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UNLV takes the good with the bad in 51-17 loss at No. 11 Wisconsin

Rebels’ offense shows plenty of promise, but defense still has plenty of work to do

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Andy Manis / AP

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring throws a pass as Wisconsin’s Chris Borland defends during the first half of their game, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Madison, Wis.

UNLV vs. Wisconsin Football

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring throws a pass as Wisconsin's Chris Borland defends during the first half of their game, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Madison, Wis. Launch slideshow »

UNLV falls to powerhouse Wisconsin 51-17 in season opener

KSNV coverage of UNLV's 51-17 loss to Wisconsin in season opener, Sept. 1, 2011.

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MADISON, Wis. — Following last year's 41-21 season-opening loss to Wisconsin, the look on UNLV coach Bobby Hauck's face and the words out of his mouth gave the impression that his team was in for a long ride.

This time around, after a 51-17 loss in Madison, Wis., in what was likely the final game the two sides will ever play, the vibe he gave off couldn't have been any different.

Yes, the Rebels have an exciting, young offense that could throw up some big numbers in 2011. Yes, the defense has a long, long way to go before completely rehabbing its recent image. In all, it's far from being a doom-and-gloom situation as UNLV prepares for next Saturday's game at Washington State.

"We weren't ready to come in here and beat a Top-10 team, obviously," Hauck said in a lighthearted post-game press conference. "But, with that said, we're going to be all right."

The first half at a raucous Camp Randall Stadium went pretty much how many thought it would. Wisconsin's massive offensive line blew UNLV's front seven off of the ball snap after snap and racked up long gain after long gain. Veteran backs Montee Ball and James White ripped off sizable runs with apparent ease and highly-touted North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson was nothing short of brilliant in his Wisconsin debut.

On the other side, UNLV moved the ball well before the half, but its youth and inexperience showed in front of a wild crowd of 77,085 once the Rebels got into the red zone. Three trips inside the Badgers' 20-yard line in the first half netted three total points.

What the first half told us was that, as Hauck and athletic director Jim Livengood have pointed out of late, UNLV right now has no business trying to play against teams like Wisconsin. What the second half told us was that this season likely won't play out in the same unsightly manner that Hauck's first campaign did after opening up against the Badgers.

Wisconsin's starting units played until late in the third quarter, and UNLV was able to get some nice drives under its belts and some parting shots through the Badgers' guard after the intermission.

Sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring's first career start was pretty strong, all things considered. He held onto the ball too long a couple of times, but showed nice poise in the pocket. He led two touchdown drives in the second half, finishing the game with 146 yards and two TD tosses off of 18-of-27 passing. He also ran for 29 yards.

It also appears that UNLV will be able to run the ball much more effectively this season, too. UNLV played much of the game with three freshmen — left tackle Brett Boyko, right tackle Cameron Jefferson and center Robert Waterman — on the offensive line. Behind the re-tooled unit, sophomores Bradley Randle and Tim Cornett combined for 124 yards on 26 carries.

"We did a lot of things well on offense — We moved the ball well, we have to finish when it counts down in the red zone," Herring said. "You're never going to come out of a loss like that and be at all satisfied with it, but as a young team, we did some good things in this environment."

The defense, though, is likely to get much of the focus as the season wears on, and it likely all won't be for the right reasons.

Wisconsin piled up 499 yards of total offense, with 241 of those coming on the ground. The Badgers averaged a whopping 6.3 yards per carry.

"Their front seven on offense, we just couldn't get off of them," Hauck said. "Great job by them, and we need to get better, obviously."

UNLV's linebackers got lost more than a couple of times in coverage, and the secondary looked pretty shaky. That led to several big plays involving both Wilson's right arm and his shifty legs. His stellar night included 255 yards through the air on only 10 completions. He threw for two touchdowns and ran another in from 46 yards out late in the first half.

Those at home who stuck around to watch the entire thing transpire were likely left with this conclusion: UNLV will be a much more entertaining offensive team to watch this season, but defensively, the transition under Hauck and his staff isn't nearly as close to completion.

The Rebels also got out of Camp Randall in good general health, which makes having moved the game from Saturday to Thursday even more of a bright idea in hindsight. Part of the motivation behind the move was that it would give UNLV two extra days to prepare for next Saturday's tilt in Pullman, Wash. Hauck said the team will go full pads and practice at Rebel Park Saturday afternoon.

So, all in all, it could have been much, much worse.

"We played a lot of young guys, got a lot of young guys into this atmosphere," Randle said. "I stuck around for a reason, everybody else stuck around for a reason. The future is still bright."

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  1. My impression was pretty much the same, the offense has promise, but the defense, well, as my wife put it, you can't win a game with only half a team.

  2. Nice effort by the Rebels. If they could have capitalized on those three redzone trips in the first half the game would have been a lot closer. They still would have lost but it could have been 37-21 at the half instead of 37-3. And the final outcome would likely have been closer to 51-35.

    I was suprised with how well the Rebs moved the ball on that Wisconsin D in the first half. It was almost with ease until they got into the redzone and tightened up. Nevertheless, they showed promise on offense. Not much you can say for the defense though. They were pushed around and out ran by the Wisconsin offense. But it's hard to compete when the Wisconsin O-Line outweighed the UNLV D-Line by an average of 65lbs. UNLV's D-Line just looked like a Jr. High team out there competing against Wisconsin. You could see it in the pregame warm ups just how big those Wisconsin linemen were. All are likely future NFL candidates.

    Anyway, I think UNLV needs to stop scheduling the likes of Wisconsin every year and set their expectations lower until they can get better recruits and compete. They need to focus on scheduling average BCS schools in their non conference schedule instead of the elites like Wisconsin. Washington St is a good example. A few years back UNLV beat ASU who are more along the likes of teams they should schedule. WSU is a team UNLV is more likely to beat then Wisconsin and West Virginia. I would say they need to stick to scheduling respectable teams like UCLA, Cincinati, Clemson, etc... Teams that are respectable BCS schools and will likely be on national TV but not the dominate ones of the conference that will just embarrass the Rebs.

    If UNLV can get that new stadium built on campus I think it could be a game changer for the program and the University itself. UNLV is already hampered by the TV contract and not playing on ESPN and ABC. But their football facilities set them back even further. I have to imagine when recruits come to Vegas and see where Sam Boyd is and how old and mediocre it is it probably turns them off. If they had a nice, new, on campus stadium that fans and students would want to go to it could attract more 3-4 star level recruits similar to Boise St, TCU, and Utah. The basketball program has top notch facilities and the football program probably deserves something similar. Get this done and hopefully UNLV can put together a respectable team that could compete with the likes of Wisconsin in the future.

  3. Nothing good about this. They stink! Same 'o', same 'o'.

  4. As a parent the worst feelinig in the world is watching your son and teammates get a beat down on national television. WOW!

  5. Wisconsin is going to make a lot of defenses look bad, but they're beatable. The Rebels actually surprised me with their offense. I liked what I saw and they moved the ball well except for few of their red-zone plays. I would say they will be competitive in the Mountain West if the defense becomes a cohesive unit.

  6. My observations (for what it's worth):

    Caleb Harring is a real QB. He ran the offense well.

    Cornett and Randle are real RBs.

    Offensive line will be OK...with time and experience.

    Defensive line is undersized and could not stop the run...but it was playing against an O-line that is probably the best they will see all season.

    Nolan Kohorst was disappointing. I say we should see what Lansford can do.

    Overall, I'm encouraged! Even for next week at Wazzu!

    Go Rebs!!!

  7. some people REALLY should read the paper and stop repeating what many articles have already discussed.

    I wanna know why we were even trying to pass the ball in the first half. Payne wasn't mentally in the game until the second half. You march down the field off the work of Randle and Cornett, then try three consecutive pass plays in the Red Zone. Wisconsin couldn't stop the Pistol, we should of shot em with it.

  8. Our offense had poor field position all night because the defense couldn't stop anything.. That said, we still had 5 drives that should have resulted in points.

    What was the deal with the 2 personal foul penalties we got? Is that the kind of crappy officiating we're going to see all year in an "effort to protect the players"?

  9. Caleb a fair to good runner but passing is not so good. There are good receivers on that team so got to find good passer.

  10. I thought our running game was quite solid last night despite a really young and under-matched front line. We're talking a top 20 offense and defense in the nation and they held up alright. Defense has been more of an issue than anything for many years now. The team is nearly absent on D.

  11. Until this program does something on D and is not so pass happy they will struggle. Every year teams do pretty much whatever they want to do. Run, Pass, and the D can do nothing about it. Having good RB's and QB's is great and all. But the Rebs can't win a shootout and they can't get any stops. All that equals another loosing season.

  12. @Hedon58 give Nolan time he can pull it together. The first kick was a high snap and the 2nd one he had the distance on but just pushed it. Lansford is a good punter and we should leave him focusing on punting. Nolan will come around.

  13. Hey PASSRUSHER you are correct but you've got to give this team & Bobby Hauch a chance. Hauch seems like a great guy &great coach.Seems lots of big time coaches like this guy too. I look for 1 or 2 wins this year 4 next year and bowl game the following.

  14. Comment removed by moderator. - -

  15. Looks like the rebels are on the right track. I was pleased to see them moving the ball. Bobby Hauck is the right man for the job. I was at the Wisconsin game last year and you can see the improvements on the field. I think by the Nevada game we will see a team that has made even more strides. Herring had a QB rating of 135.6 against Wisconsin. Only better things to come and the defense was overplaying the run and going against a beast of a front line. The defense will pick up once they get some pressure on the ball. Very exciting times for UNLV.

    I think if the kicker had hit his first two field goals it would have changed the outcome and output of the Rebels sooner. Getting the first score is always the toughest. GO REBELS and Good luck against washington st.

    Looking at the rest of the schedule I see it like this

    Washintong State Possible Win
    Hawaii at Home Possible Win
    SUU WIn
    Nevada Possible Win
    Wyoming Win
    CSU Win
    Boise Loss
    New Mexico Win
    Air Force Loss but close
    San Diego State Close Possible Win
    TCU loss

    SO we could be 8-4 if we play our butts off or 4-8.
    Keep in mind Wyoming lost their QB to Vanderbilt and CSU has off field issues.

  16. You have to be a total idiot to think that UNLV even had a chance against Wisconsin. Then again Nevada is one of the dumbest states in the union.

  17. Hey! UNLV beat the spread by 1 point, just like last year. Plus, UNLV showed a much better running game than last year. The passing game will improve as the season wears. Big concern: Kohorst. Hauck's style of offense is running, then passing, then a good kicker to get something out of a drive. Kohorst has to shape up or ship out.

  18. The offense looked good overall. But you can't constantly run the ball if your D isn't getting stops. We don't have the type of team for a shoot out. hopefully their defense can make some adjustments.