AP Photo/Michael Switzer
Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — UNLV can still smile about the fact that it left West Virginia on Saturday evening with a $750,000 paycheck.
But the Mountaineers certainly made sure to get their money's worth, routing the Rebels from the first minute on in a 49-10 effort.
"Frankly, they made us look like a not very fast, pretty banged-up team," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said afterward. "Which is what we are."
It took West Virginia (4-1) all of 61 seconds to take the lead. Before the game was 10 minutes old, the hosts were up 21-0.
And at that point, it became apparent that the night would simply be another learning experienced for the young Rebels (1-5), who over the course of the day managed to get younger.
Five youngsters — freshman running back Tim Cornett, sophomore fullback Beau Brence, freshman linebacker Tani Maka and freshmen receivers Aaron Reed and Kurt Davis — made their first career starts in the hostile environment. Meanwhile, several regulars hardly saw the field and redshirt freshman quarterback Caleb Herring played the entire second half.
"On Tuesday, we had 25 guys who couldn't practice with contact," Hauck added. "Honestly, we went out to warm up and there were some guys who couldn't go."
The Rebels were able to dig in their heels and find some positives out of that second half, which was largely played on the other side by the Mountaineers' second unit.
But the story of the afternoon — and an approximate measurement of how much ground the UNLV program still has to make up under Hauck — was told early.
The first strike came on a 38-yard touchdown pass from WVU sophomore quarterback Geno Smith to junior receiver Brad Starks. It came three plays into the game and was made to look pedestrian after UNLV safety Mike Clausen slipped while in coverage.
Of the five touchdowns the Mountaineers would score before halftime, four of them came from at least 28 yards out, including two lengthy runs by star senior tailback Noel Devine.
Smith would hit Starks for a third score on WVU's first possession of the second half, and the starters would take a seat from there.
Smith was 12-of-16 for 220 yards and the three TDs, while Devine racked up 92 yards on only four touches.
"They're a pretty fast team. They get the ball in space and are pretty explosive if you don't get them down very quickly," UNLV senior linebacker Calvin Randleman said. "That's what happened in the first quarter-and-a-half.
"You never realize how fast somebody is until you're running next to them."
Meanwhile, as has been the case now several times early in a loaded 2010 schedule, it will be looked at in hindsight as a learning experience for the team's youths.
Cornett ran for 56 yards on 12 carries and added 18 yards and a score off of three catches.
Herring, playing in relief in a hostile environment for the second time this season, was 8-of-14 for 101 yards, a TD and one pick.
Several Rebels who met with the media afterward all agreed that they believe the lumps the team has now taken against four powerhouse opponents in its first six games will pay off at some point this year.
A prime opportunity for that would be next weekend, when UNLV travels again to face Colorado State (1-5) before a bye week.
"We're trying to do both — we're trying to build for the future, but we're not giving up on the season," Hauck said. "We're trying to win games. Our young guys are doing a good job, and we're going to evaluate the effort level in the second half under a microscope, and the guys who played hardest and best in the second half are the guys who are going to start next week, and that's what I told the guys at halftime."