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LIVE BLOG: UNLV falls to No. 11 Wisconsin in season opener, 51-17

Rebels’ offense shows sign of improvement, but defense pushed around in blowout loss

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck greets his team after Irshad Stolden (84) scored during the fourth quarter against Wisconsin during their season opening game Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011 | 8:43 p.m.

The Rebel Room

Football heads to Wisconsin; Rice adds another 2012 commit

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer take a look at UNLV football's Thursday night opener at No. 11 Wisconsin, where the Rebels will head to as a five-touchdown underdog. While Bobby Hauck's program tries to continue its upward trend, Dave Rice and the men's basketball staff kept theirs going on the recruiting trail. The guys discuss the Monday night commitment from Bishop Gorman power forward Demetris Morant and much more.

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Final, Wisconsin wins, 51-17

MADISON, Wis. — The result surprised no one, but it was more about what Thursday's performance at Camp Randall means for the rest of the season.

UNLV lost to No. 11 Wisconsin, 51-17. The offense showed some significant signs of improvement from a lackluster 2010 season, but the defense still has a long way to go. What that means is that, when UNLV plays teams more on its level later in the 2011 campaign, it could make for some exciting shootouts.

Caleb Herring was solid in his first career start, going 18-of-27 for 146 yards and two TD tosses. UNLV's running game, behind a line consisting of three freshmen, looked OK, too. Bradley Randle and Tim Cornett combined for 126 yards on 26 carries.

The defensive side needs more work, and that's pretty clear. Wisconsin racked up 499 yards of total offense and ran for 241 of them. UNLV won't face an offensive line that big and dominant the rest of the year, but tackling and coverage must improve for the Rebels to take a step forward.

Most important for UNLV, though, is that the Rebels got out of this one generally in good health, and they'll return to Rebel Park for a full pads practice on Saturday in preparation for their Sept. 10 contest at Washington State.

For full coverage from Madison, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.

Fourth Quarter, 11:41 remaining, Wisconsin leads 51-17

MADISON, Wisc. — UNLV's first touchdown of the 2011 season came with 2:53 left in the third quarter, with Caleb Herring finding Phillip Payne in the back corner of the end zone for a six-yard strike that was good following an official's review.

It's down to the final 15 minutes here at Camp Randall Stadium, and Wisconsin's back-ups will take it the rest of the way, with the Badgers leading 51-17.

Now the only intrigue left is seeing whether UNLV can cover the 35.5-point spread, which right now probably has many back in Las Vegas a bit nervous.

As for the Badger starters, James White and Montee Ball combined for 127 rushing yards and four TDs, while Ball had 67 yards and another score. NC State transfer Russell Wilson's first game under center was a huge success, completing 10 of 13 pass attempts for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a TD run of 46 yards.

But his backup, Joe Brennan, went three-and-out on his first possession, and UNLV capitalized with its second TD of the second half, this time with Herring hitting William Vea for a 9-yard score. It's clear that UNLV is trying to leave this place on a positive note, and the offense has looked OK for much of the night. Right now, Herring has 141 yards on 17-of-26 passing, and the backfield duo of Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle has combined for 126 rushing yards.

Halftime

MADISON, Wisc. — So, apparently the ESPN announcers have already joked about the heat up here in the Camp Randall press box. I can only imagine it's the same climate in the UNLV coaches' box right nearby, which has to be making the night that much more uncomfortable for the Rebels' staff.

UNLV just headed to the locker room here in Madison trailing the No. 11 team in the land 37-3.

On the defensive side, it's been all negative so far for UNLV. On offense, it's a mixed back.

So far, the Badgers have piled up 374 yards of total offense and have only seen the sticks read third down once all night. In his highly-anticipated Wisconsin debut, quarterback Russell Wilson is 8-of-11 for 206 yards and a TD toss, while running for another 46-yard score in the final minute of the first half.

As for UNLV's offense, the unit has reached the red zone three times, but has only come away with three points so far, thanks to a 37-yard field goal late from Nolan Kohorst, who missed his first two attempts (34, 52). The Rebels have 105 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Tim Cornett leads the way with 50 yards on eight totes.

It's tough to know what we should expect from the second half. Wisconsin made a habit last year of running the score up on overmatched opponents. However, expect plenty of Badger back-ups to play from here on out, and UNLV's offense has moved the ball well so far. They could get a few points on the board here in the final 15 minutes.

Either way, UNLV now has to hope that it gets out of here healthy. So far, the Rebels are in one piece.

Second Quarter, 8:50 left, Wisconsin leads 27-0

MADISON, Wisc. — As expected, UNLV's defense has had a very tough time handling Wisconsin's versatile, explosive offense. Also as expected, UNLV has found ways to move the ball against Wisconsin's rebuilding defensive unit.

But failure to capitalize at the end of two otherwise impressive drives has UNLV in a massive hole mid-way through the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium, trailing 27-0.

Montee Ball has 129 total yards of offense and three touchdowns out of the backfield for the Badgers, including a 1-yard TD plunge moments ago set up by his 63-yard pick-up off of a Russell Wilson screen pass.

As for UNLV's offense, after a brutal opening drive, sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring has looked decent. He's 5-of-9 through the air for 46 yards and has 45 rushing yards on only four attempts. A Nolan Kohorst 34-yard missed field goal made UNLV come up empty-handed on its second possession, and on the third, Kohorst missed wide left from 52 yards out. That drive, however, had a more painful ending. A 15-yard personal foul call against Phillip Payne in the red zone pushed UNLV into much tougher field goal range, and it stayed that way after Payne dropped a pass on third-and-18 that would have given UNLV a first down.

The defense is going to remain an issue the rest of the way tonight it appears. Wisconsin already has 266 yards of total offense and has looked effortless in moving the chains.

First Quarter, 8:12 left, Wisconsin leads 13-0

MADISON, Wisc. — Well, not really the start UNLV had hoped for. Let's just put it that way.

On its first possession, Wisconsin opened the game by marching 65 yards in less than four minutes, with Russell Wilson hitting Montee Bally for a four-yard score on his second pass attempt of the game. Ball just scored his second touchdown of the game, breaking three tackles on a 22-yard scamper.

Wisconsin's run game isn't meeting much resistance so far from UNLV, as the Badgers' huge, experienced offensive line is blowing the Rebels' defensive front off of the ball on every snap.

As for UNLV's offense, it went three-and-out on its first possession.

The Rebels are going to have to string together an offensive possession of some type if they want any chance at hanging around, because Wisconsin's offense is playing with all of the confidence in the world right now.

Pregame, Part Deux

MADISON, Wisc. — Well, UNLV is taking hits before the game even starts, it appears.

Starting sophomore receiver Marcus Sullivan was left home from the trip along with junior receiver/punt returner Eric Johnson due to academic issues. Their suspension's are indefinite.

Losing Sullivan is a huge blow, as he figured to be one of UNLV's top offensive playmakers this season. He is also their top threat at kick returner, ranking 17th in the nation in average yardage per return as a freshman last season.

Johnson was slated as a No. 2 receiver on this week's depth chart, but is also the Rebels' starting punt returner. Senior Michael Johnson, who led the team with 50 receptions a year ago, will start in Sullivan's place at receiver and in Johnson's place returning punts. Bradley Randle and Ken Spigner will handle kick returning duties.

Meanwhile, I'm changing my prediction, because I truly believed Sullivan would be a difference-maker in this one. I'm now at 45-10, Wisconsin.

Pregame

MADISON, Wisc. — No matter what the final score reads tonight, UNLV has already reaped the benefits of opening its season on national television against a Top-25 opponent.

The UNLV name was dropped several times throughout the day on ESPN while promoting its first televised game of the 2011 season, but most of the emphasis was placed on its opponent.

As it should be.

Wisconsin enters tonight's opener ranked No. 11 in the nation in both major polls, and the buzz around Madison can be felt. Most of it is there not only because of the wealth of returning talent Wisconsin has from a team that played in the Rose Bowl back in January, but with the addition of North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson at quarterback. The third all-time leading passer in Wolf Pack history makes his Wisconsin debut tonight. If UNLV wants a chance to hang around for a while this evening, they're going to have to find a way to harness him some.

But the problem UNLV has known this for quite some time. And they've also been well aware of Wisconsin's two-headed running back monster consisting of junior Montee Ball and sophomore James White. Oh, and there's the offensive line that will dwarf UNLV's unproven defensive front.

On the other side, I'm actually expecting UNLV to be able to score some points on a Wisconsin defense that is in transition mode some this season. UNLV's strength is at the skill positions on offense, and there's little question about that. They're deep at running back and receiver, and if the line can hold up some, they'll have a chance to put some dents in Wisconsin's defense tonight.

The biggest intangible right now, it appears, is the weather. It's hot and steamy here at Camp Randall — Conditions UNLV is nowhere near used to. How will their lungs hold up breathing that heavy air? Pay attention early on to see if there are more hands on the hips than usual on the sidelines.

As for my official prediction, I'm taking Wisconsin to win, 45-20. What we learned last year was that, no matter the score, Bobby Hauck's team will play hard until the end. If that remains the case, the Rebels could get some shots in.

I'll be here all night on the blog and also chatting on Twitter. Find me at @ryanmgreene, and add the #UNLV and #unlvfb hashtags to your in-game tweets to remain a part of the conversation.

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Previous Discussion: 16 comments so far…

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  1. Prediction: 52-17 Wisc.

    We are gonna be missing a few players it looks like too. Great.

  2. UNLV will get smoked tonight. I think that 17pts you gave the Rebs is too high Sofakingbored. I see Wiscy calling off the hounds in the 4th q...so 45-7 is more likely here.

  3. Like a knife through hot butter. Wow..7-0 in 3 minutes. Is it too late to revise my prediction? lol....65-3

  4. The only good thing I can say about this game so far is that it has diverted my attention from my toothache the same way hitting my thumb with a hammer would.

  5. Same old Rebels. No D, and I mean not even a little. Offense moves the ball, but makes one mistake after another. Bad snaps, penalties, and dropped passes.

    One positive is Cornett looks good.

    Let's hope we can improve in the second half.

  6. So are the Rebel fans finally, finally realizing that Hauck was a mistake? He got the job as UNLV wanted a cheap coach...but he's definitely out of his league. No question. Big jump from coaching in a completely different level in the middle of nowhere.

  7. Ok, I'm now embarrassed. I need to revise my prediction...again. 84-3?

  8. Now what I know what a KU fan/alum feels like when they watch their football team play. When does basketball season begin? If you want to watch a pretty decent football game, turn to the Thursday Night Lights match up between Palo Verde and Arbor View tonight at 8pm.

  9. I'm always pro-Rebels, but I'm also a realist. This game was never scheduled in order to beat Wisc, but as part of a deal to make some badly needed ESPN cash for UNLV. No one expected us to win, and of course we didn't. This program has years to go before it improves to the degree that we see it. Without patience, money from TV beatings will be the only money we will ever see. Listening to all of the positives mentioned by the assistance coaches and the announcers on radio makes me feel somewhat good; however, I would feel even better if someone from the Rebels just admitted we were overmatched before, during, and after the game and therefore we lost. Big. That we took the game not to win, but just to make money that the program needs to stay afloat. There is no shame in that. I'm not a fairweather fan. I admit when we are lousy, I complain, and I stay with my team. But I also need my team to admit when they play another team just for the ESPN cash and not because we will actually learn something and get better. You never get better from a schallacking from a bigger, stronger, older team. We should know this by now-Lord knows we have had enough of these games over the years to know for sure. Just admit we did it for the money and didn't mind that we looked bad on national TV and will now play teams that are not as good as Wisc (Wash St). Will it be another long, frustrating season? Yes. I would be shocked if it wasn't. But I'm still a fan, and I'll still go to the home games-as long as the university hires enough police to deter the drunks from throwing bottles and starting fights and arrest those that do, of course. I'm NOT taking my family back to the Hell the Star Nursery Tailgate Field was allowed to become before the school got serious about fighting and alcohol abuse with those kids.

  10. The ESPN announcers said that the first Rebel TD was against the first team defense so that was definitely a positive.

    I thought the Rebels looked bigger and faster across the board so that's a positive and a credit to the strength and conditioning program.

    Herring looked steady and I liked what I saw from the offense. Did anyone expect to see UNLV running some Pistol?

  11. Herring's first start takes place in cheeseland, he doesn't have a turnover, and has two touchdowns.
    The defense needs work, but everybody knew that.
    Unlike Sanford's teams, they didn't give up. That's because of the coach. Hauck has this team going in the right direction. So googoodolls and sg1(with your fake name), go troll somewhere else.

  12. The offense looked pretty good at times.. A lot of misdirection and a good running game. A few more accurate down field passes or some decent field position and we could have scored a couple more TDs. The defense looked slow and they missed a lot of tackles, but it's hard to really gauge them against one of the better offenses in the country.

    I'm not naive enough to think we'll make it to a bowl game, but I think 3-4 wins, and some competitive games against better teams, is not out of the question.

  13. @sofakeingbored dude did you cheAT on your prediction or what..If not give us some more scores so I can bet! lol

  14. It was a blow out and no one expect UNLV to win, but we had some good runs during the offense. Every other run had a really good chance of being a TD. Had things gone a little bit smoother, I wouldn't have been surprised if we ended up putting up another 2 TDs in the first half. A loss is a loss, but I do have some confidence in the future for UNLV. Hopefully we can smash Wazzu and get on a confidence streak. Go Rebels!

  15. Nice call, Wade! I was also impressed! If Wisconsin didn't miss that extra point early on, you had the exact score.

    Even with mistakes, I thought overall the Rebels showed much improvement, especially on offense...and considering they were playing a team that realistically should not have been on their schedule. I think they could be fun to watch the rest of the season, whether they win 1 or 10. Go Rebels!

    Team SG1, I'm not sure what your point is? Why do you care if we locals get excited?

  16. Time to end the program. The money can be better utilized. If you cannot get local kids to play at their local University, what is the point?