Earnie Grafton / Associated Press
Published Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 | 3:55 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 | 8:01 p.m.
- 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
- Another backup quarterback will take aim at UNLV’s secondary this Saturday
- Sherry injured as Rebels drop forgettable 32-7 decision at Boise State
- Take 5: Looking through the Rebels’ remaining games for potential victories
- Mountain Best: There’s a new team deserving of the ranking’s top spot
- The Fremont Cannon returns to Reno after UNLV’s second-half collapse
- All UNLV Football Coverage
SAN DIEGO STATE 24, UNLV 13
SAN DIEGO — An offensive pass interference penalty knocked UNLV out of field goal range on a pivotal drive, and when San Diego State took over the Aztecs didn't give up the ball until the game was all but over, winning 24-13.
The Rebels needed to get some type of score on that drive as they crossed inside SDSU's 30-yard line. On third down Nick Sherry scrambled around and eventually connected with a receiver for a first down, but the flag for a PI penalty on receiver Devante Davis put the Rebles in third and 24. A sack on that play made it fourth and 30, forcing UNLV to punt.
UNLV had all three timeouts and just needed a stop to get the ball back, but SDSU running backs Adam Muema and Walter Kazee chewed up yards and the clock. They picked up several first downs and kept the UNLV defense from getting off the field before it was too late.
Nick Sherry looked much better as the game wore on and both of the Rebels running baks were solid. Had they got the ball back perhaps they could have done something. Instead the Aztecs put together a game-winning drive by just bullying the Rebels' defense.
The Rebels fell to 1-8 overall and 1-3 in the league while the Aztes improved to 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the league. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the game.
SAN DIEGO STATE 24, UNLV 13
12:15 remaining in the fourth quarter
Considering Adam Muema had no one in front of him when he broke through a hole in the offensive line and chugged toward to the goal line, UNLV will settle for that field goal. Kenny Penny caught Muema from behind inside the 20-yard line and the defense held the Aztecs to three points.
Time is running out on UNLV, but at least that drive didn't take much off the clock and kept the Rebels within a more manageable two scores.
SAN DIEGO STATE 21, UNLV 13
End of the third quarter
UNLV's offensive line was banged up coming into this game. Now Doug Zismann, one of only two guys to start every game along the line, is out and junior Brad Overand is in. That's just one more thing UNLV has to deal with as it tries to pull off an upset tonight, down 21-13 entering the fourth quarter.
The good news for the Rebels is their defense has started to play a little better and play with some fire. James Boyd had a hand in three straight tipped passes and walked about San Diego's field like he owned it. The defense needs some more consistency, obviously, but it's a start.
SAN DIEGO STATE 21, UNLV 13
5:11 remaining in the third quarter
Now that's an answer. Nick Sherry shook off the rust and drove UNLV down the field, including picking up a key third down with a keeper, and tossed a 25-yard touchdown to Devante Davis.
Tim Cornett has eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the sixth time this year and now has 104 yards on 12 carries. So if Sherry can continue to play anything like he did on that drive the Rebels will be able to score again. But beyond getting turnovers, there's no evidence that UNLV's defense will be able to hold the Aztecs.
SAN DIEGO STATE 21, UNLV 6
9:00 remaining in the third quarter
San Diego state enjoyed a very charmed drive early in the second half. First, the Aztecs fumbled the ball and then recovered it for a first down. Then one play after getting dropped for a 10-yard loss on a sack, Adam Dingwell dropped a shotgun snap only to pick it up and throw a 27-yard touchdown to Colin Lockett.
UNLV started the second half with the ball but quickly had to punt as Sherry was off the mark a couple of times. He doesn't look comfortable in the pocket and now UNLV is going to be depending on him to throw the Rebels back into this game. Not a good combination.
SAN DIEGO STATE 14, UNLV 6
UNLV won't be able to say it didn't have a chance. At halftime the Rebels have forced three turnovers and converted them into zero points, a trend that has allowed San Diego State to maintain its 14-6 lead.
Aztec tight end Gavin Escobar is doing whatever he wants to UNLV's secondary, catching four passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. Running back Adam Muema is providing some balance with 58 yards on 13 carries while fellow back Walter Kazee accounted for the other touchdown. SDSU is leading in total yardage by more than 100 yards but the turnovers have prevented it from leading by more in a game it has mostly dominated.
UNLV's touchdown came on a long run on the first drive. Since then it's been slim pickins as Nick Sherry struggles to find his receivers. When he has time Sherry's passes have been slightly off target with a couple of good ones being dropped. But for the most part Sherry hasn't had any time to throw because the Aztecs' blitzers are beating UNLV's backfield blockers.
The Rebels aren't going to force three more turnovers, so their only chance to stay in this is to get the offense rolling. Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle have looked strong for the most part. UNLV needs to find a way to balance that with short, safe passes for a long drive. Anything more than a three-step drop for Sherry hasn't been working and that's not likely to change.
SAN DIEGO STATE 14, UNLV 6
8:58 remaining in the second quarter
Adam Dingwell targeted Rebels cornerback Sidney Hodge and got the same result as he did throwing at Kenny Brown: a long San Diego State gain. The Aztecs converted a fourth down inside the 10-yard line and Walter Kazee jumped over the linemen from one yard out to put SDSU up 14-6 in the second quarter.
UNLV's offense must come up with a response soon because the Aztecs are clearly in an offensive groove. If the Rebels don't hurry they're going to be down by too much to overcome.
SAN DIEGO STATE 7, UNLV 6
End of the first quarter
From UNLV's perspective, this is an OK score for the first quarter. The Rebels are an extra point away from a tie game and they forced a turnover that gave them another shot at points.
The bad news is that San Diego State has all the momentum right now, which includes the confidence it can do whatever it wants to UNLV's defensive backs. Quarterback Adam Dingwell already set a new career high with his 52-yard pass to Gavin Escobar and he could surpass that again this game.
The good news, if you would like some, is UNLV's offensive line. Sherry has already been hit hard, but that's on guys in the backfield for not picking up blitzers. The O-line is creating holes and tackle Yusef Rodgers made the start, so they are at least near healthy.
SAN DIEGO STATE 7, UNLV 6
1:53 remaining in the first quarter
Instead of using a fumble recovery to build on its lead, UNLV couldn't get a first down and then watched as its defense looked absolutely silly against the Aztecs. Safety Kenny Brown was frozen by Adam Dingwell's pass to Gavin Escobar and then was one of many players to miss the tackle on a 52-yard gain. Dingwell hit Escobar again for a touchdown and a 7-6 lead.
UNLV's secondary has been ugly all season so this is far from a surprise. Still, it's never good to look that bad, especially early in a game that now is sure to see a lot more plays going Brown's way.
UNLV 6, SAN DIEGO STATE 0
10:33 remaining in the first quarter
Tim Cornett's moves and speed in the open field to finish off a 64-yard touchdown run were impressive, but more important may be the giant holes created by UNLV's offensive line on that play and a couple of others on the Rebels' first offensive drive.
Nick Sherry, who's starting despite an injury, threw just one pass on the drive. Cornett and the O-line handled the rest, pushing the Aztecs around a little bit and then blowing past them. Nolan Kohorst missed the extra point.
The Rebels' defense opened the game with a three-and-out thanks largely to John Lotulelei. San Diego State is going to break through and score some points, but the key for the defense is to balance that with some more of the stops to give the Rebels offense a chance to outscore the Aztecs.
The UNLV football team expects to have freshman quarterback Nick Sherry today, which is good, because without him this game could be as ugly as the Rebels’ recent road losses at Boise State and Louisiana Tech.
Still, there’s a chance this one could get there. San Diego State (5-3, 3-1) has won three in a row, including last week’s 39-38 overtime victory against UNR. Of course, the other two games were against Hawaii and Colorado State, which were both winless in the league coming into today.
The Aztecs’ defense is what should make today’s game closer for the Rebels (1-7, 1-2). SDSU gives up more than four touchdowns per game, and according to coach Rocky Long, the Aztecs only have good numbers against the run because opponents quickly figure out that they can spread them out and pass all day.
With Sherry at the helm, that could be UNLV’s plan, too. UNLV will never abandon the run because coach Bobby Hauck strives for balance, but much like a team that prepares to play against UNLV’s secondary, the Rebels must identify their opponents’ weakness and attack it. That would be much more difficult to do with backups Caleb Herring or Sean Reilly at quarterback.
Perhaps the most interesting, or at least bizarre, storyline in the game is that Adam Dingwell’s start for SDSU will make this the fourth game UNLV has played against a backup quarterback. And it hasn’t won one yet.
First Northern Arizona, then Washington State and most recently UNR. All three have trotted out their second string and walked away with narrow victories.
UNLV’s focus needs to be more on itself than whom it is losing to, but it’s still got a sting a little extra to lose to that many backups. Today is a chance put a notch in the win column of this obscure stat, though that’s unlikely.
Bern’s prediction: The road losing streak will be at 20 games with a defeat today. Twenty. It’s amazing to think about all of the chances UNLV has had during that stretch, only to come up empty each and every time. There’s still hope to end the streak this year with games at Colorado State and Hawaii coming up, but for now it will live on. San Diego State 38, UNLV 24.