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Blog: Rebels’ defense can’t make late stop as Aztecs hold on for 24-13 victory

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Earnie Grafton / Associated Press

San Diego State blocks a punt by UNLV’s Chase Lansford during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in San Diego.

Updated Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 | 8:01 p.m.

UNLV vs. SDSU

UNLV's Tim Cornett carries on a 64-yard touchdown run against UNLV during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in San Diego. Launch slideshow »

SAN DIEGO STATE 24, UNLV 13

Game over

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

Halftime

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.

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

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  1. Is #17, Kenny Penny, Haucks son-in-law or something. He is absolutely HORRIBLE, has cost us two games with his pass coverage and is playing down to his abilities AGAIN.

  2. Comment removed by moderator. ALL CAPS

  3. Seems like team is starting to quit on Hauck. If they can't beat New Mexico at home,got to start questioning Haucks future. I have been supporting him all year,but at this point,wonder if they can win another game rest of season. seems like coaching is not Division 1A level,adjustments not being made,players out position. If your gonna recruit players,gotta show that there is improvement on this team. If you only win 1 or 2 games three years in,why would a athlete want to come in when Hauck can't show improvement at this point?

  4. Wow... about time people start calling for Haucks head. Welcome to the party, some of us have been here a long time. Just glad to see people showing up besides a select few!

  5. How can Haulk even look himself in a mirror? He has hosed this team so bad! Thanks buddy for dragging this team even lower then it was, you sir have talent at something, it is just not winning!

  6. Playing SDSU tough @ home, they beat Reno last week and are 4-1 in conference, with only 3 seniors is still progress for all you NON athletes/armchair QB's! Next year wins will, and need too, come!

  7. GoBruins, don't want to join your party,you know the everything about Las Vegas stinks party!and everything in L.A is so wonderfull. Wish I could see basketball Rebs schedule the Bruins one of these days.

  8. well now we are down to winning 3 of the last 4. we should have been able to beat sdsu. i live down here and watch every game this team is not good at all they are just like the rebels except they know how to win. people calling for haucks head have a point, but this team was not going any where before him or prob after he leaves. this time is not getting blown out for the most part. i think we only START 3 seniors soooooo ...its sucks bc boise st will blow out sdsu worse than they did unlv yet unlv cant seem to put a win together... WE HAVE TO WIN 3 OF THE LAST 4 TO BE ABLE TO JUSTIFY KEEPING HIM. the schedule is easy enough..

  9. GoBruins is organizing a fund drive to buy-out Hauk's contract; so, all whom want Hauk gone need to pitch in your money. I'm sure when you reach the threshold of funding needed, UNLV will take your money and fire Hauk. But until that time, I don't think UNLV should waste more money on this program, by buying out this coach, hiring a new coach, then firing him and repeating ad nauseam, especially when the university has cut educational departments, reduced services for students, increased class sizes, and increased student fees. The university does not exist to support athletics, but to further the educational needs of our students, which could lead to a more diverse economy. And with the overall lack of commitment to those ends, you can see the lackluster performance of our local and state economy.

    The defense played better than I thought they would, and the offense didn't fail to frustrate. The defense is typically out manned as I thought they were tonight, but they hung tough. They bent but didn't collapse, I don't think they quit they just petered out. Again the offense showed when they executed their plays, they were capable of moving the ball. Again the offense displayed their inconsistency. The play calling seemed to allow players to make plays, but they didn't, they dropped passes, made clips and personal fouls, or made poor passes. Players on offense need to make their plays. This team can't afford to rely on the defense to win games, SDSU isn't NAU and we know how that turned out. peace out

  10. Hauck future depends on next weeks game vs New Mexico. If UNLV fails to win absolutely Hauck should be Fired!

    No more excuses Hauck has had three years and in year 3 we should be see more Wins. Losing to NAU and Southern Utah is not improvement. Very unacceptable.

    The results and Wins are not there!

    A different coach cannot do any worst! Winning 4 to 5 games in three years is very sad.

  11. @dippy I have told you many times, GoBruins is for the Boston Bruins you clown. Not for anything to do with LA. Maybe this time it will get though you, I am not holding out hope though...

    I am for firing good old Bobby and getting someone who can win so that this program will not be a joke. I am not the only one. The AD has the money to pay more, it is just why pay more when you fans are not calling for heads to roll. If you people are good with what Hauck is doing then I feel bad for you. I come from the East Coast, when a coach is doing a horrible job you fire him to move up the ladder. Maybe one day most of you will wake up. Yet it is easier to just go along for the ride on a losing voyage.