Published Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 | 6:45 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 | 9:57 p.m.
The good news for UNLV fans is that Saturday's 31-14 football setback against San Diego State will never be remembered as anything more than a footnote on a night the Rebels basketball team shocked No. 1-ranked North Carolina across town.
The bad news is the Rebels showcased their lack of progress on the gridiron once again. UNLV received a golden opportunity to steal a game that no one expected them to win and possibly re-ignite some interest in the program headed into next season.
The Rebels didn't come close to capitalizing. They surrendered 31 unanswered points to the Aztecs after taking a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
An offense that chugged along by the legs of Tim Cornett was stagnant for the entire second half. A defensive effort that was gritty in the first half turned sour in the second.
UNLV gave up 192 yards and two touchdowns to San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman. Ryan Lindley passed for 152 yards and two touchdowns for the Aztecs.
Cornett and quarterback Caleb Herring combined for less than 50 yards in the second half. Cornett still finished with a career-high 136 yards, but almost all of it came in the first half. Herring went 14-for-26 for 119 yards.
Check back to lasvegassun.com later for full coverage from the game.
San Diego State up 10 with six minutes left
The collapse is all but complete now.
UNLV's fast start against San Diego State at Sam Boyd Stadium is a distant memory as Ryan Lindley threw his second touchdown of the night. On fourth-and-1 from the 6-yard line, Lindley connected with Dylan Denso to make the score 24-14 with 5:45 to go.
It's almost hard to believe UNLV was once up 14-0 six seconds into the second quarter. San Diego State has run up and down the field against UNLV in the second half. Running back Ronnie Hillman now has 123 yards on 20 carries for the Aztecs.
UNLV drove down to San Diego State's 45-yard line on its last possession, but couldn't convert a fourth-and-7. After a solid first half, UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring has been inaccurate. Herring is currently 14-for-25 for 119 yards.
End of the third quarter, San Diego State takes control
The Rebels' idea of finishing off their home schedule with a feel-good upset victory is beginning to fade away.
UNLV has sputtered severely in the third quarter, as San Diego State has soared to a 17-14 lead with a quarter to go. The Aztecs found their first lead with 39 seconds to go in the quarter when Abelardo Perez converted a 27-yard field goal.
It came after a six-minute drive that went 52 yards before the score. That possession alone was significantly more than UNLV could muster in the third quarter.
UNLV had less than 20 total yards and one first down in the third quarter. It was a major departure from the first half, when the Rebels erupted for 233 yards of total offense.
It's all even with a quarter-and-a-half to go at Sam Boyd Stadium.
San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley connected with receiver Colin Lockett for a 15-yard touchdown pass with exactly 7:30 remaining in the third quarter. Lockett scored on a third-and-8 play.
It was the first time either team has reached the red zone this evening. It's telling that a seven-play, 3:37 scoring drive is lengthy for this game.
Most possessions have either ended with a three-and-out or quick strike score. Both teams had lackadaisical drives when they first got the ball in the second half that stalled in a hurry.
Halftime, UNLV ahead 14-7
It's time to see if UNLV can hold on to a lead against a superior team.
The Rebels moved the ball with ease in the first half against the Aztecs and head to the Sam Boyd Stadium locker rooms with a 14-7 advantage. Sophomore running back Tim Cornett scored both touchdowns and has 134 yards, a career high, so far.
Kicker Nolan Kohorst almost had an opportunity to knock through a career-long field goal. UNLV lined up for a 51-yard field goal attempt, but it was a fake on fourth-and-5 with 1:50 to go. Holder Mike Clausen took off after the snap, but came up inches short of converting a first down.
San Diego State's offense ran out to the field enthusiastically, but couldn't muster any production. The Aztecs went three-and-out for the first time this evening. UNLV followed suit before time expired.
Cornett scored from 54 and 25 yards out. San Diego State's only touchdown came on a long rush, too. Ronnie Hillman got to the outside for a 44-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Hillman has 10 rushes for 81 yards at halftime.
14:50 remaining in the first half, UNLV ahead 14-0
San Diego State is living up to its reputation for being a slow-starting team.
The Aztecs have allowed the Rebels, who looked listless offensively for the past two weeks, to score on two of their first three possessions. The Rebels have built a 14-0 lead at Sam Boyd Stadium on Senior Night.
Sophomore running back Tim Cornett has scored both of the Rebels' touchdowns. He took the last one in from 25 yards out and now has 96 yards on eight carries.
Three plays later and UNLV has gotten the ball back. Senior defensive back Quinton Pointer intercepted a deep Ryan Lindley pass moments ago. UNLV has the ball at its own 33-yard line to start its fourth drive of the night.
4 minutes remaining first quarter, UNLV leads 7-0
Tim Cornett had the easy task — just run.
UNLV's line just opened a gaping hole for Cornett, who sprung through it for a 54-yard touchdown run. Cornett was not touched on the rush and turned on his speed to make sure of it.
The long touchdown came moments after the Rebels converted a third-and-9 in their own territory when Caleb Herring threw across his body to Michael Johnson. It's only the fourth time in Bobby Hauck's two-year tenure at UNLV that the team scored first.
7:09 remaining first quarter, no score
Instead of attempting a 42-yard field goal, San Diego State just opted to go for a fourth-and-3 from the 25-yard line.
Quarterback Ryan Lindley dropped back and tried to zip a pass to his receiver, but UNLV's Daniel Harper stood in the way. Harper batted the pass down and nearly intercepted it to return the ball to the Rebels offense on a turnover on downs.
The Aztecs had driven 71 yards before they stalled and converted two third downs. The Rebels had trouble containing speedy San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman early, as he got to the outside for two first downs. Hillman has four carries for 23 yards after one possession.
UNLV dropped back to pass on all six of its plays during the first possession. Quarterback Caleb Herring went 4-for-5 for 38 yards. The Rebels advanced to midfield before punting.
The UNLV basketball team isn’t the only Rebels squad looking to pull off a massive upset this evening in the valley.
While the hoops team is understandably hogging most of the attention with its showdown against No. 1 North Carolina at the Orleans tonight, the Rebels will also take the Sam Boyd Stadium field for the final time in 2011.
It’s Senior Night for UNLV on the gridiron as it meets San Diego State in an attempt for a third win on the season. Three victories is a mark a lot of fans thought UNLV would fall short of at the beginning of the season.
It’s still hard imagine the Rebels notching one more win than they did last season in coach Bobby Hauck’s first year on the sidelines. They come in as 16.5-point underdogs to San Diego State, which has already become bowl eligible at 6-4 on the campaign.
UNLV does have one more game after tonight, but it takes place at TCU next weekend where no one expects any miracles.
The Rebels haven’t shown a lot of reasons for optimism over the past two weeks. A week after dropping a touchdown decision to winless New Mexico, UNLV allowed Air Force to gain 394 rushing yards en route to a dominating 45-17 smackdown.
This is where it’s worth mentioning that San Diego State is more dangerous than Air Force and beat the Falcons 41-27 on the road this year.
Led by running back Ronnie Hillman and quarterback Ryan Lindley, the San Diego State offense has hummed along for most of the season. Wide receiver Colin Lockett is a difference-maker, too, as he averages nearly five catches and 75 yards per game.
UNLV’s all-time leading receiver, Phillip Payne, will play his final home game. The senior is one of the most talented athletes to suit up for UNLV recently, but hasn’t enjoyed much success in his tenure.
The UNLV seniors have never put together a winning season. Tonight is not going to erase the memories of their struggles, but it could send them out with a memorable final moment.
Hauck talked this week about the importance of finishing with a winning record at home. The Rebels are 2-2 at Sam Boyd Stadium and have played much better here than on the road.
San Diego State has been winning on the road, but not in dominating fashion. The Aztecs are 3-1 away from Southern California, but only narrowly beat Army and Colorado State.
Las Vegas Sun is live at Sam Boyd Stadium and prepared to provide an account of the action all night. Check back here for a live blog updated periodically.