgame tirade. Will things get better anytime soon for the Rebels? The guys discuss, starting with what to expect next week when the Rebels travel east to face West Virginia.
- Box Score: UNR 44, UNLV 26
- Instant analysis: One positive out of another UNLV loss to UNR
- UNR has BCS and championship aspirations after hot start
- Notebook: Payne breaks out in losing effort
- Up next for UNLV: West Virginia
- Fans of the red and blue tailgate, mingle before game
- Live Game Blog: UNR makes it six straight over UNLV, prevailing 44-26
- All Sun UNLV football coverage
Yes, on paper, a 44-26 loss on Saturday night for UNLV against its bitter in-state rival looks better than the 63-28 embarrassment that was the 2009 meeting up in Reno.
But neither first-year Rebels coach Bobby Hauck nor his players cared to look at it that way after Nevada-Reno came to Sam Boyd Stadium and claimed the Fremont Cannon for a record sixth consecutive time.
"What progress? We lost," UNLV senior quarterback Omar Clayton said defiantly. "Every single year I've been here, we've lost the game. There is no progress because we lost the game."
Just as the rivalry's story didn't change, neither did that of the 2010 UNLV football team: A few flashes, a few costly mistakes and a handful of wasted opportunities adding up to make another night filled with growing pains.
No. 25 UNR (4-0) did exactly to UNLV (1-4) what it has done best against the Rebels in recent years by leading up with its rushing attack and keeping things balanced with a bit of aerial flair mixed in.
While UNLV's offense took a step back in terms of using the run to set up the pass, with just 80 yards on 33 team carries, the Wolf Pack used incredible, consistent push up front to rumble for 374 yards on the ground, doing so on only 50 attempts.
And it wasn't star senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick who had to carry the bulk of the load for UNR, as senior running back Vai Taua ran for 188 yards and three TDs on 19 carries. It included a back-breaking 72-yard touchdown jaunt in the second half to make it a three-score game at 38-17 late in the third quarter. He also caught a first half touchdown pass.
The run defense has been the Rebels' achilles heel this season, as the 203 rushing yards per game allowed so far rank 106th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
When asked after the game what methods are left to try and plug the hole that haven't already been tried, Hauck kept it short and simple.
"Gotta recruit," he said.
Even with UNR holding the upper hand coming in practically across the board, you can't say that UNLV didn't have its chances.
The Rebels took advantage of a couple of Wolf Pack miscues and breakdowns in the first half, helping them keep the game tied at 14-14 as late as the twilight of the first half.
But after Taua scored his first touchdown on a 3-yard run with 2:40 to play before the intermission, UNLV's Michael Johnson was tackled from behind after catching a swing pass from Clayton and fumbled, setting up Taua's TD grab on a swing route of his own.
After the half, UNR was driving to try to go up by three scores and showed confidence by opting to go for a fourth-and-one conversion from the UNLV six-yard line. Courtney Randall fumbled the ball away, though, and the Rebels had a chance to come back through the front door and into contention.
What followed was a non-descript three-and-out, and Hauck's club was never again a threat.
Adding some salt in the Rebels' collective wound at the end, on top of the blown opportunities to keep it a game and apply some pressure on the Wolf Pack, were the team's 10 penalties for 132 yards.
"It seems like it's been like that all year," UNLV junior receiver Phillip Payne said. "(The defense) will get a turnover, and we just don't take advantage of it. It's horrible."
UNLV deserved a bit of credit for visibly fighting until the end, which in last year's debacle against UNR was tough to argue in the game's latter stages.
But, again, moral victories offered little consolation, as the lack of resistance to other teams' ground attacks seems to have put a blueprint of exactly how to handle UNLV out on the open market.
"They test you, they continue to test you, and if you get out of gaps, they make you pay," Hauck added. "It's a good offense, and the people running it are awfully good."
Making matters worse for UNLV is that while licking any lingering wounds, the Rebels must again prepare for a juggernaut of an opponent.
Hauck takes his team three time zones to the east next Saturday to face Big East power West Virginia (3-1), who not only features another stellar backfield duo, but will be coming off of a bye week, having had extra time to recover from a 20-14 loss at LSU on Sept. 25.
Mountaineers senior running back Noel Devine is the most talented ball-carrier the Rebels will face all season. The 5-foot-8 speedster has 391 yards on 87 carries this season, and 3,772 yards over the course of his illustrious college career.
Joining him is sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, who in his first full season as the West Virginia Starter is averaging 229.8 yards per game through the air, has thrown nine touchdown passes and only two picks.
In other words, it's yet another opponent on the loaded 2010 schedule who can make the Rebels pay a steep price if opportunities are left on the table.
"We're right there with them, then it just seems like one or two mistakes, little things, and we let it go," Payne said. "(It's been that way) with everybody."