Barry Wong / Special to the Sun
Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 | 10:49 p.m.
If you’re looking for tales of the spectacular you’re in the wrong place.
The Rebels didn’t amaze or inspire awe in tonight’s 38-7 victory against Western Illinois (2-2). What they did was line up at home against an inferior team and do exactly what good teams are supposed to do in that situation.
The Rebels didn’t commit a single penalty and from the start left no doubt which team would walk out of Sam Boyd Stadium victorious. And while that may not be spectacular for most teams, simply taking care of business is a big deal for a UNLV team used to leaving things unfinished.
“We controlled it from start to finish,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said, “so it’s a pretty complete win.”
The counter to all the good vibes surrounding the Rebels’ first winning streak since 2008 is that stretching it to three means winning on the road next week at New Mexico (1-2). The gap between back-to-back victories actually dates back longer than UNLV’s 23-game road losing streak. So before looking ahead to that challenge take some time to enjoy this one.
Five Rebels registered at least six carries and none of them averaged less than 4.8 yards per carry. Tim Cornett (6.9 ypc) and Adonis Smith (5.5 ypc) each ran for two touchdowns and the team finished with 284 yards on 49 carries.
As expected, senior quarterback Caleb Herring got the start, picking up right where he left off in last week’s 31-21 victory against Central Michigan. By the time Western Illinois scored its lone touchdown in the third quarter, UNLV had put up 62 unanswered points.
Asked when he was told he’d be starting Herring didn’t have an answer, likely because his position at the depth chart was never in question this week. Herring finished 14-of-20 for 140 yards and one score with another 57 yards on 12 carries.
Sophomore Nick Sherry entered the game in the fourth quarter and went 0-for-2. Still, next week’s lineup card will likely keep the “or” between the two players’ names.
“We’ll compete it every week,” Hauck said.
And until something drastic changes in a game Herring is going to win that competition. The offensive line and running game made his life easy tonight but he still had to make the plays and did so with relative ease.
“We all fed off each other tonight,” Herring said of his offensive weapons and stellar defense.
Ah, that defense. Again the offense will likely get the headlines but the Rebels’ defenders continue to impress.
Poor tackling kept the total offensive yards relatively close — UNLV led 424-338 — but the Rebels won the turnover battle by forcing the Leathernecks’ first two turnovers of the year.
“We just go back every week and look at our mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again,” said senior linebacker Tani Maka, who had two tackles for loss and an interception.
Don’t forget about the penalties -- well, the absence of them anyway. UNLV started playing football in 1968 and never went an entire game without getting called for a penalty until tonight.
Years from now that will come up as the answer to a trivia question. For the announced crowd of 13,017 it will hearken them back to the night UNLV was the best team on the field and played like it for 60 minutes.
There probably won’t be one play and an amazing highlight that stands out in their minds. It will be more like the feeling of a job well done.
“These guys enjoyed it again tonight,” Hauck said. “It was fun to be in that locker room.”