UNLV football:

Blog: Wolf Pack completes big comeback and picks off UNLV 42-37

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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.

Updated Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 | 3:23 p.m.

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 »

UNR 42, UNLV 37

Game over

UNLV was outscored 28-6 in the second half and lost its eighth consecutive Battle for the Fremont Cannon in heartbreaking fashion Saturday afternoon, dropping a 42-37 decision that they dominated for one half and then couldn't compete in the rest of the way.

UNR survived UNLV's early onslaught and came back with heavy doses of Stefphon Jefferson as backup quarterback Devin Combs gradually improved in the second half. He's the third backup quarterback to defeat UNLV this season.

Jefferson scored three rushing touchdowns on the afternoon.

UNLV's Nick Sherry was brilliant at the beginning of the game but fell apart as the game wore on. Nothing could save UNLV once the tide turned, and now the Rebels must deal with this giant punch to the gut.

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

UNR 42, UNLV 31

2:11 remaining in the fourth quarter

The scene in the stands to uglier as the game got closer, with fights breaking out in several sections. Now that it's all but over there is considerably less red the bleachers to even put up a fight.

Combs ran in for a touchdown that put UNR up 42-31 with about 2 minutes left to play. It's the dagger in a disastrous second half fort he Rebels that saw all four wheels spin off simultaneously. UNLV led 31-14 at halftime. Now it's about to be shutout in the second half.

This hurts far more than the last two losses. Probably more than Northern Arizona, too. They had it, and then they didn't.

UNR 35, UNLV 31

9:43 remaining in the fourth quarter

The nightmare scenario every UNLV fan imagined at halftime is playing out in front of their eyes, and it's happening even quicker than most could probably imagine.

The Wolf Pack now lead 35-31 courtesy of a seven-yard touchdown pass. The Rebels offense that was so stellar in the first half has barely been able to move the ball in the second half and turned it over in their own territory on the previous drive. It took UNR very little time to find pay dirt.

This may be the last important test of the season for UNLV. Mathematically they still have a conference title and bowl game to compete for, but most likely none of those are going to happen. This year is about making the plays at the end of the game to win, and no time will that matter more than this game against UNR.

Right now, everything is still out there to be taken, and UNLV needs to play like that.

UNLV 31, UNR 28

13:00 remaining in the fourth quarter

Uh-oh, Rebels fans. The fear has always been that UNLV wouldn't be able to sustain its first-half fire and so far it has shown none of it in the second half. Jefferson's third rushing touchdown pulls the Wolf Pack within three with nearly a full quarter to play.

You had to figure UNR would eventually wear down this UNLV front and secondary, but what the Rebels couldn't afford was for their offense to go silent like this. They will absolutely need more points in order to win this game, but on the last few drives they haven't seemed capable of pulling that. There's still time, but it needs to happen soon.

UNLV 31, UNR 21

4:31 remaining in the third quarter

UNLV’s advantage against UNR has been trimmed to 10 points late in the third quarter of the Fremont Cannon game.

Devin Combs’ 12-yard touchdown pass to Richy Turner with 4:31 to play in the quarter cut the Rebels’ 17-point halftime lead to 31-21.

The touchdown capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive for UNR as the Wolf Pack are dominating the second half. They received the ball first in the third quarter and drove the length of the field before Combs fumbled in the end zone to give UNLV a big break. Fred Wilson, who earlier in the game had an interception for the Rebels, recovered the fumble.

This game is far from over and UNLV will have its work cut out to keep the lead against UNR, which is one of the Mountain West Conference’s top teams and riding a seven-game winning streak in the series.

Also, the attendance was announced as 20,565 fans at Sam Boyd Stadium — the best crowd in UNLV’s five home games this fall.

UNLV 28, UNR 7

3:55 remaining in the second quarter

Dominant. This is absolutely dominant by UNLV, and it's amazing to see it come out of the same team that has often been incapable of getting out of its own way. Randle scored his second touchdown of the day to give UNLV a 28-7 lead as halftime nears.

Look, this isn't over. There's still a lot of time and we've all seen what UNLV's defense can (or can't) do before, so keep the red paint in the bag for now. But if you're a UNLV fan this is the absolute best performance against the team you most want to beat.

In other words, it's a pretty good Saturday so far.

UNLV 21, UNR 7

6:55 remaining in the second quarter

UNLV forced another fourth-down attempt but UNR wouldn't be turned away this time. With fourth and short inside the 5-yard line, Stefphon Jefferson strolled into the end zone untouched to pull the Wolf Pack within 21-7 midway through the second quarter.

UNR's Combs still doesn't look very comfortable at quarterback but he's gotten a little better. More importantly, Jefferson has taken advantage of the extra room created by his average passing and is starting to carve up the defense a little. UNLV dodged a bullet with Fajardo staying on the sidelines, and now the Rebels' focus needs to be controlling Jefferson at all costs.

UNLV 21, UNR 0

13:33 remaining in the second quarter

Three drives. Three rushing touchdowns with three different ball carriers, with Sherry getting this one. I keep saying it but it doesn't get any less true, this is the best UNLV has looked this season and maybe at any point under Bobby Hauck.

They're controlling the line of scrimmage from both sides and keeping UNR guessing on defense with a mix of runs and pass plays. Based on the rest of the season it's unlikely UNR won't break through at some point and that UNLV won't get in its own way a little bit, but for now all systems are still going full boar ahead.

UNLV 14, UNR 0

End of the first quarter

This quarter was more decisive than any UNLV has played this season, at least of the ones they played well in. Sherry is 8-of-9 for 68 yards and both of the running backs have touchdowns.

The defense has been pushed around a little but not too much, and backup UNR quarterback Devin Combs doesn't look comfortable at all in the pocket. The Wolf Pack believed that they could win with Combs in there, and they still can, but it's looking like missing Cody Fajardo may impact this team more than they thought.

UNLV 14, UNR 0

4:28 remaining in the first quarter

This is UNLV's offense in full right now. Sherry has missed on only one pass attempt and the runners are cruising through holes, including Bradley Randle's 32-yard scamper to the end zone during which he was barely touched.

The only time Sherry missed was when UNR got good pressure in his face, which is obviously a sign to the Wolf Pack coaches. Get in his face and you can disrupt the offense. Of course, that's where the running game should come in to make the defense pay for that pressure. It's a chess match throughout the whole game and right now it's UNLV make all the right moves.

UNLV 7, UNR 0

10:03 remaining in the first quarter

This is the first time UNLV has started a game with the ball at home, and after this result it's something they may want to consider doing again in the future.

The Rebels offense moved down the field easily with every play gaining positive yardage until Tim Cornett finished off the drive with an eight-yard score off a misdirection pitch. The drive featured a nice balance of running and passing that the Rebels are always striving towards and overall was about as good of a start as the team could have hoped for.

But UNLV was always going to be able to score against UNR. The question is if they can stop the Wolf Pack and backup quarterback Devin Combs, who gets the start today.

Bragging rights on the line today in Battle for the Fremont Cannon

A game like the Battle for the Fremont Cannon brings out the braggadocio in both sides. Wolf Pack fans can lean on their team’s seven straight victories in the series, while Rebels fans boast of their city's (and basketball team’s) superiority and that one day the football team will catch up.

Maybe even today.

In its seven consecutive defeats to its neighbor to the north, UNLV has lost by an average of more than three touchdowns. It’s been downright ugly. Today, though, the game has a chance to be much closer.

For starters, UNR quarterback Cody Fajardo may not start. He’s listed as doubtful, and the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that he’ll be a game-time decision. There’s also the matter of the Wolf Pack’s passing defense, which surrenders only about 13 fewer yards per game than the oft-criticized Rebels secondary.

So UNLV should be able to score. That’s something that hasn’t been too much of an issue for freshman quarterback Nick Sherry and the rest of the offense. They have a propensity to cost themselves points by not executing in the red zone or committing silly penalties on their way there, but when the receivers are locked in and catching open passes, things move along rather well.

The UNLV defense, of course, is another story. Safety Peni Vea and linebacker Tim Hasson are listed as out with arm injuries, while cornerback/safety Tajh Hasson and safety Kenny Brown are probable with leg injuries. A group that hasn’t performed that well when healthy wouldn’t seem to benefit from a slew of injuries right now.

Their task today, with or without Fajardo playing, is to try to slow down Stefphon Jefferson, the nation’s leading rusher. Last week he was held to less than 100 yards for the first time all season, and unless he’s battling an unknown injury, it’s unlikely he’ll duplicate that performance. He’s just too good.

So, yeah, on paper this is a pretty big mismatch. Most of the local sports books finally put the game on the board with UNR listed as a 13.5-point favorite. At William Hill outlets, you can find eight other game-day bets too, including alternate lines and props such as Jefferson rushing yards O/U 148.5 (both sides -110) and Sherry touchdown passes O/U 1.5 (-180/+160).

Given the circumstances, it’s a bit of a stretch to expect UNLV to pull off the victory, but it’s reasonable to think this game can play out like the four previous in that the Rebels have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. UNLV hasn’t turned any big corners yet this year, but its strides on offense and the importance of this game should be enough to keep the Rebels in it. What they do from there is anyone’s guess.

Bern’s prediction: There have been moments this week when a UNLV victory has seemed entirely plausible. I can see it play out like a scene I’ve seen before and the ending seems destined rather than questionable. But whenever I try to square that thought with what I’ve seen of both teams on the field, it simply doesn’t work. I wouldn’t be shocked by a Rebels win, but I’m not nearly confident enough to pick one, either. Wolf Pack 35, Rebels 24.

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

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  1. Rebel's do indeed play much better.

    Nevada Coach Chris Ault will have The Wolf Pack ready to win again and if they do Mr. Bern write a letter of Apology to The University of Nevada for the low bow article you wrote this week

  2. Play hard boys and bring back the cannon to UNLV! Remember the fundamentals and don't let your coach bring you down! Fight for it!

  3. Go go go Rebels!!! Keep defens tight!! Anders from Norway!

  4. Why is'nt the game showen online?

  5. There's the UNLV that we all love. "Well you know they lost but looked great at it!" That's the excuse that you all use, right?

  6. If ever a chance for redemption, this was it.
    All of that is now down the tubes. I am done for the year, still done with Hauck, and now done with this program. All I wanted was to see the cannon before I graduated.

    So much for that.

    *Tosses in the towel*

  7. They competed and fought like they have done all season. Gobruins cant understand this because he is a carpetbagger from L.A and should move back so he can hang with Dancin Barry. In years past the typical final was like UNR60 to UNLV 10. I will not defend Hauck this time however, becuz his game management is garbage. His players commit to many penalties.But they were robbed of a momentum swing with that Interference call that should have been a INT. But the offense choked in 2nd half!! That is bad coaching-coaches act like deer in headlights at critical times. That ref. though did rob the rebels! changed game bigtime.