Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 | 6:32 p.m.
- Take 5: Getting ready for Saturday’s must-win game against New Mexico
- Mountain Best: League has a few tricks and treats left heading into November
- Rebels trying to ignore poor record and finish strong, starting with New Mexico
- Sherry expected to start, though UNLV’s offensive line still in flux
- UNLV quarterback improving but still not cleared to start on Saturday
- Mountain Best: Teams around the league doing their best to avoid a meltdown
- Sherry injured as Rebels drop forgettable 32-7 decision at Boise State
- All UNLV Football Coverage
After a nearly perfectly played game on a perfect Saturday afternoon in Sam Boyd Stadium, UNLV coach Bobby Hauck basked in how much fun this game can be when you’re not losing all the time.
The view from the sidelines in UNLV’s 35-7 victory against New Mexico was the same as most games, he said, except the Rebels actually made some plays down the stretch. That’s sort of like saying the view at the dance club was the same as it always is except the Rebel Girls were there. The difference matters.
“We’ve got to do that more often,” Hauck said. “That was fun.”
Saturday was the start of a key four-game stretch that could have the Rebels favored each week. Next week they travel to Colorado State, whose only conference victory came against Hawaii. The Rebels finish the season against those same Warriors with a home game against Wyoming in between.
Winning the games you’re supposed to may not make you a great program, but it’s at least what good teams do. And good would be good enough considering the way this year has gone.
“The things we’ve been talking about (building) for the last two and a half years, you can kind of see it being developed,” Hauck said.
There were a few moments in the third quarter when feelings of impending disaster may have entered the minds of those in and around this program. UNLV led 21-0 at halftime and then punted on consecutive drives while New Mexico scored a touchdown. With UNLV facing third down on the final play of the third quarter, it appeared the Rebels could give the ball right back and perhaps to see its lead shrink to one possession.
That’s what would have happened in most of the other games UNLV (2-8, 2-3) has played this year. And considering the drive started with a five-yard penalty, backing the Rebels inside their own 20-yard line, it seemed likely. These are the types of conversions UNLV hasn’t been able to make this year.
“I felt like they were starting to make a run,” receiver Devante Davis said of New Mexico.
UNLV faced third-and-five at its own 25. The play call was a simple comeback route that planted Davis just past the first-down marker on the right side of the field. That he caught it would have been enough to feel OK about the outcome heading into the fourth quarter.
Instead, he shook off the defender and suddenly faced the dream scenario for every offensive skill player in the country: about 70 yards of empty space.
“I heard the sideline go ‘Wooo,’ looked forward and saw nothing,” Davis said.
He boosted Nick Sherry's numbers by scoring a 75-yard touchdown that all but locked up UNLV’s first victory in six weeks. That last one, also against an option team in Air Force, required a furious rally. This was different, both from that game and the eight losses. This was UNLV pushing its opponent around for 60 minutes.
“It was satisfying,” Sherry said.
Sherry was 17-for-27 with 289 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, pedestrian numbers compared with the rest of the backfield. Bradley Randle ran for 113 yards and two scores while Tim Cornett had his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season — 107 yards to be exact — on just nine carries. It’s the first time UNLV has had two 100-yard rushers since 2002, and Cornett eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season in the process.
“It would have been devastating to hear about me having 1,000 yards on my individual statistics without having a win,” Cornett said.
Davis finished with 145 receiving yards, and the Rebels outgained New Mexico 530 yards to 350 despite possessing the ball for 22 fewer minutes. Weird stats like that can happen against option-based teams, and New Mexico is clearly that. The Lobos completed just three passes, going for gains of 38, five and zero yards.
“They can’t really pass the ball, so we sold out on the run,” said safety Dre Crawford, who had a game-leading 11 tackles.
New Mexico came in as the nation’s fifth-leading rushing team with 302.7 yards per game. They went over that with 307, but most of them were meaningless. When the Lobos get into an early hole like they did Saturday, the constant running hurts far more than it helps.
This game ended UNLV’s four-game losing streak against backup quarterbacks this year, and next week the Rebels could end a much more substantial one: 20 straight road losses. Certainly one game doesn’t end the concerns about executing on game day, but it doesn’t hurt either. The Rebels got to feel like winners again, celebrating together and with the few fans in attendance. This felt important to them.
“Every win is a great moment in that locker room,” Davis said.
They’d like to have a few more of those before 2012 comes to a close.