Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
RENO — Bobby Hauck has said time and time again that what he's looking for from his UNLV football team is consistent performance, eliminating "wild swings."
Well, they've been consistent in one area: The inability to stay close in road games.
This one will sting the Rebels more than most, being that they were shut out by their biggest rival in a 37-0 whipping at Nevada-Reno on Saturday at Mackay Stadium.
Another reason for the lasting burn? They had more than one opportunity early in the game to grab the upper hand.
The Rebels (1-4) forced turnovers on each of the first two Wolf Pack (2-3) possessions, including a fumble by starting quarterback Cody Fajardo that set the UNLV offense up at the UNR 16-yard line.
But those possessions resulted in no points and it would be a theme all night for the Rebels, who didn't produce a single point despite the Pack coughing the ball up to them five times (two fumbles, three interceptions).
"When you don't capitalize in a game like this, the home team that's pretty dang good is going to make you pay," Hauck said.
A decent defensive performance through the game's first 23 minutes went to waste once UNR actually did make UNLV pay.
UNLV's fifth straight failed offensive possession out of the gates set UNR up at its own 10-yard line. On the first play, senior quarterback Tyler Lantrip — just inserted into the game for the struggling Fajardo — hit receiver Rishard Matthews on a 10-yard hitch route near the right sideline. After a blown tackle, Matthews turned upfield and scampered 90 yards for the score that officially blew open the floodgates.
"(The defense) played 50 plays in the first half," Hauck said, agreeing that his defense got tired toward the end of the second stanza. "It was a shame we gave up the long pass play on the hitch, because we were playing really, really well on defense at that point in time."
Very little of the defense UNLV played after that point would fit into that category, as UNR was off and scoring.
Lantrip, who had struggled to this point to fill the shoes of the departed Colin Kaepernick, erupted for 366 yards on just 18 completions, adding two more touchdown tosses to his stat line.
UNR finished the night with 699 yards of total offense and walked away with the Fremont Cannon for the seventh year in a row.
The biggest problem of the night, though, was UNLV's offense, which sunk even lower than it had two weeks ago in an ugly 41-16 loss to Football Championship Series foe Southern Utah.
Sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring, who threw three interceptions that were all returned for touchdowns against SUU, went just 1-of-14 for eight yards and was sacked five times. Both his one completion and 14 yards through the air set new UNLV marks for single-game futility in those categories, and the one hook-up through the air didn't come until there were four minutes left in the game.
At times, he held onto the ball too long, and on several other occasions, he overthrew the ball. To boot, star senior receiver Phillip Payne, who had caught 18 passes for 282 yards in his last two meetings with UNR combined, was only targeted twice the entire game.
Herring wasn't replaced by junior backup Sean Reilly, but one would have to think that the pressure on the struggling starter will be turned up in practice in the coming week.
"Confidence-wise, after a loss like that, you don't really have much of it," he said. "You have to try to find something on film to get you back on or do something in practice next week."
It also didn't help that UNLV's young and inconsistent offensive line once again showed its age. Right from go, UNR stacked the box against UNLV, applied pressure on the edges and, most importantly, never let up. In its 2011 home opener, the Wolf Pack was clearly wanting to let out some frustrations from a brutal road trip that left Chris Ault's club 1-3.
They never eased up, and UNLV was only able to muster 110 yards of total offense.
Herring was sacked five times, and the Rebels averaged only 2.6 yards per carry as a team on 39 attempts. Freshman Dionza Bradford led the way with 79 yards on 18 totes, as he replaced sophomore Tim Cornett, who was hurt early in the game and never returned.
Just another bad night that left many frustrated and several questions lingering above the program. Under Hauck, UNLV is now 0-10 on the road, with an average margin of defeat of 36.6 points.
"We didn't complete passes, didn't convert third downs and didn't move the ball on offense," Herring said. "What people saw was pretty much what we can say for ourselves."
This and that …
UNLV was just 1-of-14 on third downs, while UNR converted nine of 14 third down plays into fresh sets of downs … Sophomore linebacker Tani Maka led UNLV with 13 tackles, including one for a loss … The shutout is the first time in the history of the UNLV-UNR series that either side has been held scoreless … In his first game at safety, senior Quinton Pointer had seven tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception and a pass break-up … UNLV has now forced 11 turnovers in its last three games … UNLV next faces Wyoming (3-2) in Laramie next Saturday at 11 a.m. The Cowboys were blown out at Utah State on Saturday night, 63-19.