Rebels football:

Blog: Bulldogs pull away for 58-31 victory against UNLV

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Arely D. Castillo / Associated Press

Louisiana Tech’s Ray Holley (32) scores a touchdown ahead of UNLV defender Princeton Jackson during their NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, in Ruston, La.

Updated Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 | 7:44 p.m.

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Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton (4) looks for open space as UNLV's Sidney Hodge (36) tries to stop him during their NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, at the Joe Ailliet Stadium in Ruston, La.

LasVegasSun.com Sports Talk

Accepting UNLV on the road and swinging through golf

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Taylor Bern dive into UNLV football's most recent loss and break down their own gambling weekend as well as the upcoming PGA event in town.

LOUISIANA TECH 58, UNLV 24

Game over

RUSTON, La. — Kenneth Dixon rushed for four touchdowns and Louisiana Tech scored it most points since 2000 in a 58-31 rout against UNLV, dropping the Rebels to 1-5 on the year.

The Bulldogs moved to 5-0 ahead of a big matchup next week against Texas A&M with a game they always controlled despite leading by just three in the third quarter. With the way Louisiana Tech was moving the ball on offense it just never felt like UNLV would be able to keep up.

The Rebels' Devante Davis had career highs for receptions (eight) and yards (186) and Tim Cornett finished with his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Nick Sherry completed 22 of 46 passes for 378 with four touchdowns, and it wasn't close to enough.

The Bulldogs are simply a better team that outplayed the Rebels for the majority of the game. This was always going to happen to UNLV, unfortunately.

The important thing for UNLV is to bounce back at home with a very important homecoming game against UNR, which squeaked out a 35-28 overtime victory against Wyoming tonight.

Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's game.

LOUISIANA TECH 51, UNLV 24

12:01 remaining in the fourth quarter

It always seemed inevitable, this outcome. Louisiana Tech's offense was simply too good and UNLV's defense too poor for it to end any other way.

The Bulldogs found space everywhere they looked on offense; ground or air didn't matter. Kenneth Dixon put Louisiana Tech up 51-24 with his fourth score of the night, but it wasn't like the passing game has struggled tonight. They could do either at basically any time.

UNLV's offense has played well, too, but they needed a lot more help than the defense was able to give them. This game has played out almost exactly to script so it's hard to really get too riled up over anything. Louisiana Tech is a lot better and that's the way it looked tonight.

LOUISIANA TECH 37, UNLV 24

7:30 remaining in the third quarter

I'll say this for the Rebels, they're going down swinging. It may look like a guy flailing his arms in a dark room, but they're trying.

Facing fourth and 11 in its own territory, UNLV called for a fake punt that saw Chase Lansford fall several yards short of the first down. Louisiana Tech took the short field and turned it into a long field goal.

Back to the fourth-down attempt. It's not a bad decision to go for it. UNLV coach Bobby Hauck has seen how easily this Bulldogs team tears through his defense. But with that information, and that many yards to go, why not try something with a little better chance of success? Have Herring in there to throw the ball, or just keep the offense on the field.

It's easy to nitpick decisions after they don't work, and I want to reiterate that I really like the Rebels going for it, but that requires some better decision making on the play calls, too.

LOUISIANA TECH 27, UNLV 24

12:17 remaining in the third quarter

Marcus Sullivan emerged from the crowd, the ball tucked in his left hand and his right arm free to deliver the decisive stiff arm that allowed him to scamper into the end zone for a 46-yard receiving score. For now, this is a game.

UNLV came out firing, converting a third down (also to Sullivan) on its way down the field for a quick score that gives the Rebels a fighting chance. The onus is still on the defense, as it will be the rest of the game, to keep the game close, but UNLV has a little momentum. Maybe that will mean something. Most likely it won't.

LOUISIANA TECH 27, UNLV 17

Halftime

This game could have been far out of reach by now and it's a credit to the Rebels, particularly one player, that UNLV is still in this game, down just 27-17 at halftime.

That player is receiver Devante Davis, who with 180 yards and a touchdown on seven catches already has the 13th-most single-game receiving yards in UNLV history. He has given quarterback Nick Sherry a big target to find both on short routes and down the field, and thus far the two have connected with surprising success.

The fumble and blocked punt that led to touchdowns could have effectively ended this game. It's likely they will still prove too much for UNLV to fully overcome. But Davis' 33-yard touchdown run snapped a 24-0 run by the Bulldogs and gave both sides of the ball for the Rebels a little life. The defense got a stop, the offense added a field goal and they survived into halftime after the Bulldogs squandered an opportunity to get points.

How does UNLV sustain this in the second half? For starters it would help if some other receivers could find some space since the Bulldogs will likely divert extra attention to Davis. Really, though, UNLV's ability to keep it close will come down to the defense.

Louisiana Tech moved the ball mostly with ease in the first half and it will look to do the same the rest of the way. UNLV has had just one defensive drive of note; the rest of them saw the Bulldogs do whatever they want. I think it's too much to expect for the defense to suddenly improve that much in 20 minutes. If they can get pressure on the quarterback maybe they'll have a chance. More likely UNLV could keep it close into the fourth quarter, like last week, before bowing to the better team.

LOUISIANA TECH 27, UNLV 14

5:32 remaining in the second quarter

Devante Davis has a career high catches and yards today with six receptions for 113 yards, including a score that keeps UNLV in the game for a little bit longer.

Davis has really emerged in the second quarter as Nick Sherry's go-to receiver. The receiver made three really nice catches, including the 33-yarder that pulled the Rebels within 27-14.

Considering their deficit the Rebels are still very dependent on their defense to keep this game close for as long as possible. Based on the results thus far that's unlikely, but at least the score jolts a little life into this team on both sides of the ball. Maybe they'll be able to do something with it before halftime.

LOUISIANA TECH 27, UNLV 7

8:25 remaining in the second quarter

On its last offensive drive UNLV converted one fourth down. It needed two.

The Rebels went for their second fourth down — they needed one yard from the 2-yard line — and failed to pick it up. One play later the Bulldogs were past the 50-yard line and it didn't take long for them to find the end zone once again.

Let me be clear: Going for it on fourth down (both of them) was absolutely the right call. UNLV has to take risks like that to have any kind of chance in this game. To do anything less is to give the game away, because the Bulldogs have proven they can move the ball at will.

Just because it didn't work out this time shouldn't deter the Rebels from making the same decisions the rest of the game. It's not going to pay off today, but it's the right play to make in this type of situation.

LOUISIANA TECH 20, UNLV 7

End of the first quarter

Blocked punts don't count as turnovers. But between you and me that's exactly what UNLV did in getting its punt blocked not once, but twice in a row late in the first quarter.

The first one was called back because the referee said UNLV players reacted to a whistle in the stands. So they lined up again and the Bulldogs did it once more, which pretty much sums up UNLV football of the past few years.

Since Louisiana Tech was going to get the ball back anyway it's not technically a turnover, but as a result the Bulldogs got the ball at the 10-yard line and scored immediately.

Ladies and gentleman, the rout appears to be on. The best the Rebels can do right now is stave it off for awhile (and maybe pull off a backdoor cover).

LOUISIANA TECH 13, UNLV 7

2:48 remaining in the first quarter

I said before the game the quickest route to a blowout was turning the ball over. Well, UNLV lost its first fumble of the season in the first quarter and Louisiana Tech quickly turned it into a touchdown.

The Bulldogs are moving the ball with tremendous ease so far and the short field only made things easier. The Rebels simply can't survive turnovers today. They're not good enough to win without a few breaks coming their way, let alone giving breaks to the opponent.

UNLV 7, LOUISIANA TECH 6

6:07 remaining in the first quarter

This is now two drives where the Bulldogs have been forced to settle for a field goal. That alone is a small victory for the Rebels.

This time Louisiana Tech got inside the 5-yard line before a pair of penalties knocked them back to the 21. The Bulldogs are getting yardage and you know they're going to score eventually, but this at least gives UNLV a chance to get a little bit of a head start on the scoreboard.

UNLV 7, LOUISIANA TECH 3

9:42 remaining in the first quarter

When I saw the play develop Taylor Barnhill looked open on a deep post. By the time Nick Sherry lofted the ball down there Barnhill was in the end zone amid triple coverage. Yet it didn't matter.

Barnhill didn't even have to fight off the defenders. He just led the group into the end zone, under the ball and hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass. It looked like he had magnets in his hands that simply pulled the ball into his grasp.

However he caught it, this is obviously good news for UNLV. The Rebels are going to have to outscore the Bulldogs in order to have a chance, and this is a decent start.

LOUISIANA TECH 3, UNLV 0

12:35 remaining in the first quarter

There are two ways to look at the first drive of the game and the field goal Louisiana Tech got out of it.

The first is positive for UNLV. Despite letting the Bulldogs move down the field with ease, the Rebels came up with plays in the red zone and held their high-scoring opponent to a field goal.

The other is a look at what could have been for UNLV, which is a turnover and no points on the board. On both second and third downs inside the 15-yard line the Rebels could have (and in one case really should have) come up with the ball. The first was a tipped pass that nearly came down into Parker Holloway's arms. That's a tough play.

The second was a fumble caused by a great effort play from John Lotulelei. He ran the play down from behind and stripped the ball, where it just laid there waiting for UNLV to recover it. Instead, two Rebels converged and knocked the ball out of bounds off each other. It was a missed opportunity and UNLV is down 3-0 because of it.

Take that score as you will.

UNLV's offense needs to come out firing against Louisiana Tech

RUSTON, La. — UNLV’s hope for victory today at Louisiana Tech is that of a puncher’s chance, if said puncher didn’t actually know how much power he could pack into any given swing. He just hoped it was a lot.

See, the Rebels think they have a solid offense, and it kind of looks that way, too. Last week’s 13-point performance in a loss at Utah State certainly didn’t bear that out, but here’s the silver lining: UNLV played much of the game without either of its opening day starting tackles — left tackle Brett Boyko didn’t play at all and right tackle Yusef Rodgers left with a leg injury. Starting running back Tim Cornett had by far his worst game of the year, and the offense got to or within the 5-yard-line twice but came away with only six combined points.

All of that, yet the team only trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter. Now I’ll admit, it never felt like UNLV had much of a chance to win at Utah State, but as long as the scoreboard says you’re close that’s all that really matters.

Today the O-line should be at full health, Cornett is looking to bounce back in a quasi-homecoming game for the junior from the Houston area and the offense will have little choice but to go for broke when it gets near the end zone. That’s because Louisiana Tech is as good as advertised on offense and the Bulldogs scoring two touchdowns a quarter isn’t spectacular; it’s average.

Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes is in his third year and has quickly replicated the type of success he had as an assistant under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, where he worked alongside current West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers score the third-most points per game in the country, just two spots ahead of the Bulldogs.

And if his weapons alone weren’t enough, there’s also the possibility of extra motivation. In 2009, Dykes was an assistant at Arizona, which Jim Livengood left to become the athletics director at UNLV. There were rumors that Livengood would try to bring Dykes along to be his football coach and that Dykes wanted the position, but it never materialized. Maybe it’s nothing, but there are some in the stands today who believe Dykes would get some extra enjoyment out of piling up the points against UNLV.

And who’s going to stop him? This looks like a terrible matchup for the UNLV defense, particularly a secondary that gets burned by easy pass patterns. And that was against bad teams. What’s going to happen when a stellar offense, one from a team that deserves to be ranked in the top 25, takes the field against the Rebels? Most likely nothing good, at least for UNLV.

Louisiana Tech plays Texas A&M next week in Shreveport for what a local sports radio host this morning called the most important regular season game in Bulldogs history. UNLV coach Bobby Hauck joked this week that he encouraged Dykes’ team to look forward to that game and past tonight’s, but even if they did the Bulldogs could win by a couple of touchdowns.

In order to keep pace, UNLV must pile up points at a rate higher than in the Washington State and Air Force games. That’s asking a lot considering the Rebels’ considerable struggles on the road, but they will go out there, swing a couple of haymakers and see what happens.

Bern’s prediction: If the Rebels hold on to the ball, this could look a lot like last week where, on the scoreboard at least, they’re in the game. If they turn it over, it’s going to be a blowout. It could turn into that either way, but UNLV should be able to get some yards against this team, and it’s just a matter of holding on to the ball. Keep it and it could be close in the second half. Give it away and you may as well warm up the bus. Louisiana Tech 52, UNLV 28.

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

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  1. Where do we get a scoreboard like theirs?

  2. HOLY COW - TRIPLE COVERAGE TOUCHDOWN!!!!

  3. Go Rebels !!!!