Published Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 | 7:30 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 | 10:56 p.m.
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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer end a brief hiatus from the Rebel Room to not only discuss the ongoing movement both in and out by Mountain West Conference members, but also take a look at this weekend's UNLV football opener against No. 12 Wisconsin at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Final, Wisconsin wins, 41-21
UNLV got some offensive mojo going late in the game behind senior back-up quarterback Omar Clayton, but it came a bit too late, as the Rebels couldn't capitalize on momentum out of the half and ultimately fell to No. 12 Wisconsin at Sam Boyd Stadium, 41-21.
The Rebels were out-gained in terms of net offensive yards in the first half by a margin of 279-12, but thanks to a pair of huge defensive plays by junior cornerback Will Chandler, found themselves trailing by only three at the half at 17-14.
Taking the ball out of the half, though, it was more of the same, as Wisconsin's speedy, beefy defense imposed its will on UNLV and allowed a whole lot of nothing. The slope became extra slippery when Aaron Henry returned a Michael Johnson fumble right out of the half for a 19-yard score.
UNLV rallied for a late touchdown behind Clayton, but ultimately fell 0-1. The Rebels will travel to face Utah at 1 p.m. PST next Saturday in Salt Lake City.
One thing to be said for the debut of coach Bobby Hauck, though, was that the Rebels at no point quit on the defensive side of the ball, didn't allow the game to get out of hand and avoided mental lapses and mistakes. The discipline he's instilled in the program in just a few months was apparent throughout the night.
Some final numbers of note from the evening ...
— Wisconsin totaled 475 yards of offense, including 278 on the ground and 25 first downs. Junior John Clay led all rushers with 123 yards on 17 carries, including two scores.
— UNLV's top offensive producer was junior receiver Phillip Payne, who had 71 yards and a touchdown on four receptions.
— Junior Mike Clausen had a rough night before Clayton took over, going 4-of-10 for 23 yards and the TD toss to Payne. Much of the night, he simply didn't have a lot of time to operate as Wisconsin was collapsing his pocket rapidly. Clayton finished 6-of-16 for 82 yards and a TD pass, while also running for 59 additional yards.
— UNLV ran for 111 yards on 27 attempts, with many of those coming late from Clayton and true freshman tailback Tim Cornett.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, analysis, photos, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, log onto lasvegassun.com/rebels.
6:15, 3rd Quarter, Wisconsin leads 34-14
The bigger, stronger, deeper Badgers are now starting to sink in their claws and wear down the Rebels, as their lead at Sam Boyd Stadium has grown to three scores at 34-14.
Philip Welch nailed a 33-yard field goal to end Wisconsin's first drive of the second half, and the second possession was capped with a 16-yard touchdown run by John Clay. It was the standout junior's second score of the game, as he now has 104 rushing yards on just 16 carries.
UNLV is now seeing what it has elsewhere on the depth chart in some spots. Senior Omar Clayton has replaced Mike Clausen for the time being at quarterback. He's had some more time to work with, but the results haven't been there. The book on Clausen so far tonight: 4-of-10, 23 yards, one TD.
13:30, 3rd Quarter, Wisconsin leads, 24-14
UNLV couldn't hold the momentum for very long.
Another three-and-out for the UNLV offense did not include a punt at the end, as a Michael Johnson fumble on a receiver screen on third-and-long resulted in a fumble that was scooped by Aaron Henry and run back 19 yards for a score.
Two possessions so far in the second half for the Rebels have involved a heavy dose of unsuccessful run plays, as Wisconsin's hefty front line is handling UNLV in the trenches and giving ball-carriers little space to work with ... if any.
Now, it appears, Wisconsin is going to come back with a steady diet of John Clay, who is good so far tonight for about 4.5 yards a carry.
Halftime, Wisconsin leads, 17-14
In a remarkable turn of events, UNLV finds itself in the halftime locker room with all of the confidence in the world and just a 3-point deficit in front of it.
Wisconsin out-gained UNLV in total offense in the first half, 279 yards to just 12. But the Rebels capitalized on two huge Badger turnovers.
Facing a third down deep in the UNLV red zone, Scott Tolzien hit Nick Toon inside the 5-yard line, but the ball was jarred loose from behind by Deante' Purvis. Will Chandler, who earlier had a pick-six for UNLV's first score, scooped the ball up at the two and raced 82 yards to the Wisconsin 16.
One play later, Mike Clausen found Phillip Payne for his first catch of the season — a 16-yard score.
Clausen was just 3-of-8 in the first half for 21 yards, but the score has UNLV in a prime position, as the Rebels will take the opening kickoff to start the second half.
The key for UNLV moving forward will be finding a way to give Clausen some time to operate in the pocket. Wisconsin might suffer a bit in the second half from the weather, which is still a sweltering 98 degrees even with the sun having set.
Here are some key numbers from the game's first 15 minutes ...
— Wisconsin gained 138 yards on the ground, while UNLV has -9 on seven attempts.
— Wisconsin is 5-of-8 on third down attempts, while UNLV is 0-for-4.
— John Clay has been the Badgers' workhorse so far, with 49 yards and a TD on 11 carries. Freshman James White has been a nice change of pace, with 6 yards of his own on five totes.
— If the total yardage doesn't tell the story, the first half time of possession does: Wisconsin - 22:33, UNLV - 6:19.
10:07, 2nd Quarter, Wisconsin leads, 17-7
Holding Wisconsin to a short field goal is a short victory for the UNLV defense after slicing UW's lead in half with a pick-six.
Senior safety Alex De Giacomo made a nice stop on burly back John Clay at the 3-yard line on third-and-goal, keeping the Badgers from reaching the end zone for a third time. A 20-yard field goal from Philip Welch bumped Wisconsin's lead back up to two scores at 17-7.
UNLV's biggest area of concern, though, seems to be third down defense, as that was the first third down attempt the Badgers did not convert on the night.
Meanwhile, the Rebels' offense responded with another three-and-out, as Mike Clausen is now 2-of-5 on the night for five yards. He's been sacked three times, and the Rebels' lone first down so far came as the result of a penalty.
1:51, 1st Quarter, Wisconsin leads, 14-7
After a second failed offensive possession, the UNLV defense picked up some slack in a hurry.
With Wisconsin starting out from its own 15-yard line following a Brendon Lamers punt, UNLV junior Will Chandler jumped Scott Tolzien's throw on an out route to the right and took his first career interception back 19 yards for a score.
It's a feel-good story, as Chandler has emerged in fall camp under Hauck after being used almost primarily as a special teams threat in his first two seasons on campus.
Now, UNLV's defense needs to come up with a traditional stop, so the offense can have something to build off of.
4:32, 1st Quarter, Wisconsin leads, 14-0
UNLV went three-and-out on its first possession, as Mike Clausen was sacked by Chris Borland to cap off the affair.
A punt by the Rebels out of their own end zone set Wisconsin up with delightful field position at the UNLV 46-yard line.
One play later, the drive was all but done.
Scott Tolzien had all day to throw and found David Gilreath for a 45-yard gain to the doorstep of the end zone. Two snaps later, Montee Ball plunged in from a yard out.
UNLV has -6 net yards on offense and already finds itself down 14-0. If the Rebels don't do something fast, this night could get really painful really fast.
7:23, 1st Quarter, Wisconsin leads, 7-0
In a classic Wisconsin drive, the No. 12 Badgers ate up half of the first quarter clock at Sam Boyd Stadium, opening up a 7-0 lead on UNLV thanks to a 14-play drive.
Reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year started it off with an 18-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, and while Wisconsin didn't have a big play after that, the small gains added up after a while.
Clay capped it off with a 5-yard plunge up the middle, and had 39 yards on seven carries in the opening jaunt. On that drive, Wisconsin picked up five first downs.
It was assumed for quite some time that when UNLV and No. 12 Wisconsin met at Sam Boyd Stadium to open the 2010 season, the desert heat could be somewhat of an x-factor.
Now, it appears that will definitely be the case.
The sun is setting, but temperatures are still in the triple digits and aren't expected to cool much once it's dark.
That will put all of the onus on UNLV to keep the game close for at least a half, then see how much Wisconsin will have left in the proverbial tank.
A late note from the UNLV athletic dept. tells us that the stadium will be about 4,000 patrons short of a sell-out, but still, a crowd of 32,000 is impressive, and should make for a great atmosphere.
Now, onto tonight's three keys for UNLV:
1) Well, keep it close early
Guess I didn't do much to prevent a spoiler at the top of the blog, huh?
UNLV started Mike Clausen at quarterback over the incumbent starter Omar Clayton, I'm assuming, because he plays better into their game plan tonight, which is to hold onto the ball and keep Wisconsin off of the field.
If the Rebels can avoid costly turnovers, make a few plays and keep it close for a half, the second half in this heat is seriously anybody's game.
2) You say you want to run? Run, then
UNLV is shifting this year under Bobby Hauck from a shotgun spread offense to a more balanced attack on that side of the ball.
Well, now they have to execute on the ground, behind an offensive line made up of guys who were brought to Las Vegas to primarily be pass blockers.
Channing Trotter showed what he could do in sporadic action a year ago, and now he's back atop the depth chart at tailback as a senior. Can he be as effective?
What helps him this year is that there are some nice change-of-pace guys behind him in Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle.
If UNLV can't at least run some against Wisconsin, the Rebels could let this one slip fast.
3) The obvious key
The defense that ranked 112th out of 120 FBS programs last year cannot reappear tonight.
If it does against John Clay & Co., well, this blog will get really boring, really fast.
As for tonight's prediction and pick to click ...
I'm taking Wisconsin, 31-16. It'll be a spirited effort by the Rebels for a new coach, but the Badgers are really good. As for a pick to click, it's hard to guess having not seen this UNLV team play this style before, so I'll go the safe route with Phillip Payne.
Talk to you after kick-off.