UNLV football:

The Rebels lose in familiar fashion for 20th conecutive defeat on the road

UNLV made some big plays yet mistakes and then a bad defensive drive doomed it in 24-13 loss at San Diego State

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Earnie Grafton / Associated Press

San Diego State’s Walter Kazee goes over the top for a 1-yard touchdown against UNLV during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in San Diego.

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 — Chugging down the right sideline after breaking through UNLV’s defensive line, Adam Muema had nothing between him and a touchdown except green grass. A score would have extended the Aztecs’ lead to two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a margin that could have effectively ended the game.

It didn’t happen because sophomore cornerback Kenneth Penny chased him from behind and brought Muema down at the 16-yard line. That should have been a monumental play for UNLV, because the Aztecs eventually settled for a field goal and an 11-point lead with 12:15 to play. The play kept the deficit reasonable. It gave the Rebels hope.

“That’s a heck of a play,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said.

Instead it’s a footnote in a 24-13 loss because of what followed. The specifics are important only for record-keeping. Everyone around the UNLV program already knows about the systemic problems with rudimentary mistakes like ill-timed penalties or missed opportunities. It doesn’t surprise anyone that these same problems led to UNLV’s 20th consecutive loss on the road, its eighth loss of the season and its fifth defeat in a row.

In this case the specifics were an offensive pass interference penalty that was announced in Qualcomm Stadium on Devante Davis, presumably for setting a screen, and the final defensive drive. A game-ending, punch-you-in-the-mouth drive bereft of style yet full of substance.

The penalty wiped out a first down inside the Aztecs’ 20-yard line. This was UNLV’s drive after Penny’s tackle and up to that point it had been going really well. Tim Cornett ran for a first down. Then Nick Sherry threw for another one, and Bradley Randle pushed the Rebels (1-8, 1-3) even farther with a short run for their third first down of the drive.

Building off his 64-yard touchdown run on UNLV’s first drive, Cornett put together a solid outing for his sixth 100-yard game of the season. He finished with that score and 127 yards and Randle was serviceable in relief. Sherry was equally impressive, shaking off a shaky start that included getting crushed by a free blitzer after running back Imari Thompson blew his blocking assignment.

“I was a little scared,” Sherry said. “After taking the big hit I didn’t want to get hit like that again so I was falling off my back foot.”

But he made adjustments, stood tall in the pocket and by the fourth quarter he looked like the Sherry from most of the season. Facing third-and-nine at SDSU’s 30-yard line, he scrambled around and found Anthony Williams for what looked like another first down. Of course, the penalty wiped it away.

“It was a questionable call but the refs made it,” Sherry said. “It’s football and you’ve got to deal with it.”

That’s exactly the point. These types of things happen in every game, but UNLV has rarely been able to overcome them. The penalty knocked the Rebels back to third and 24 at the 45 and a sack then brought out the punt team.

However, the game wasn’t lost yet. UNLV had all three timeouts and SDSU (6-3, 4-1) started its drive with 6:55 on the clock. All the defense needed was one stop to give itself a chance. Just one stop from a defense that caused three turnovers in the first half, tipped three passes on consecutive plays in the second half and played OK when it limited the big gains.

Just one stop to save Penny’s effort tackle from irrelevance.

Well, you could probably guess what happened instead. SDSU never gave up the ball. The Aztecs picked up five first downs, including three third-down conversions, and then ran off to celebrate in a mostly empty stadium.

On that final drive UNLV’s defense shifted its look at the line of scrimmage. It tried different blitz looks and pulled out whatever tricks it had left.

“We threw a bunch of different things at them,” Hauck said.

None of it mattered. The Aztecs picked up the pressure and kept moving the chains. The drive lacked a marquee play. It all just seemed to happen, little by little, until suddenly there was nothing left to do but kneel.

This was the Aztecs’ fourth victory in a row, a streak that places them squarely in the top half of the league with a mathematical chance to win the crown. That likely comes to a halt next week at Boise State, because this is not a transcendent team. The Aztecs are good, and in crucial moments Saturday they were great, but three of those wins were against teams with a combined four wins this season.

Backup quarterback Adam Dingwell completed just half of his 26 pass attempts in his first career start but still managed to get 231 yards because Gavin Escobar, Brice Butler and Colin Lockett all broke open for big plays. Escobar finished with 108 yards and four catches and both he and Lockett hauled in touchdowns. The other came from Walter Kazee, who finished with 105 yards backing up Muema, who had 143 on 21 carries.

If you think this latest loss will add on to a building frustration amongst the Rebels you may be surprised to learn they’re taking it pretty well.

“I can’t look around that locker room and see any disappointment as far as effort,” senior defensive back Kenny Brown said. “We went out there and we fought.”

That may be true, but it hasn’t meant much for winning. Even when the Rebels make a big play they can’t make the routine ones that must follow. And they’re running out of chances to do anything about it.

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

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  1. Hauck is not getting it done. We've seen this movie before.

  2. We should fire the AD for giving Hauck an extension....it's clear that he's a loser coach and wrong for the program. We could have gotten rid of him sooner rather than later, but our foolish AD extended him 1 more year.....head(s) should roll for that stupid move.

  3. It's a good thing that the people who make decisions are a little more patient than the people who rant on message boards. :)

    If they are 1-12 at the end of the season then Hauck should probably be fired out of principle.. However, I personally would like to see him coach out his contract because they have a fair amount of good young players. Besides, if they want a good coaching staff then they would probably need to increase the salary budget by at least 3-4 times, not just to pay the head coach but also to allow him to build a good staff.

    Fortunately (at this point) the schedule this year was front loaded, and the 4 remaining opponents are combined 2-14 in conference this year. All 4 games are winnable for the Rebels.

  4. @UNLV-123 I agree. If UNLV were a perennial football powerhouse, I would want Hauk's hide; but, on average, in the past 30+ years, UNLV football has been mediocre at best and poor to horrible the remainder of the time (three winning seasons since 1986).

    If UNLV had adequate funding for the university as a whole, I could see firing Hauk now, but it does not! If UNLV had adequate funding for the university, which it doesn't, and UNLV were able to fund football for a number of years at a higher level ( $12 to $17 million a year ) (too bad Sheldon Adleson isn't a huge UNLV football supporter and donor), we would have fired Hauk with his record by now. If we were able to have spent that much money on football, we might still have John Robinson, or Stanford; and, we know what Hauk has done at an established program (Montana). In 2009/2010 football season UNLV spent $6.7 million on football and earned $5.8 million that same season (per MWC); on the other hand, TCU spent $18 million and returned $20 million that year (per MWC); and, only 57% of all FBS football programs make a profit: http://sportsologist.com/college-athleti...

    Football is a game. It is a game people, and if your happiness and well being hinges upon wins and losses, it is your problem. It is not the problem of UNLV, its president, AD, head coaches, or athletes. And after 30 years with 3 winning seasons, if you can't wait for Hauk's contract to run out, then you might consider finding another team to satisfy your puerile needs. With all due respect, I'm not saying you should shut-up and take it, go to the games and boo Hauk if you want, or don't go to the games and boo at home; but, UNLV needs to be pragmatic and support this coach and this team. Let Hauk's contract run-out (IMHO, I think next year is the year when they will pull the plug on Hauk if he can't win, hell they still might yank him after this season).

    I intend no disrespect to any whom have a differing opinion. I just think ( and I believe rightly so :) that throwing good money out for bad AGAIN, will just double the current cost to the program for a couple of years of Hauk's remaining contract, and it would also decrease the funds available for the replacement coach and staff. With the obvious and pitiful exception of the win lose record, this team is getting better and appears to have a nucleus upon which to build. peace out

  5. SOrry to break it to you guys, but UNLV is not mediocre, they have been just really, really bad. You guys say he has some real good, young talent, well if he ends up making it another year, they should be pretty close to seniors if I'm not mistaken, but we have a whole lot of freshmen instead.

    Mediocre is like winning a few games a season, MAYBE a bowl game every few years. Mediocre is not losing to NAU and Southern Utah. Mediocre is showing improvement on the stat sheet after a year or 2 and showing some solid improvement with the whole team. Mediocre is not losing to New Mexico, at the time I think was THE worst football team at the time. Mediocre isn't showing up on ESPN's Bottom 10 feature week in and week out of 120 FBS schools. Mediocre isn't losing a rivalry game for the umpteenth time and having to search old newspapers to see what the cannon looks like red. I can probably add more, but mediocre is much, much better than a 5-29 record.

  6. @Wade Fasano - Well said. We're not even close to mediocre.

  7. @John-doe-smith & @UNLV-123 - it's comments and attitudes like yours which allows the AD and head coach to get away with crappy performances. Would a fan/booster of Texas or Michigan (both mediocre teams this year) say any of those things? How about Tennessee (which utterly sucks this year)? No, they would never say that......so forget about donations from big donors for UNLV football.

    Why would a rich booster donate any significant amount of money when the fan base won't help hold the school accountable for bad play/coaching? I have a close friend who's a major booster for Tennessee. I talked to him about why he donates to his alma mater and supports the football team despite having many recent years of crappy play....he said "I can count on my school to try a few coaches/approaches and if it doesn't work we'll move on and try other things to get better. Furthermore, I can count on other fans to expect the same out of the team/coach. It's money well spent on a team I love." Until we (UNLV) can show the same thing, we're not going to see any major booster money come in for the football program. Look at the decisions that are being made right now (Hauck hiring)....doesn't prove that we deserve the money.

  8. @Sinatra711, thanks for the shout out, but how the heck do any of your comments address or refute any points I've made. I've been following this team (sometimes more, sometimes less) for 40+ years. I have seen good squads and bad squads, mostly mediocre to poor squads, three winning seasons since 1986 for Pete's sake. But those who pine for Hauk's firing, never address the (decades long) issue of funding. Perhaps decade over decade of packed stands, of fans overpaying for tickets and swag, and those same fans donating every year to the RAF may have made a difference, but that hasn't happened. And with less attendance comes less revenue, less revenue means stifled football and athletic budgets. Also, when a football program continually spends more than it generates, coupled with a university that has faced a financial crisis to its own raison d'etre, relies upon a state whose funding for higher education is lackluster even in the best of times, what would you have that university do? I do want to see this program succeed, and we have seen the outcome of how things done on the cheap have worked. UNLV buys out coaches, hires new coaches only to buy out that coach to hire a new coach, which UNLV will buy out so it can hire a new coach ibid., ibid., ibid., ibid.; so, how has that hire fire hire fire hire fire thing worked! I don't believe the university and its students should suffer any more financial shortfalls, because of shortsightedness and statistically improbable solutions (I guess you would call that a poor attitude), just for some sort of vicarious glory gained from a win at a game. Football may define some, but unless you are directly involved in making a living directly from the on-field game of football, one might (I stress might) possibly want to reassess one's self-identified fervencies. Respectfully, I would like to say I am not attempting to paint ill those of differing conclusions (even though, it might appear I have painted ill those of differing conclusions, sorry); so, if past is prolog, firing Hauk will only hasten the siren call to fire his replacement ( of course we might get lucky and find a great coach and coaching staff on the cheap, but with our history, REALLY?). peace out

  9. @john-doe-smith - The only way to make things change is to start the change and not accept the past. That said, you're correct we're in a financial hole with our Football program. But, how do other schools who WERE perennial losers get out of this funk? (see Boise State, Marshall, Boston College, etc)

    It starts with a commitment to not accept things they way they are.....to accept nothing less than success. It's a mind change....profits/success won't come in year 1, 2, or 3. However, it can be done with a strong game plan with a vision. Boosters will come if they see improvement and a change in culture. I criticized the hiring of Hauck before we hired him....then we were stupid enough to SIGN HIM TO AN EXTENSION.....I realize firing him will cost us $$$...so someone has to fall for this idiotic decision and that should be the AD. We need someone who can lead us in the right direction.

    That said, we'll never make any progress if we continue to hire Hauck-like coaches. We need to hire coaches that schools that I pointed out above hire.....

  10. @Sinatra711, thanks for the comment. I understand what you are saying, and I appreciate your criticisms and point of view. There is no way on earth I could make an honest argument to retain Hauk based on his record, just no way. I do see the improvement over the previous two teams, plus what looks to be very promising potential in next years players, but again based on the win loss record that also is hard to defend. I could say that I'm just tired of the rapid turnover in coaches and staffs, and the instability it wreaks, but that is just a personal preference not represented by the win loss record, so it is not one I use as a defense for Hauk. So, in totality I can't and won't posit those biases as a cogent defense of Huak's employment. I cry not for Hauk. But my position, and you seem to understand what I am promoting, is I think it is wrong on the whole, to take money away from the education of students, and give it to the athletic department so it can make a gamble on a new coach and staff. Anyway, Sinatra711 keep up the passion. Go Rebles! peace out