UNLV football:

Rebels stuck in different version of same bad movie in 35-27 loss to Washington St.

UNLV dropped to 0-3 after losing another game that was only within their grasp thanks largely to a big game from quarterback Nick Sherry

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Hey Reb pats UNLV lineman Mark Garrick on the back after their game against Washington State Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Washington State won the game 35-27, dropping UNLV to 0-3 on the season.

UNLV vs. Washington State

A UNLV fan hangs his head late in the fourth quarter of their game against Washington State Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Washington State won the game 35-27, dropping UNLV to 0-3 on the season. Launch slideshow »

Everyone has seen a movie that starts out with an engaging, exciting plotline and then goes off the rails so badly about midway through that it’s difficult to even stick around for the end. UNLV football fans have seen it three times in the last three weeks.

This one took a little bit longer to get enticing thanks to UNLV’s three penalties on the first three plays from scrimmage and a secondary that was getting beat by sandlot pass plays, but freshman quarterback Nick Sherry started matching the Cougars at the end of the first quarter and the shootout was on. And then, right on cue, the Rebels started flubbing their lines in all the same spots.

Over their last two second halves, UNLV has scored just seven points, and that didn’t come until there were less than two minutes left against Washington State (2-1) on Friday in a 35-27 loss that dropped the Rebels to 0-3.

When the credits rolled, there was the same feeling in the pit of the stomachs of the few home fans who actually stuck around for the end. The missed plays UNLV has left on the field over the last three weeks would be enough to drive any team over the edge.

To this point, though, the Rebels still have their fight. Unfortunately, victories are sold separately.

“I don’t think we’re a good team right now, but I also don’t think we’re a bad team right now,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “I think we’re an average football team that’s come up on the short end of the ledger three times by slim, slim margins.”

The combined margin of UNLV’s three losses is 14 points, which means there are countless what-ifs to point at in each game. In this one, much like the NAU loss last week, dropped passes turned up often in that search.

Perhaps the most crucial drop was originally ruled a completion near the red zone. With UNLV trailing 35-20, sophomore receiver Marcus Sullivan appeared to catch a first down pass that would set up the Rebels to cut the deficit to one possession. On further review, though, he didn’t hold on.

That set up fourth and three at the 25-yard line, a play that saw Sherry throw about 20 yards downfield into double coverage to Anthony Williams, who caught the ball but was out of bounds. Hauck said they could have checked that play into a short slant but he didn’t have a problem with trying to make a big play.

“They guessed right and that’s where it needed to go,” Hauck said. “… Down two scores at that point I don’t think it was a bad decision.”

Overall Sherry didn’t make too many bad decisions. He tied a school record with 33 completions on 49 attempts, with many of those incompletions via dropped balls. He tossed three touchdowns — two to Sullivan and one to tight end Jake Phillips — and his 351 yards were the most for a Rebel since 2006.

You could chalk up the yardage to a bad Cougars defense, and that’s definitely a big part of it, but Sherry looked a lot more comfortable in the pocket than he has the last two weeks. He took a lot of hits early, but as the game progressed he started shifting away from charging defenders while keeping his eyes downfield on his targets.

It’s progress, on the micro level at least. Sherry’s only concerned with macro, though.

“Three losses, that’s not really improvement,” Sherry said.

Other missed opportunities included: kicking a field goal from the one-yard line at the end of the first half instead of going for a touchdown and a personal foul on offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson that derailed UNLV’s first drive of the second half.

Hauck said he went for the field goal, which pulled UNLV within 28-20 at the break, partly because he went for it in a similar situation in a 2006 game and got shut down. He also liked the percentage play of getting points right before halftime and starting with the ball in the second half. Trouble is, the Rebels haven’t put together any successful third quarters this year.

Friday’s was better — UNLV actually moved the ball this time — but it still came up short. The Rebels didn’t cross midfield again until they were down by 15 in the fourth quarter.

Sherry found Phillips for a score with 1:44 remaining on a play that probably meant more to bettors, who were chanting for the Cougars to score again to cover the 8.5-point spread, than it did the teams on the field. The game already seemed decided.

However, there was a sliver of hope when Washington State coach Mike Leach called a typically atypical play on the ensuing drive, a run on fourth and four that would have sealed the game and instead gave UNLV the ball back.

All the Rebels mustered, though, was a last-second heave toward backup quarterback turned receiver Caleb Herring that was easily swatted away to end the game. Herring got up and slammed his helmet to the turf, clearly trying to unleash the frustration seeing the same scenes play out in front of him once again.

“You get so close, and being so close so many times,” Herring said before trailing off a bit. “For the past three weeks we’ve been right there.”

This one didn’t end with a last-second field goal, but all of the major plot points were there. And the frustration always feels the same.

Hauck said his team is still confident, which may be true, but the Rebels probably won’t be favored in a game until November and will have to fight even harder than the did Friday just to keep some of them respectable. That’s the road ahead.

Hauck seems to see the light at the end, a happier ending to a script that desperately needs a rewrite. He just hopes he’s around to direct it.

“I think they know they’ve got some potential,” Hauck said. “Most of them we’re going to have for a few more years. As long as everybody stays healthy and stays employed, then we’ve got a chance to have a good football team.”

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

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  1. It is very easy to be critical, but really is there any sense having a UNLV football team? Then there is talk about a new stadium. Who wants to go and watch a loosing team. Perhaps UNLV might try ping- pong!

  2. Sorry, Hauck, you ARE a bad team. You've yet to play a good team, and yet you're 0-3, all at home, including a loss to a mediocore at best FCS school. Talk about moral victories all you want, but that translates to a bad team.

  3. I'm a season ticket holder in bb/ftb and a RAF/Alumni donor. I recorded and watched the game several times. I came away impressed with the Rebels effort guys we're picking each other up after plays, moving the pile when Cornett was struggling to get extra yards. They mixed the run and the pass. Brady Randle lowered the boom on a unlucky db trying to make a tackle.
    Defense front seven played well the dbs are just very raw especially number 17 he got picked on all night.
    A few turning points came on a dropped pass for a drive killing first down and a 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness when big 78 late hit ad db hanging around the pile which cost 15 yards and killed our momentum and we were forced to punt.
    Good news is we are getting better Nick is showing promise. In my humble homer opinion sticking with Bobby is the only course of action. Its his third year yes he finally has a qb to build around he is just a freshman. To be fair to Coach Hauck he got a late start recruiting his first year( (he was a late December hire) a lot of our talented players are still sophomores. Need to recruit better skilled positions and develop big bodies in weight room.
    Conference starts next week I believe we will be competitive and get some wins. I'm a little more optimistic it was great to see the Rebels on ESPN I can't remember seeing that happen in a long time.
    Dropping the program is not an alternative Bobby and the players just have to keep grinding it out and get some breakthrough wins.
    Good luck to the Rebels as they enter conference play.

  4. I apologize for this repost, but I believe it belongs here as well. For " if those whom are calling for the firing of Hauck, don't pony up the money to replace the coach and sustain a competitive program, then Hauck needs to stay out his contract! With only three winning seasons (per ESPN) since 1986, what's your rush for another quick fix that statistically won't change a thing? This is a dismal football program, at a school that has dismal funding from the state of Nevada; UNLV has been cutting academic departments while simultaneously raising fees on students, but you demand a new coach. Nevada and its residents have shown their preference to amputate state budgets, instead of healing them. So PLEASE, you pining millionaires and billionaires, put up the money to improve the program (oh yeah, and the school); otherwise, let's just call your vomit puke." peace, out.

  5. Hey Johnny boy if giving money to the school means the firing of the joke of a so called coach then where should I show up with my money? Will you be there in person as well so I can smile as I give them cash or are you just someone who rants then runs under the cover when they are called out?
    Would love to root for UNLV until things change in monster ways not going to happen. Besides the school has money for a better coach they choose not to use that money.

  6. I have been very critical of unlv football this season (look at old posts) but last night they seemed better and sherry got better as the game went on. The worst part of the game was the lack of rebel fans there all espn showed was wsu fans but they kept the camera angles as tight as possible. UNLV needs a new stadium badly you could see that with the view around sam boyd and you could see cars when kicking a field goal ( it was embarrassing for my home city to be shown on espn as ugly). Even with being bad for so long kids like shiny new things and a new stadium could bring players in and be used for other sporting events. Hauck still needs to win a few games this year and the best opps have already came and gone. If the secondary can get better then the D def could be really good. how many times did we watch our corners get burned and safeties read routes wrong? maybe we can beat af b/c we can stop the run??

  7. Rebel's ran out of time.

    Still a loss is a loss.

    Next up Air Force and it will be difficult to beat them

  8. Hey GoBruins: Where is this money for a better coach that the school has? I just graduated from a degree program that is getting phased out, so please tell me where this money is. Go troll on the UCLA page.

  9. For those calling for the firing of Hauck, I feel the frustration but realize the team restarts the cycle over again with a new coach.

    For those calling for the cancellation of the football program, if you want our basketball team to play in any sort of conference, realize we need a football team, no matter how win-less they are.

  10. @GoBruins: If you have the money to transform this program, absolutely I'll be there so you can smile at me. I find neither offense nor fear from someone smiling. Should I? I don't see as to how I am being called out. The constant shrill to fire this coach (and I guess to your point, my shrill to let Hauck's contract run its course), before his contract is over, does nothing to refute my point: that UNLV shouldn't continue to fire coaches, buy out those said coaches' contracts, hire new coaches then repeat the process again and again; all the while, the university is struggling to operate for students and the public writ large.

    Call me out or whatever, but I'm trying to point out the shortsightedness and absurdity of wasting money on one unsuccessful football coach after another, and ignoring the needs of the educational institution. Football is a game, and we just seem to lose sight of its place, at a struggling universty.

    I have lived in So. Nevada the majority of my life, and have been a fan of UNLV since I was a kid. I vaguely remember going to a game at what now is Cashman field to see a game. I remember the Silver Bowl originally just had and east stand and a west stand. I remember: Ron Meyers, and and 8 or 9 game home stand the year we went to the Alonzo Stag bowl (lost badly), Mike Thomas, Randal Cunningham, SMU, a lot of Rebel memories. I am a Rebel fan not a hater, and I do wish UNLV had a better program, but history has proven it will not turn around here on a long run basis without long term stability. So thank you GoBruins for the substantial endowment to the football program. Humbly, I submit my admiration (I'm like Tebowing). No offense is intended, peace, out

  11. Right before Coach Sanford was fired he made a comment, "This school will not be competitive in football unless we get better support from the community".

    This town shows how much it cares by the numbers that show up for the games. This was a chance for free advertising for this school last night and yet we can't get people to come out for a few hours and fill up the stadium. I heard that the ESPN announcers made several references to the WSU fans who followed their team here and the empty stadium and the lack of interest from Las Vegans. I got news for the people of Las Vegas who think you can't or should not support a team that is doing bad. WSU is not a good football team and has not been relevant in football for a long time. They had over 30K show up for their home game last week. Minnesota has always had a bad football team. They have 45K show up for their first home game last week. Why? Because they know and they understand that you have to have the public support and the donations to make a football program work. Look at how the Mendenhall Center and the "MACK" played such a big part in helping us get a top 15 recruiting class in basketball.

    I wonder how many recruits and other great players we are pursuing watched the game on TV and saw the empty stadium. Why would they, and a potential coach, even consider this program? And all of you wonder why we can't get the good athletes or coaches, DUH! Quit your bitching about how bad things are and start organizing and generating funds and donations and get this thing turned around. THIS IS HOW ALL THE BIG TIME PROGRAMS DO IT!!

  12. @Rebelheart +infinitum

    I was at the game last night. Have had season tickets with my cousin the past decade plus. I haven't missed many home games. Our tickets are on the east side and it can be hard at times, but more often than not we are surrounded by happy fans :p

  13. @GoBruins, re: (I'm like Tebowing), it is only to show gratitude for your largess, not my earnest mediocrity.

  14. I live in Orange County and enrolled in UNLV in August of 89' I left Las Vegas in 2000. UNLV home games will always draw big crowds from our competitors for the simple but obvious fact that people really enjoy coming to Las Vegas. If you lived in the Midwest, Northeast, South etc Las Vegas is the one city you circle on your schedule for a road trip.
    Perfect example, this year Las Vegas will host 4 Conference Basketball tournaments (WAC, MWC, WCC, and Pac 12) Why? people love coming to Vegas!
    I understand the locals want a winner I think the team is headed in the right direction. If you can show a recruit a strong armed qb on film we'll start getting better payers. Unfortunately it does take time and consistency. I'm in it for the long haul. I was there for the great runs in UNLV hoops then saw the dark days and now the guy I went to school with is the coach and we're on the upswing.
    I hear people bad mouth Sam Boyd stadium all the time. They serve alcohol during games I'm in and out in a heart beat. There are really no bad seats. I would love for an on campus stadium but in the meantime me and my boys enjoy the games we can attend.
    I'm very proud of the steps UNLV has made since my days attending. I try to remind some of the younger guys our university is an infant compared to other institutions we've been around for 55 years thats it. We'll get there.
    Go Rebs!

  15. Hauck was calling some bad plays with about 2 minutes left. At that point they were down 15 points and were throwing small, little 3 yard passes from midfield. You can't do that with 2 minutes and down by 15 points. The only reason they had one final play at the end is because Washington coach Mike Leach was calling some horrific plays himself when all they had to do was run the clock.

  16. John-Doe-Smith,your being called out for being sensible? Probably lived in this city a long time like me and know the lack of money UNLV willing to pay for big name coach (If any big name would even want this job) Makes no sense to fire Hauck before contract up. I see effort on this team,the defense is tackling,QB improving all the time. They need to learn how to make the big plays and not choke under pressure,which happens to teams with long history of losing. Let's see if they can defend the triple option-hopefully the offense can put long drives together and keep Air Force offense off the field.

  17. 8 of the 16 teams in Big East basketball don't have a Division I football team. Care to explain how they got in a major conference then???

  18. Actually Joe I am a Michigan fan so I do not care about any Cali teams. I go back to at least a few games every year. If it meant getting ride of coach Hauck tomorrow then I would happily give the school money. I will not give money to a program that is not serious to making the right changes. If UNLV is so broke, Andrew and UNLV is in such dire state, then how are the rest of the coaches getting raises?

    You homers need to understand that this program is going no wheres until you get rid of this joker that is your so called head coach. You people are saying that they look good against a sub par team? Really??!!?? Come on it's not like you hung in there and made a close game against a top 25 team for gods sake. That would be something to brag about.. This last 3 games is just sad..

  19. everyone needs to calm down b ball is only a couple months away

  20. Phillips - The Big East was created originally to be an elite basketball conference many years prior to all of this football money conference realignment stuff. There's your explanation.

  21. Sorry but WAZZU is a good football program. They bought into the belief that hiring a Coach from a Big Sky school would be the solution. He drove the program from being 1 game away from going to bowl games to a team getting beat by 50 points. Hauck came from where - a Big Sky school that already had a winning program. He brought his assistant coaches, just like the situation at WSU. Neither situation had Coaches ready for D1. New Coach and WSU has more fans showing up at UNLV then the Rebel fans.

    Money would come to the football program if those who donated trusted that a good decision would be made on who the new Coach would be. Hauck is not going to sell tickets by his comments. UNLV needs to find a solution, this is a problem. See this past weeks game as Rebels being close, it can also been seen as a team being gifted more opportunities than they should have. Not going to see Air Force going for it on 4 th down and passing the ball as the close out a game. Chris Ault wont be doing this either. Leach is a gambler who nearly lost last week. UNLV was not good enough to take advantage of it. Will there be anyone there to see it this week and if Air Force could hang around with Michigan in Ann Arbor - hard to see them giving UNLV breaks this week.

  22. Hauck needs to go....he should've never been hired. Where are all of the homers now? All they can do is attack the people who don't support Hauck, but they can't defend his incompetence...

    To be a big time program, we need to think of hiring a big name coach as an investment.....if you invest in a big time coach, the community support and donations will come. If you invest in a loser like Hauck, nobody shows up. When we had John Robinson, people came to the games and we did much better than this loser called Hauck.

    Giving him a 1 year extension last year was the biggest mistake we could've made. We need to admit our mistake and FIRE HIM NOW! Do not pass GO, do not COLLECT $200......FIRE HIM NOW!