Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 | 12:21 a.m.
In a season that has had more than its share of low points, the UNLV football team will have a tough time trying to figure out just where Saturday night's 21-14 loss at New Mexico ranks.
Is it worse than getting whipped at home by a Football Championship Subdivision team like Southern Utah? Was it more embarrassing than completing just one pass for eight yards in a 37-0 blanking by Nevada? Or as dreadful as losing 59-7 at Washington State?
New Mexico (1-9, 1-4), after all, came into the game with the nation's longest losing streak at 12 games. The Lobos ranked dead last among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring (12.56 points per game) and scoring defense (45.56 ppg) and had scored a grand total of seven points combined in their three previous games.
The Lobos didn't have any problems moving the ball on UNLV's defense, however, finishing with 415 total yards, including 274 yards passing by quarterback B.R. Holbrook, matching his output for the team's previous three games combined.
And it was the much-maligned (for good reason) New Mexico defense that came up with the big play down the stretch.
Senior linebacker Carmen Messina stripped the ball away from UNLV quarterback Taylor Barnhill and defensive end Jaymar Latchison recovered at the Rebels 34-yard line with 1:58 remaining. Three plays later, sophomore running back Demarcus Rogers plunged in off left tackle from two yards out for his second touchdown of the game.
The Rebels (2-7, 1-3) got the ball back on their own 12 with two timeouts and 1:15 to go. But backup quarterback Sean Reilly, who connected with Phillip Payne for a 7-yard completion on first down, threw three straight incomplete passes to end any UNLV comeback hopes.
It was the 14th straight road loss for the Rebels, including 12 under second-year coach Bobby Hauck, a number harder to swallow because of the fact it came against a New Mexico team that won for just the third time in its last 38 games dating back to 2008.
"Obviously, we're really disappointed," Hauck said. "We probably did enough good things here to come in to beat New Mexico. But we made far too many mistakes that cost us the game."
"Yes, it's very frustrating," added senior defensive end B.J. Bell, who finished with four tackles. "But they came out and they came to play and they did their thing. So you have got to give it up to them."
It took exactly one play and nine seconds for the Lobos to take a 7-0 lead in this one. On the first play from scrimmage, Holbrook froze the Rebels secondary with a nice play-action fake and hit freshman wide receiver Deon Long in stride for an 80-yard touchdown pass. That gave the Lobos their first lead in a game since a Sept. 24 loss against Sam Houston State.
The Rebels answered with an impressive 80-yard, 10-play drive that was capped by a 45-yard touchdown run up the middle by freshman Dionza Bradford (152 yards on 20 carries) to tie it 7-7.
But New Mexico, which had been outscored 125-10 in the first quarter of its nine previous games, came right back with an 80-yard, 14-play drive, chewing up over eight minutes on the clock in the process. Rogers scored on a 1 -yard run to give the Lobos a 14-7 lead with 32 seconds left in the first quarter.
The score remained that way until early in the fourth quarter when Tim Cornett went untouched up the middle from four yards out to tie it, 14-14.
New Mexico then came right back and marched into scoring position. But Lobos placekicker James Aho, who earlier had missed a 37-yard attempt, failed badly on a 46-yard try.
Both teams then exchanged punts before Barnhill's big fumble set the stage for Rogers' game-winner.
"It wasn't our best performance," said senior linebacker Nate Carter, who made a huge stop on Holbrook on a fourth down run from the 1-yard line in the second quarter. "We just didn't really execute that well. As a whole, we just didn't play the way we should play."
Barnhill, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound redshirt freshman from Rhome, Texas, became the third player to start at quarterback for UNLV this season after Caleb Herring, who was knocked out of UNLV's Nov. 5 loss to Boise State, was a late injury scratch even though Hauck said Herring was fine at his weekly press conference.
Barnhill, who had appeared briefly in five games but had not thrown a pass before Saturday night's loss, completed 7 of 10 attempts for 54 yards but was effective running the ball, finishing with 77 yards on 17 carries, and one very big fumble.
"We tried to warm (Herring) up but he just wasn't able to go," Hauck said. "The same with Reilly. He's got some nagging issues too that he's battling, so we had to go to our third guy. We did give (Barnhill) a lot of work this week because we were prepared that could potentially happen."
The Rebels get another chance at snapping the road losing streak next weekend at Air Force.
"You regroup and go forward," Hauck said.