rebels football:

UNLV’s late rally nets victory against Colorado State, gives Rebels confidence for next week’s Boise State game

Caleb Herring back as starting QB after throwing two touchdowns, rushing for game-winner with 1:20 left

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Steve Marcus

UNLV’s Phillip Payne, left, celebrates with teammates after making a 31-yard reception for a touchdown during UNLV’s win over Colorado State at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. Payne’s touchdown broke the school’s all-time mark for touchdowns with 25 for his career.

UNLV's late rally nets victory

KSNV's coverage of the UNLV-Colorado State game, Oct. 29, 2011.

UNLV-Colorado State

UNLV Rebels and cheerleaders celebrate after a 38-35 win over Colorado State at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011.  Launch slideshow »

At the end of his postgame press conference Saturday, UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck was asked about the Rebels’ next opponent — No. 5 Boise State.

The coach flashed his trademark grin and jokingly told the room of local media he’d have an answer for them next week.

You can’t blame the coach for not wanting to bring more stress into his day. He was still trying to digest the Rebels’ 38-35 come-from-behind victory against Colorado State, smiling from ear to ear after his young team rallied in the final minutes.

UNLV led the visiting Rams by 11 points early in the fourth quarter in front of 12,431 fans at Sam Boyd Stadium, only to surrender 15 unanswered points and lose the lead with four minutes to play. For a Rebels squad riding a three-game losing streak and short on confidence, the deficit could have been a disaster.

But it wasn’t.

Sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring, whose struggles this season included a game with just one completion and another where he had three interceptions returned for touchdowns, didn’t play like a signal caller who had lost his starting job three weeks ago.

Herring led the Rebels 68 yards on an eight-play drive, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:20 to play for the game-winning points. He was smooth, confident and never panicked in briskly leading the Rebels down the field.

“We are thrilled to win. I’m excited for our players,” Hauck said. “They have showed a lot of character and a lot of toughness. They have worked hard and they deserve to win. I’m thrilled for our players.”

Herring completed 9-of-13 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns, replacing starter Sean Reilly by design in the first quarter and never exiting the game. Despite Reilly throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown on his last pass, Hauck said the plan was to have Herring enter the game as planned after the Rebels’ second series.

It was too early to talk about game planning for the seemingly impossible task of beating Boise State, but Hauck did reveal one important detail for next Saturday’s home game: Herring, after two games coming off the bench, will be back as the UNLV starter.

“Caleb is a guy that, whether it is as the starter or not, has prepared like the starter, just like any good player in his position does,” Hauck said. “He showed up tonight. That just shows who he is. He has a lot of good character.”

Rebel quarterbacks entered with just five touchdowns and less than 800 yards passing in six games. They only passed for 117 yards against Colorado State, but the completions came at the right time and perfectly complemented a rushing attack that tallied 244 yards.

“I don’t know if it was confidence lacking. It just felt like I needed to slow down and relax,” Herring said of his past struggles. “A lot of times at quarterback, you know what is going to happen and you see it, but when it comes to executing it at the snap, that is the hardest part.”

Herring threw touchdowns of 7 and 31 yards to Phillip Payne, giving the senior from Western High in Las Vegas a school-best 25 touchdown receptions for his career. The 7-yarder was seconds before halftime to give UNLV a 17-13 lead at the break and tie Payne with Henry Bailey (1991-94) on the school’s all-time list at 24 touchdown receptions.

As the UNLV quarterbacks struggled the past two weeks, so did Payne in hauling in only one pass. Breaking the record was nice and something Payne cherishes, but doing so in a victory was even sweeter.

“It feels good. It feels even better to get it with a win,” Payne said.

He wasn’t the lone Rebel with a team-first attitude. With a 2-5 overall record and a tough schedule the rest of the season, the Rebels’ streak of not reaching a bowl game will most likely continue to 11 seasons. But the older players are taking pride in doing what they can to help the program take steps to grow.

Senior defensive lineman James Dunlap had two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in arguably his finest collegiate game. He helped spark a defense that bended at times, but didn’t break in creating three turnovers and twice stopping Colorado State on fourth down attempts.

“I only have now five games left in my career. I wanted to step up the rest of the season and leave something behind for these young guys to follow,” Dunlap said.

One of those younger players is freshman running back Dionza Bradford, who led the Rebels with 122 yards rushing on 21 carries and his first career touchdown run — a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter to give UNLV a 31-20 lead with 11:35 remaining.

Colorado State was quick to erase the deficit, taking advantage of a blocked field goal attempt and long return to lead 35-31 with 4:06 to play.

“That was disheartening at the time, but you don’t have time to think about that,” Hauck said of giving up the lead. “You have four minutes left in the game, so off you go.”

It seemed like another way to lose for a UNLV team all too familiar with poor performances. But, to the players’ credit, they didn’t flinch in winning the game.

It’s a victory that will surely give them momentum. Enough momentum to give Boise State a battle? Well, we’ll have to wait until next week for that answer.

“I really don’t pay that much attention,” Hauck jokingly said about Boise State. “We’ll figure that out over the weekend.”

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  1. Good game yesterday, definitely. But once our guys learn how to put together a "season" I'll begin to celebrate. And I do have room to talk: I've been a die-hard UNLV football fan for 27 years and have seen exactly 1 good, and 1 marginally good "season" during that stretch. All other 25 seasons have been a joke. It's amazing how apathetic I've become considering how passionate I was before about UNLV football.

    Why did we decide to finally beat CSU and lose so bad to everyone else? Somebody explain that. It makes no sense how we consistently suck, and it kills fan interest when the entire season is embarrassing with a single good game or two.... every... year. This is the first year of my life I have not attended any Rebel games, because only one or two wins is 100% meaningless, and that's all you ever get as a Rebel football fan.

    25 years of getting your heads kicked in is enough for me. Call me when our guys decide to play an entire football season instead of 2 games, and I will instantly come back. That said, it was a good game yesterday from what I saw on the highlights. Congratulations on the win.

  2. What a roller coaster game! It was nice to see us do some really good things on defense as in sacks and stops for losses. It was disheartening to see us miss several arm tackles. Phillip Payne's catch in the end zone was pro like. Caleb's pass was perfect. The drive with 4 min to go was great to see. The following defensive possession was not except for the interception caused by a defensive player hitting the QB as he was getting ready to throw. I have been watching the Rebs for 40 years and while there have been lots of down times there have also been lots of good times. It seems we have to many people in this valley that can only support a winner and just are not excited by college football. What a shame!

  3. I can also support a loser, but for only about 25 years. I have other things to do on a Saturday than watch my school get beat by 50 again.

    I don't expect a win against Boise St., but at least try to show you belong in the same conference as them.

  4. Good game...but Caleb is not the best QB.Sean Reilly is.It's sad to see Caleb gets to throw 4 or more interceptions yet he gets to stay in.Got to build on Sean, he's a much better thrower.Plus UNLV offense is like school yard pop warner play. Get to the pro style.Caleb is not a good runner for them to have that spread run option set.Offensive play calling still really bad.UNLV is a good team but after examining them, the offensive coaches are the problem. Colorado's offensive style is the offense UNLV should use.With Sean in that offense UNLV would have more wins.

  5. Heretic, Sideline tickets for the Boise State game are selling for close to $100 a piece on stubhub.. Maybe you should just cut bait now and cut your losses. After following your comments for awhile, I'm pretty sure the Rebels won't miss you. Just promise us that you stop posting comments on the Rebel's articles if you're giving up on the team.

    Please.

  6. The problem with UNLV not having a viable football program is that it is a detractor for perspective students. This past weekend, I took my son and his friend to the UNLV/CSU football game. Both of them are interested in attending UNLV and in fact it is in my son's top three. While we had a great time, my son and his friend left the game with one burning question. Where was the UNLV student section? CSU brought out a contingent of family,friends and students. So where were the students from UNLV. The question is probably easy to answer. Without a competitive team there is just too many other things in a town like Las Vegas to spend your entertainment dollars on. There is no doubt the students and the town support a winner. The Rebel basketball team is in the top 25 nationally in attendance. It isn't hard to figure out why. They have created a product to is entertaining and wins. Whether you accept this logic or not, good football teams not only sells tickets and fill stadiums but they increase enrollment at universities. Over Thanksgiving Break I will take my son to visit Arizona State University. While it isn't the best football program it is competitive year after year and goes to bowl games. Kind of easy to see why ASU is number one on his list.