Published Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 | 6 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 | 11:28 p.m.
- Take 5: Minnesota players and plots to know before Thursday’s game at UNLV
- The three-year itch: The Rebels’ confidence in practice needs to translate to the field in 2012
- Analysis: Importance of UNLV’s opener against Minnesota can’t be overstated
- For UNLV’s Aaron Reed, being an ambassador for UNLV football is a job he takes with pride
- UNLV football’s staff prepares for 2012 season opener with new play-callers
- All UNLV Football Coverage
MINNESOTA 30, UNLV 27
Jordan Wettstein hit a 32-yard field goal in triple overtime, giving Minnesota a 30-27 victory that picked up a lot at the end.
The teams were tied at 13 at the end of regulation after Nolan Kohorst tied the game with under three minutes remaining. Both teams scored fairly easily in the first overtime. UNLV's Tim Cornett, who finished with a career-high 127 yards, rushed in from 18 out for his second touchdown. For Minnesota, MarQueis Gray found John Rabe for a score.
On the following play, in second overtime, Gray hit a wide-open Rabe for another touchdown. The Rebels went down to fourth down on their possession, but Nick Sherry eventually connected with Devante Davis for a score.
UNLV started with the ball in the third overtime, and Sherry threw a bad pass that was picked off in the end zone. It was his third interception of the game. Minnesota played conservatively and won with the field goal.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the game.
UNLV 20, MINNESOTA 13
Tim Cornett ran in from 18 yards out to give UNLV the advantage in the first overtime period against Minnesota.
The play was reviewed and eventually upheld before the Rebels added the extra point for a seven-point lead. Now if they keep Minnesota out of the end zone, they win. If the Gophers tie the game then we're doing it all over again.
UNLV 13, MINNESOTA 13
2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter
Nolan Kohorst buried a 35-yard field goal to tie the game late in the fourth quarter after junior Tim Cornett carried the team down the field on a quick scoring drive.
The offensive line suddenly opened holes that hadn't been there for most of the game and Cornett took big advantage. The drive stalled inside the 20 once UNLV attempted to pass its way to the end zone, but Kohorst made sure they didn't walk away empty handed.
UNLV's offense played its part. Now it's on the defense to match their effort in the final minutes.
MINNESOTA 13, UNLV 10
5:40 remaining in the fourth quarter
Minnesota picked off a batted ball near the 25-yard line that set up a short field and an easy scoring chance, yet the UNLV defense was able to hold once again and limit the damage to a field goal.
The third-down pass was intended for Devante Davis, who popped it up into the air a couple of times before a Minnesota defender was able to swoop in and grab it for an interception. It's Sherry's second pick of the game, though this one was hardly his fault.
The result is that UNLV's offense has to get going again and find its way into a scoring chance. They'll get two or three more chances at this if they're lucky, so it's time to put something together.
UNLV 10, MINNESOTA 10
8:55 remaining in the fourth quarter
UNLV's Alex Klorman made the most important tackle of the game so far, taking down MarQueis Gray in the open field just shy of a first down, forcing Minnesota to kick a 32-yard field goal that tied the game at 10.
Gray looked like he was wrapped up in the backfield by multiple Rebels, but he evaded capture and sprinted toward the open field and the first down inside the 15-yard line. The only guy between him and the first down — and possibly the end zone — was Klorman, who grabbed one ankle and brought him down.
UNLV's defense has given up a lot of big plays, but they've countered by making plenty of their own. Without great field position it's unclear if this offense can get going again. However, the defense seems up to the task.
UNLV 10, MINNESOTA 7
End of the third quarter
Tim Cornett plunged into the end zone from one yard out with 1:52 left in the third quarter, capping off a five-play, 33-yard scoring drive that was the benefit of a Minnesota muffed punt recovered by UNLV's Tim Hasson.
Hasson already had an interception and a sack, but so far the fumble recovery is his most important play of the game. UNLV's offense opened the second half with two consecutive three-and-outs and didn't look much better on the third drive. That's when Minnesota dropped the ball and Hasson jumped all over it.
With great field position, the UNLV offense suddenly had some life again. After nearly throwing an interception in the end zone, Nick Sherry handed the ball off the rest of the way and left it to Cornett to finish off.
The Rebels' defense has been pretty solid (very bend but not break) in the second half. Now with the lead again, I expect even more fire and maybe some more blitzes. They've been aggressive most of the night and that may dial up a notch right here.
MINNESOTA 7, UNLV 3
The Gophers missed a 32-yard field goal in the final minute and UNLV's final attempt to score before halftime fell short, leaving Minnesota with a 7-3 advantage.
Minnesota has won most facets of the game — the Gophers are out gaining the Rebels 241-134 and they're hitting Nick Sherry early and often — but this game is still obviously within UNLV's grasp.
With the pressure that they're facing, it's difficult for Sherry to have time to pass or for Tim Cornett, who's got 35 yards on six carries, to find space. UNLV has tried to run some screens to alleviate that but so far it hasn't worked very well.
Marcus Sullivan, who came out of the game a little banged up on the secod to last possession, is the leading receiver with five catches for 53 yards. Sherry is 12-for18 for 93 yards with one interception and two sacks.
This is right where UNLV wants to be. Not necessarily in this type of hole as far as yardage goes, but the Rebels aren't getting blasted and they will start the second half with the ball. Sherry needs to find some mojo and avoid another turnover, but this is still a winnable game.
MINNESOTA 7, UNLV 3
9:26 remaining in the second quarter
The biggest play of the Gophers' quick, efficient 80-yard touchdown drive was when UNLV cornerback Kenneth Penny missed bad on a route, allowing the Gopher receiver to scat down the sideline and set up James Gillum's 16-yard touchdown run.
Minnesota has been dominating the yardage all game so it figured the Gophers would break through eventually. The trouble for UNLV is that it came with a lot of help through the air. If the Rebels are going to have a chance, they can't get beat both on the ground and in the passing game like that.
But you always figured UNLV would trail at some point. Now that's happened and the Rebels have to come up with a response. Let's see what Sherry and the offense have got.
UNLV 3, MINNESOTA 0
End of the first quarter
One bad throw aside, UNLV is playing an excellent game so far at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The defense got pushed around on the first drive but it held strong, eventually getting an interception inside its own red zone. And the offense, particularly running back Tim Cornett, has been solid. On their first drive the Rebels marched down near the red zone, just missed on a touchdown pass and then kicked a field goal for the lead.
The second drive looked promising too, until Nick Sherry pulled a freshman move by chucking the ball deep into good coverage, where Gophers defensive back easily picked it off.
Sherry can't make too many more plays like that if they're going to stay close, because Minnesota is leading in yardage 94-48 and figures to break through at some point. UNLV needs to do that, too.
UNLV 3, MINNESOTA 0
9:13 remaining in the first quarter
After getting marched on during the opening drive, UNLV's defense came up with an interception and took it back deep enough to set the Rebels up for an eventual 39-yard field goal.
Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray had no trouble carving up the defense on the ground, but he looked very uncomfortable on passing plays, which makes it a little surprising Minnesota tried to pass it once it neared the red zone. Still, that's what the Gophers did, and after the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage, linebacker Tim Hasson came down with it and returned the interception 44 yards.
From there, freshman Nick Sherry opened with a pass on his first collegiate snap, then gave the ball to Tim Cornett for a few nice gains. The drive stalled near the 20, settling up the field goal and giving UNLV a lead in front of a crowd that isn't exactly as partisan as Rebels fans would hope.
UNLV opens season tonight at 8 against Minnesota
The Nick Sherry era is about to begin.
That’s what a lot of UNLV football fans are hoping right now, that this is an era, not just another guy making a mockery of the position while the game gets out of hand in the first half.
Tonight at 8 against Minnesota (on CBS Sports Network) is the Rebels’ first winnable season opener under third-year coach Bobby Hauck. The line opened at +12, dropped to +8 and just this afternoon could be found at +9.5. It seems like no one can make up their mind on just how many points to spot the Gophers, which is a lot different than the last two years when the question was how many touchdowns to spot Wisconsin.
With freshman quarterback Sherry at the helm, there’s optimism for the future and, inexplicably, confidence about the present. This team has been walking around like a proven winner since spring, and now it’s time to prove that feeling. They’ve got new helmets, new uniforms and a new feeling of what’s possible.
This game, like most for UNLV this season, has got to start with the running game. Junior running back Tim Cornett is arguably the Rebels’ best player on either side of the ball, and honestly it’s a short argument. His primary backup tonight will likely be junior Bradley Randle as sophomore Dionza Bradford, who was the team’s second-leading rusher last season, continues to recover from an ankle injury that has hampered his return to the team. Bradford will likely still get some playing time, though, which is more than I can say for receivers Marcus Sullivan and Eric Johnson.
Sullivan has been out with an undisclosed injury since camp in Ely, and Hauck said Johnson is unlikely to play. If Sullivan is, in fact, out that means sophomore Taylor Spencer, a Bishop Gorman grad, will be the primary deep threat.
No matter who ends up playing at receiver, look for redshirt freshman Jake Phillips to get a lot of looks. Phillips is big — 6-foot-6, 245 pounds — fast and has really good hands. He and Sherry have shown a lot of chemistry in practice and Phillips streaking up the middle may end up being UNLV’s favorite non-running offensive play this year.
On defense there are big questions with every position group. Are the ends athletic enough to anchor the defensive line? Will someone else step up alongside linebacker John Lotulelei? And just who’s going to make the plays in the secondary? The latter may be the easiest to answer (Sidney Hodge and Dre Crawford), but until you actually see it on the field against outside competition there are going to be questions.
And, of course, it’s not like all of those will be answered tonight. But at least some of them will. The learning curve of the defensive line is going to face a stiff test with mobile Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray. The Gophers have a running game that, like UNLV, they want to rely on and use to control the clock. And a couple of early Sherry turnovers could doom his first start and UNLV’s debut before it ever really gets going.
Bern’s prediction: There’s a lot of optimism, at least inside the UNLV locker room, about this game and this season. They look better, and that’s the first step to playing better, but one doesn’t guarantee the other. The Rebels have still got a long way to go with a young roster. Tonight is the first step.
I expect a low-scoring game for most of the contest with a few short bursts of points from both teams. There are a lot of similarities between both squads and you could say that Minnesota is the UNLV of the Big Ten. Of course, that means Minnesota is better, and I would agree. The road hasn’t been kind to them, but it’s not going to be too hot for the Midwesterners and after some sloppiness and breakout plays on both sides, I think the Gophers sneak out with a win.
Minnesota 27, UNLV 20