UNLV football:

Nick Sherry gets hit often in college debut, a 30-27 triple-overtime loss to Minnesota

Sherry’s passing faded as the hits piled up, but Tim Cornett and the Rebels defense kept the game close in tough defeat

Image

Steve Marcus

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry is taken down by Ra’Shede Hageman during UNLV’s season opener against Minnesota at Sam Boyd Stadium Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.

UNLV vs. Minnesota

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry is taken down by Ra'Shede Hageman during UNLV's season opener against Minnesota at Sam Boyd Stadium Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.  Launch slideshow »

There’s no record of just how many times UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry got hit Thursday night. Officially he was sacked just twice, but seemingly every time he went back to pass — and even just after hand-offs — Sherry had to get picked up off the ground by teammates.

It was a rough welcome to college football for the freshman and it played a big role in UNLV’s hard-fought 30-27 triple-overtime loss to Minnesota (1-0) at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Sherry’s first big mistake — an interception that Brock Vareen camped under like he was fielding a punt — came in the first quarter, and it was really the only blemish in a solid first half. UNLV (0-1) went into halftime down 7-3 and Sherry was 12-of-18 for 93 yards.

While the Rebels stayed in the game the whole way, Sherry disappeared down the stretch, going 4-for-17 the rest of the way with two more interceptions.

“The hits wore me down,” Sherry said. “I haven’t been hit in two years. The first ones kind of woke me up and in the second half I started to feel it.”

The middle pick wasn’t Sherry’s fault. A short pass intended for Devante Davis was batted into the air and scooped up by a Minnesota defender. That happens, and UNLV’s defense actually turned the mistake into what could be the most positive drive of the game moving forward with the season.

The Gophers set up at the 25-yard line and immediately went to the 12. From there the Rebels stiffened up and shut down Minnesota at the 5, forcing a field goal.

Before that kick the game was tied and Minnesota had been lapping UNLV in total yardage. It seemed inevitable that the Gophers would break through and possibly break the game open, but UNLV held strong.

The final stats, including 478 yards allowed, don’t tell a story of defensive excellence, but UNLV’s defenders were stellar in keeping the game close.

“We’re finally playing defense here,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “Defense has not been synonymous with UNLV football, and we hope that it does become that way.”

Junior Tim Hasson finished with seven total tackles, including a sack, and added an interception on the first possession of the game and a fumble recovery that helped UNLV’s offense snap out of its third-quarter funk.

The Rebels got the ball to start the second half and promptly went three-and-out on their first two possessions. The first one was just three incomplete passes and the Rebels actually called for another pass (another incompletion) on the first play of the second drive.

Sherry wasn’t getting much time in the first half and that only got worse in the final 30 minutes. Instead of taking advantage of Minnesota’s offensive stagnation, UNLV failed to put a couple of plays together, let alone sustain a drive.

“We had a chance to maybe put a little space between us and them in the third quarter and they won it on the defensive side of the football,” Hauck said.

Hasson’s fumble recovery on a muffed punt changed that by giving the offense the ball at Minnesota’s 33-yard line. A pass interference penalty and Tim Cornett, who finished with a career-high 127 yards, did most of the work from there. Cornett plunged in from one yard out for a 10-7 UNLV lead.

That offensive revival was short-lived, though. The teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter and set up an overtime that outscored regulation.

Cornett scored from 18 yards out. Then Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray threw to John Rabe to force the second session. Gray and Rabe hooked up again on the very next play and UNLV needed a personal foul penalty just to give itself a chance to force a third overtime.

On fourth down from the 6-yard line Sherry scrambled left and found a wide-open Davis in the end zone. It was Sherry’s final completion.

Tied at 27, UNLV took the ball again in the third overtime, and from the 11-yard line Sherry rolled to his right under pressure and lofted an easy interception toward the end zone.

It was a bad throw and, worse, it went against the most important lesson Hauck had tried to instruct in his freshman quarterback.

“One thing Coach told me was, ‘You don’t have to win the game,’ ” Sherry said. “I saw a receiver in the back of the end zone but I was running away from a guy so I didn’t have balance and under threw him.”

Minnesota ended the game with a 32-yard field goal that sent what was left of a sparse 16,013 crowd for the exits.

The result, obviously, is not what UNLV was going for, especially not after being so close to victory. It’s the first game, though, and there are 12 more to go. In order to find some positive results in those remaining games UNLV needs more defensive performances like this one, which Hauck made sound like a certainty.

“It’s a given that we’re going to be a hard-hitting, physical football team,” Hauck said.

They also need to avoid the usual game-killers like turnovers and penalties. Cornett said the team would rally around Sherry after his up-and-down debut.

And Sherry, though disappointed, was very positive after the game. He took his lumps and nearly pulled out the victory. He and Cornett both agreed this is not the same team that lost its opener at Wisconsin last year.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” Sherry said. “Now I’ve got to fix my mistakes.”

He’s certainly not the only one.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 25 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy.

  1. I feel pretty positive about watching the game last night. I definitely think they can contend for a bowl game. Sherry has a lot of work to do, but the running game is very good. Cornett was still able to average over 5 yards per carry despite the defense keying in on him.

    Finally, they have some decent looking uniforms. The old ones were some of the cheapest uniforms I've ever seen.

  2. Boy is Minnesota bad. I thought they'd have this by at least 2 touchdowns. Goes to show how bad the Minnesota program is right now. Which tells you even more about UNLV's.

    Time for Hauck to go? Yes. 2yrs too late.

  3. That's foolish. If you didn't see the improvement on this team, you're blind.

  4. Definite improvement over last year. Don't think they are going to a bowl but oughta eek out 4 or 5 wins.

    Not sure about Sherry. There weren't even many signs of goodness much less greatness.

  5. Rebels fans should be ashamed of an empty silver bowl last night...

  6. Improved over last year, yes. Improved to beat a terrible team, no. When you watch the game, it's just so frustrating at how bad they look. The team just seemingly goes through the motions on both sides of the ball without any sense of urgency or talent. I underestimated how bad Minnesota's offense was, but had really hoped UNLV's defense woulda been better than it was. Cornett looked good. Sherry looked good when he had more than a split second to work with. Hasson looked good. That's about it.

  7. @ Brian - There definitely could have been a bigger turnout for the game, but you also have to take into account the time that the game was scheduled.

    I'm not sure who would be responsible for the scheduling (TV maybe), but Thursday night with an 8pm kickoff during the first week of school? Not the best idea for a home opener if you want families to be able to come out and watch the game.

    Even if the game was a quick game without the OTs, a conservative estimate would have the game ending around 11pm. Unfortunately, the way fans in this city are, the loss will probably mean a smaller turnout at the next home game(s) than there probably should be. I know I'll be at the next three with my son.

  8. I left the game wondering if UNLV is better than I tout, or if Minnesota is worse than I orignally thought. I would have to say that Minnesota is worse than I thought. Their QB missed WIDE open receivers over and over that would've gone for easy touchdowns. #17 for the Rebs is pretty awful. The Gophers were targeting him all night. He plays 10 yards off receivers and allows easy passes.

    As for the offense, I feel like I'm watching the same six plays over and over. Maybe the team should try quick slants and short passes, mixing in screens, to help the running game. Sherry definitely has a live arm, but he throws passes at the feet of his receivers or way above their heads. Hopefully he can improve there.

    But I do agree that the team looks better. It doesn't have that quitter feel it used to. I think the Rebs will keep games close, but will probably end up with a losing record despite the weak schedule. That said, next season will be interesting.

  9. @Mike, there seemed to be plenty of Minnesota fans at the game. I bet there were even more watching on TV.

  10. Of course I watched the game... and the second sentence in your post directly after mine makes little sense. I agree cornerback play is weak, even the veteran Sidney Hodge made a couple of errors. The Defensive line doesn't create enough pressure and everyone on the Defense could use some fundamental tackling drills. The offensive coordinator should know better than to call four pass plays in a row. With that being said, a lot of Sherry's incomplete passes sailed on him a little bit. He needs a little more touch because he had open receivers. The execution on the screen plays were god awful but they would have worked earlier in the game.

  11. Close but no Cigar

    At times Rebel's looked great

  12. where do we go from here? minnesota looked horrible and they will be lucky to win 4 games all year. I have seen bigger high school o lines down here in san diego then what i saw on unlv last night.secondary is got to be one of the worst in the nation... another 2-3 win season.. dont get me wrong im not trying to hate.. yes they improved but not enough to make it count on wins and loss its very disappointing

  13. At least we now have a real QB who can take a licking and keep one ticking!

  14. Don't get too excited about this program yet. They beat Hawaii last year at the beginning of the year only to get hammered by Southern Utah later. Cedar City, Southern Utah. The miserable season was capped off with a loss to New Mexico. Real low, New Mexico. Not to much enthusiasm yet Rebel Fans...

  15. I was shocked to see how few UNLV fans showed up. Minnesota had more fans and they were louder.
    Neither team looked good but I think UNLV is better then they have been.

    The answer isn't to bring in another coach. Hauck can coach but needs time ( at least five or six years) before then will win more then five games.

    Actually, Minnesota has a much bigger problem with their schedule. Keep the faith and give the coach some time to develop his program. It won't happen in two or three years...trust me on that

  16. Have to admit the new uniforms were a nice change. This was a very winnable game, but the Rebels did not capitalize on the opportunities to score. There were some flashes of positive change, but the interceptions really hurt the Rebels. The loss indeed was disappointing and concerning to a mediocre Minnesota team, hopefully the team will learn from their first game mistakes. Nick Sherry is a work in progress, but the offensive line needs to step up and protect their quarterback. Good Luck Rebels....

  17. You homers are amazing.. There was nothing there that was great. UNLV should have lost in regulation if it was not for the refs blowing the call on the punt return. Coach Hauck needs to go or UNLV might as well drop to a division 2 school. It was a sad far when UNLV could not even beat a bottom feeder of the Big10.

    Wake up people the coach needs to go, there was no urgency, no motivation. A high school team would have no problems beating UNLV, at this rate I would not expect more then a win or 2. FIRE THE COACH, lets move on this is only going to get worse!

  18. Had the opportunity to watch Sherry during high school and have always been impressed with his outstanding leadership and toughness. The best game I ever saw him play was his final high school basketball game against the eventual California state champs where he guarded and dominated the highly touted Aaron Gordon...had Gordon nearly in tears at one point due to Sherry's domination.

    UNLV is lucky to have his toughness...just be patient and you'll be rewarded.

  19. Dear Hater(aka Go Bruins): It would seem to me that being in a "Glass House" assuming you are a supporter of UCLA, I would think you would be more concerned about your once mighty football and basketball teams instead of "Throwing stones" bytalking smack about UNLV's football program. Why not give UCLA the opportunity for some of your hate?

  20. 4 or 5 wins? Has anyone looked at the schedule. I see 1 winnable game, no. Az.

  21. Okay, JahReb, here's your one coach: Dan McCarney at Iowa St went 9-3 in 2000, his sixth season with the Cyclones. Prior to that his highest season win total was four.

    For my prize, I'd like you to dispense with your "Can the Coach" rants until after five games, at which point you may resume, if you still feel that way. I'm not saying you can't be critical. Just give it a rest, will ya?

  22. LMAO, Hauck is a joke and we should have canned after last season when it was evident to EVERYONE except the homers that he is a bust. Now, we're screwed and wasting a lot of time with this year as another blown year.

    It's going to be fun to watch how pathetic Hauck is. Another sad year for us alumni.

  23. Week 1 in the books.
    Triple OT tough loss keep in mind USC(@ home) opened up with Minnesota last year and escaped with a two point victory 19-17 getting shut out in the second half.
    I went to the game,Big Ten bring big bodies. We are still developing. Red Shirt Freshman behind center under duress most of the night made a key play on 4th down to get us to 3rd ot then turned it over. Part of the game.
    I saw a lot of D1 programs struggle. Lets see how we rebound next week.
    Rebels

  24. Hauch is going to make this happen. He has what it takes.Pete Carrol had 3 bad years before his victoriies came. UNLV was just as good as Minnisota. UNLV could win 6 games.I didn't believe it until I saw them play.If Sherry gets accurate and gets 4-5 seconds, & or more proficient on the scramble to buy time (he throws great on the run) they take the Mountain West.Sherry made some bad decisions but that is fixable.Sleeping tiger here at UNLV.

  25. The team actually did show improvement in certain fundamental areas. The secondary and offensive line need work, but the front seven actually made some tackles and got some stops. Last two seasons, a dual threat qb would have destoyed our D. Minnesota might be at the bottom of the Big Ten, but they would be a 6 win team in the MWC.

    UNLV can win between 4-6 games this year if they can actually build on this performance and improve from each week. There are plenty of winnable games left. NAU, Wash State, La Tech, Wyo, UNM, CSU, and Hawaii are all winnable games. The only games I think they will for sure lose is Utah State and Boise State. I believe they will surprise some teams this year. I predict a 5-6 win season this year, this team actually looks like it believes it can compete.