Rebels football:

The Fremont Cannon returns to Reno after UNLV’s second-half collapse

The Rebels’ 31-14 halftime lead disappeared quickly as the Wolf Pack ran roughshod over their rivals in the final 30 minutes

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNR fans celebrate while UNLV fans look despondent after UNR scored to put the game out of reach 42-31 Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Click to enlarge photo

In a pivotal play, UNLV defensive back Sidney Hodge appears to intercept a pass intended for UNR wide receiver Aaron Bradley during their game Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The play was nullified when Hodge was called for pass interference. UNR came from behind and won the game, for the eighth consecutive time, 42-37.

UNLV vs. UNR 2012

UNLV fans react to UNR's go-ahead touchdown during their game Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNR came from behind and won the game, for the eighth consecutive time, 42-37. Launch slideshow »

Fremont Cannon Game

KSNV reports on the annual football game between UNLV and UNR. Oct. 13.

One play does not a collapse make. This came from every angle, UNLV’s wheels falling off not one at a time but simultaneously, leaving the Rebels on the ground and frantically trying to force them back on while the Wolf Pack breezed past with the Fremont Cannon rolling its way back to Reno.

The Rebels debuted special uniforms at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday. They wore gray jerseys with gray pants and a special decal, the cannon painted red, on the helmet. It seemed prophetic as UNLV raced to a 28-7 lead. This was the one to end the streak, to keep the cannon in Las Vegas for the first time since 2004.

Then the second half came, and everything changed.

“Let me tell you something,” UNR coach Chris Ault said. “That cannon ain’t red. It’s blue and silver.”

After the Wolf Pack’s 42-37 gut-punching victory, no one could argue.

UNLV (1-6, 1-1) built its lead by controlling the ball and cutting up UNR’s defense with Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle on the ground and Nick Sherry through the air. The offense moved up and down the field at will, with Cornett amassing more than 100 yards in the first half and three receivers closing the half with at least three catches.

Everything the Rebels did right in the first half, the Wolf Pack (6-1, 3-0) flipped on them the rest of the way. UNLV led 31-14 at halftime and wouldn’t score again until a mostly meaningless 47-yard Marcus Sullivan touchdown catch with less than one minute remaining.

Consider this: UNLV possessed the ball in the second half for less time (eight minutes, 53 seconds) than it did in the first quarter alone (12:06). Before the Rebels’ final drive, the one that ended with Sullivan’s grab, they had amassed 46 yards the entire half.

“We were playing more to keep the lead than keep going,” said Sherry, who tallied the first rushing score of his career during the first half.

The Rebels must now be the runaway national leader in a stat category no one bothers to tabulate: losses to backup quarterbacks. First Northern Arizona, then Washington State. On Saturday, UNR’s Devin Combs started in place of Cody Fajardo and got better as the game wore on, finishing with 167 passing yards, 111 on the ground and three total touchdowns. Running back Stefphon Jefferson, the nation’s leading rusher, also piled up 185 yards and three touchdowns.

“I feel sick for our kids, specifically our seniors, and our fans, too,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said.

That one play, the one some may say is responsible for this collapse, came at the end of the third quarter.

UNR trailed 31-21 with the ball on UNLV’s 42-yard line. Rebels cornerback Sidney Hodge had man coverage on Aaron Bradley along the left sideline on a deep route. With the ball in the air, heads turned to the one-on-one matchup, where Hodge appeared to have terrific inside position on Bradley, who at one point was out of bounds.

Hodge intercepted the pass. Rebels cheered, and it appeared they would start the fourth quarter with the ball and a two-possession lead on their bitter rival. The flag on the play, too, seemed harmless, as just about everybody was expecting offensive pass interference on Bradley for trying to fight through Hodge to get to the ball.

Of course, you know by now that’s not how things went. The flag was on Hodge. Pass interference; first down Wolf Pack. They would score a few plays later, and an interception on UNLV’s next drive set up UNR’s go-ahead score just more than five minutes of game time after the penalty.

Click to enlarge photo

In a pivotal play, UNLV defensive back Sidney Hodge appears to intercept a pass intended for UNR wide receiver Aaron Bradley during their game Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The play was nullified when Hodge was called for pass interference. UNR came from behind and won the game, for the eighth consecutive time, 42-37.

“I thought it was a critical and game-changing call,” Hauck said.

Hodge, a Palo Verde grad, wears UNLV’s Battle Born No. 36 jersey. He looked dazed after the game as he struggled to come to terms with the result.

“One play’s not going to make or break this game,” Hodge said, “… but it would have been great to get that called the way it’s supposed to be.”

The play changed things, no doubt. But can anyone guarantee UNLV would have held on with that interception? That’s a debate fans could have for quite some time while the Rebels sift through the wreckage and attempt to put themselves back together.

There are no bye weeks this year. No chances to catch your breath and collect your thoughts. Effort hasn’t been a real issue this season, but a loss like this takes time to bounce back from. That’s time UNLV doesn’t have with a road trip to Boise State (5-1, 2-0) coming next weekend.

“I’m concerned,” Hauck said. “You saw how we came out of that locker room; we were ready to go. … They put a lot into this week. They were emotionally involved in this game, so yeah I’m worried about the next week getting our guys back up to play. This is hard.”

Added Hodge, “It just weighs on you. It’s a terrible feeling of being so close and getting to that point where we should just put our foot down their throat, and we just couldn’t.”

Hodge seemed to take it as hard as anybody. Maybe it’s because the junior was involved in the one play that arguably turned things against the Rebels for good. Or maybe he’s simply the embodiment of Hauck’s concern about the future and how in the hell this team is supposed to pick up the pieces.

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

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  1. Talk about a tale of two halves. :(
    How do you follow a flawless first half with that wretched of a second half? In a program where the play calling in all three phases of the game has been schizophrenic at best, the second half play calling was downright disgusting. Chalk up another game we looked a win straight in the eye and CHOKED on it.

  2. Hauck got nervous in 2nd half,Offense got tight and defense gave up big plays as usual and were offsides like ten times. Ref did make lousy call but don't think rebel offense would have taken advantage. Hauck does not seem to pull out wins in close games-bad manager of tight games. Will lose but compete against Boise State and after that,better start winning with SDSU if Hauck knows how to do that.

  3. bad coaching period !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. This is sad I knew they were gonna lose the other question was in what manner is was going to happen. Blow-out or heartbreaker? SMH. You know it's bad when the beat writer has given up.

  5. Rebel fans deserve better. How can you continue to support a program that isn't committed to winning? If UNLV was serious about it's football program then they would hire decent coaches. UNLV has had a few good coaches through the years, but most have been absolutely horrible, including Hauck. The athletic director needs to reevaluate what determines a head coach as a good fit for this program. How many second rate coaches does it take to see that second rate coaches don't win in major college football?

  6. So who is ready to raise some pitch forks and call for good 'ole Bobby's head? Have you homers seen enough yet to wake up and demand a new coach? Or is the same 'ole "next year will be better..." excuse still working for you?

  7. Hey, give me his 6-figure salary and let me take over. I can lose just as well as the next guy. Cut the faculty salaries and raise college costs, but be sure these bozos keep getting their precious pay.

  8. What a sad experience! Most of the time if you play not to lose...you will lose! Play calling in the first half was great(except the last drive)and play call in the second half was way to conservative. I cannot see many times our defense will win games for us so to play protecting a lead to me is a fool's agenda.

  9. Comment removed by moderator. Inappropriate

  10. If you're planning on running Bobby Hauck out of town, please wait until we have a coach under contract at University of Montana. There would be too much temptation on the part of some Regents to take him back. The student body and Missoula businesses, though, really couldn't take more of his recruited criminals.

  11. Well, no doubt about it, that was a stinger, I was at the game and I thought for sure we could hold on especially getting a late field goal before half. I'm not calling for Bobby's head just yet. We play Boise then we play the bottom half of the MWC Colorado State, New Mexico, Wyoming, San Diego State and Hawaii.
    I hope the boys can go on a roll and finish strong.
    I remember Sanford blowouts and last years drubbing but we took it to them just couldn't finish,
    I'd prefer the glass half full then half empty and I thought the uniforms were a nice touch. I also might add we were partying after game with Wolfpack fans and they were very cool granted most fans were over 40 years of age. Outside the score had a great time.

  12. Maybe with a bit more talent and some of these guys more experienced UNLV will get over the hump. There were some glimmers of greatness on both sides of the ball in that first half and that last bomb pass -- but yes, don't run off right tackle on every first down in the second half.

  13. This loss is on offensive coach. Starting the second half with the old run - run - desparate 3rd down pass offense that is so predictabe. Such play calling took away all momentum in the second half. The coaches made play calls that were to conservitave and predictable, forcing the players to a "playing not to lose" game instead of the great mix it up open offense it started with in the opening of the game. Sherry and the boys were up to the task, but held down by terrible offenseive play calling.

  14. Aside from the last drive (the long td pass) we had 4 possessions in the second half...yes FOUR. Blame the refs, blame the coaches blame whoever you want. Bottom line is that the offense has to make a play and show some pride in the 2nd half. 2nd Half Drive Summary:
    4 plays, stopped on 3rd and 4
    3 plays, stopped on 3rd and 3
    3 plays, stopped on 3rd and 2
    5 plays, stopped on 3rd and 9

    There comes a time when it is man vs man in the trenches. Unfortunately Reno seemed to want it more in the 2nd half. Although they made some great stops in the first half, it was inevitable that our D would give up some points/yards to the potent Reno offense. Our offense gave them NO help.

  15. Let's remember too that Sherry looked to be making a lot of audibles at the line of scrimmage. That is not a knock on him at all (shows his maturity and how good he is and how good he will be). My point is to give the O-Coordinator a break (in this instance).

    At some point, the players need to make plays.

  16. I suppose you wouldn't do the same if UNLV won, Eric Murphy? Poor sportsmanship on your part.

  17. It's always fun to come here and read the overreaction theater after every game.

    I was at the game and it was really a tragedy for the guys on the football team, but I think the blame lies on the program as a whole in this instance. Unfortunately, the Rebels are not a historical powerhouse, they don't have tradition to play for, and they don't have past glory to gain inspiration from. They are a young team, with a relatively young coaching staff, in a program that has been losing just about every year it's been around. Until the players and the coaches start to believe in the talent they have, you'll see the Rebels lose a lot of close games that they could have won.

    A lot of people have been pointing to that PI call as a turning point in the game, and I agree it had a big impact, but ultimately the mentality of the offense in the second half opened the door for Reno's comeback. I've never seen a team start trying to run clock at the start of the 3rd quarter, especially after being so dominant offensively in the first half. UNLV was a 1-5 team coming in with 4 wins in the previous 2 years, so I'd rather see them throw caution to the wind and play like they have nothing to lose, opposed to the conservative nonsense that seems to continually hurt them late in games.

    Anyway, that's the best we've looked against Reno in a long time, and it just furthers they belief that the team is getting better little by little, which is more important than actually winning right now. I think by the end of the year we'll see a couple more wins, and next year might be a bowl run (assuming no one gets injured).