Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010 | 2:29 a.m.
MOSCOW, Idaho — Despite the lopsided sight on the scoreboard at the end of the night at the Kibbie Dome, UNLV redshirt freshman quarterback Caleb Herring was at least able to crack a smile.
"Any game experience is valuable, no matter what happens in the next game or the rest of the season," he said. "It's valuable to get out there. There's nothing like playing in a game on a Saturday night with the crowd going crazy like they were tonight in Idaho.
"It was a good experience for me, regardless of what happens in the future."
Herring, who is regarded as UNLV's quarterback of the future, got the initial lumps out of the way after taking over for struggling senior Omar Clayton in the third quarter.
However, first-year coach Bobby Hauck after the game quickly squashed any notion of another potential quarterback controversy.
"We'll start Omar next week," he said. "It's just like any other position on the team: If somebody's not having a good night, then we'll try something else."
Clayton had struggled to go 3-of-8 for 42 yards, as Idaho blitzed consistently and also took away the threat of a running game for much of the night. He was also sacked three times, with the last of those resulting in a fumble inside of his own 10-yard line early in the second half.
Herring came in and experienced much of the same, as he was also the victim of three tough sacks and absorbed a few more big hits when tucking the ball and running with it.
He did, though, finish the night on a positive note, with two impressive downfield throws in the closing minutes.
First, he hit junior Phillip Payne deep down the seam for a 42-yard catch between a pair of Vandal defenders. One snap later, on what looked like the same route, he hit Payne for a diving 25-yard touchdown.
Herring finished the night 4-of-7 for 86 yards, the one score and an earlier interception. The pick came when Idaho standout safety Shiloh Keo jumped an out route and set the Vandals up in UNLV territory.
"That's a definite confidence booster for me, when you have your playmaker making plays for you," Herring said of his preseason All-Mountain West target. "As a quarterback, it makes it easy for you and takes a lot of stress off of you.
"My first couple of plays out there, it was moving kind of fast. Once you settle down and get used to it, it was just like practice."
What cleared the way for Herring to play on Saturday was the move of junior Mike Clausen, who started the season opener at QB for the Rebels, to safety.
This week, Clausen's move appeared to not yet be finalized, but it looked more like a done deal on Saturday when he saw action with the defense and on kick coverage.
It immediately vaulted Herring to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. And though he won't be starting next weekend when 0-3 New Mexico comes to town, it's likely that Saturday's heavy workload wasn't the only action he'll see this season.
"As a No. 3, I was only two plays away from being in the game, and as a No. 2, you're only one play away," he said. "I was definitely focused before, but Mike's move to safety upped my ante."