Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010 | 2:29 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Case Keefer take a closer look at UNLV's first win of the Bobby Hauck era — A 45-10 blowout of lowly New Mexico. Plus, how do the Rebels respond next weekend at home against red-hot rival Nevada-Reno? And where do the Lobos go from here, if anywhere at all?
Clausen, who less than a month ago UNLV coach Bobby Hauck anointed as the team’s starting quarterback, gave the Rebels great field position early in the first quarter with an interception off a tipped pass in their 45-10 victory against New Mexico.
“I was in the right spot,” Clausen said. “It was nothing more than that.”
Clausen tried to downplay the pick’s significance, but it was meaningful considering he had only practiced at safety eight times since switching to the position two weeks ago.
Not only that, but Clausen made the interception at the 40-yard line and ran it up field to the 22. Clausen’s roommate, senior quarterback Omar Clayton, capitalized and threw a touchdown pass to Michael Johnson less than a minute later.
It broke the tie and made the score 14-7 UNLV. The Rebels never trailed again.
“I didn’t have any interceptions in high school now that I think about it,” Clausen said. “So, it’s been a long time.”
Clausen’s interception was the first of many big plays made by the Rebels defense Saturday night. It was a performance the unit desperately needed after giving up 36 points per game in the Rebels first three losses and ranking in the bottom 10 in the country in scoring defense.
“Our guys played well on defense tonight,” Hauck said. “It was a solid defensive effort.”
The defensive play Hauck and everyone else spent the most time discussing after the game happened in the third quarter. Freshman cornerback Sidney Hodge blitzed and found himself on an unobstructed path to New Mexico quarterback Tarean Austin.
Hodge blasted into Austin from behind causing a collision that sounded a car crash and making him drop the ball.
“I didn’t know if he’d get back up,” Hauck said of Austin.
He didn’t for a few minutes. And while Austin lay there flailing in pain, junior defensive end B.J. Bell scooped the fumble and ran 40 yards for a touchdown.
“I thought I was running fast,” Bell said. “But everyone else on the team messes around and says ‘you’re so slow.’”
A late block by Preston Brooks did help spring Bell into the end zone. But Hauck joked after the game that Bell would not make a Clayton-like switch to running back.
Bell’s touchdown gave the Rebels an insurmountable 42-7 lead with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
“It was good to see our defense score,” Hauck said. “They’ve done a good job being opportunistic and coming up with the ball.”
Clausen, Bell and Hodge weren’t the only defensive stars. Alex De Giacomo led the Rebels with six tackles, Daniel Mareko was part of two sacks and Will Chandler had his third interception of the year.
UNLV hopes its defensive effort can stay consistent for the rest of the season.
“Success has to carry over,” Clausen said. “You become confident within yourself knowing that you’re able to execute something in that manner.”