Ross D. Franklin / AP
Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 | 11:50 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- In a building that's hosted Super Bowls and BCS bowl games, the way UNLV was rejoicing both in and outside of its locker room would make anyone think the Rebels had just won one of each on the same night.
Relatively speaking, they did.
With the season hinging on whether the Rebels could show up, compete and stay healthy against a nationally-ranked opponent.
They did one better, knocking off No. 15 Arizona State 23-20 in an overtime thriller at Sun Devil Stadium, leaving a crowd of nearly 60,000 completely stunned.
Omar Clayton went 19-of-1 for 191 yards and two touchdown passes, most of which came after halftime, when the training staff in the UNLV locker room thought he may have suffered a broken jaw.
The second of his two TD tosses could go down as one of the more memorable scores in UNLV football history, as freshman Phillip Payne made a one-handed grab falling backwards, a catch which ended up providing the game-tying score. That came after UNLV trailed 20-10 in the third quarter, and sealing things in overtime was a blocked field goal by Malo Taumua after Kyle Watson moments earlier hit a 20-yarder for what ultimately was the game-winning score.
The Rebels pointed out afterwards how much they in fact played up this past week the notion that ASU was looking past UNLV and ahead towards its showdown with No. 2 Georgia next Saturday in Tempe.
"Now they're ready to play Georgia," said junior linebacker Jason Beauchamp.
For UNLV, the key now becomes regaining focus. Coach Mike Sanford and his players all agreed they'll enjoy the heck out of this one tonight, but tomorrow the mission becomes getting ready for next Saturday's game against Iowa State. It begins a two-game homestand for the Rebels, who face Nevada-Reno a week later.
As for some final numbers ...
-Frank Summers, who totaled just eight yards on his first seven carries, finished with 103 yards on 22 totes. He was key on both fourth quarter scoring drives, doing most of his work on the ground in the first series, then catching a 29-yard wheel route to help set up the game-tying score.
-Arizona State managed 131 yards on the ground even without senior star Keegan Herring playing. As for senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter - ASU's biggest weapon - he completed 13 of 23 passes for 242 yards, two scores and one costly interception late in the first half.
-Payne finished with 31 yards on five catches for UNLV, giving him 12 grabs and four touchdowns so far this season.
-Michael Jones, ASU's top receiving threat, was held to just 15 yards on two catches.
-UNLV still has yet to commit a turnover on offense this season, maybe the most amazing statistic of all.
Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for full postgame coverage, including stories, player reactions, statistics, audio clips and video highlights.
Overtime - 10:11 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Malo Taumua made ASU pay for getting too conservative on offense, and he rejected Thomas Weber's 35-yard field goal attempt. Heading down to the field for reactions. Be back in a bit. It's sure to be interesting.
Overtime - 10:08 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Omar Clayton completed a couple more passes to Ryan Wolfe - the second of which was tipped twice in front of the goal line before being hauled in - and UNLV wound up with a chippy of a field goal. Kyle Watson's 19-yarder gave UNLV the 23-20 lead, with ASU's offense taking over for its shot at a win.
Mike Sanford could have gone for it on fourth-and-goal at the two, but made the right choice in kicking. The defense has been too strong in the second half to not give them a shot at stopping Carpenter & Co.
4th quarter, :18 - 9:56 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Well, yeah. This guy's kinda good. Phillip Payne strikes again, and UNLV has tied No. 15 Arizona State, 20-20, with :18 to go in a suddenly quieted Sun Devil Stadium.
Omar Clayton went 6-of-8 on a 74-yard drive, but caped it with a pair of completions to his sensational freshman target. The first - on fourth-and-four - fooled stud cornerback Omar Bolden and picked up nine yards, moving the ball inside the ASU 10. Then, Clayton threw up a jump ball two plays later for Payne, and falling backwards, the Western High product grabbed it with one hand in the edge of the end zone.
ASU opted not to get cute. It's going to overtime. Pretty crazy, huh?
All-time in overtime: UNLV is 1-7, ASU is 4-2.
UNLV will have the ball first.
4th quarter, 3:14 - 9:45 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The defense did its job, and certainly deserves a gold star or 15 after tonight. Lorenzo Bursey Jr. made a big stop against Kerry Taylor following a third-and-10 completion, and the Rebels tightened the screws against the run game.
Michael Johnson cleanly fielded the punt, and set UNLV up at its own 36-yard line. No timeouts remaining.
4th quarter, 6:28 - 9:38 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Rebels atoned for a missed opportunity on their previous drive in a fashion yet to be seen tonight. On an 18-play, 87-yard drive which consumed more than half of the fourth quarter clock.
Frank Summers came alive, as the Rebels converted three third downs on the drive, which was capped on a 20-yard field goal from Kyle Watson.
Summers is an interesting story tonight. He had eight yards on his first seven totes, but after that drive (in which he got the ball nine times), he has 99 yards on 20 carries ... or 91 on his last 13.
The option call on third-and-goal at the one-yard line was a little odd, but being down one score is being down one score. The defense got some rest, and now needs one more stop with just over six minutes to go.
Injury sidenote:Right tackle Evan Marchal is out for the rest of the night with a sprained ankle.
3rd quarter, 2:31 - 9:14 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- I'm not one to question play calls all that often, seeing how my coaching credentials are on par with those of Lindsay Lohan.
But here was an interesting one.
Trailing 20-10 late in the third quarter, Frank Summers had ripped off his first two decent gainers of the game to push UNLV into ASU territory for the first time this half. On fourth-and-inches from the ASU 45, the Rebels put Omar Clayton in shotgun, and had him throw a short pass to his left, rather than lining him up under center and pushing the pile (which has already worked once tonight). The result was a turnover as the ball floated out of bounds.
The Rebels were bailed out with another big play up front from Isaako Aaitui, who stopped Shaun DeWitty in the backfield on second-and-seven in UNLV territory, and Rudy Carpenter couldn't complete his third down pass attempt.
Instead of keeping the drive going earlier, UNLV now starts anew ... at its own 10-yard line.
3rd quarter, 10:37 - 8:59 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The good news is that Omar Clayton is back on the field for UNLV.
The bad news is that he finds himself facing a 10-point deficit, as opposed to the tied score which showed on the boards when he last left the field.
Rudy Carpenter threw a gorgeous ball down the seam to Kyle Williams on the Devils' first possession out of the half, and 49 yards later, the ASU offense had again found its groove, up 20-10.
As for Clayton, the word on the streets (the 'streets' being sports information's Mark Wallington) is that Clayton busted his lip while throwing the first half TD pass to Phillip Payne, and was simply still being tended to as the second half started. That should cause several Rebel fans to breathe a sigh of relief, since he continues to look steady.
3rd quarter, 13:10 - 8:53 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Clausen is in at quarterback again for the Rebels, but this time it isn't just to get him some experience. Omar Clayton was injured on the play in which he hit Phillip Payne in the end zone, and took awhile to emerge from the halftime locker room. He ran back to the sideline, but there's no indication as to whether he'll play again tonight.. The specifics of the injury are not known at the time, but I'll have more shortly.
Clausen's second time at the helm didn't produce much, as the Rebels couldn't convert a third-and-two from their own 26 after a nice eight-yard gain on second down over the middle to Ryan Wolfe.
Halftime, - 8:20 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Not going to lie, it was hard not to scratch the head when Mike Clausen came in for a late second quarter possession in place of Omar Clayton, who had looked solid so far tonight.
After that drive stalled, the UNLV defense continued to get big plays from unlikely sources. Tonight, so far, it's true freshman Beau Orth out of Bishop Gorman, who recorded his first career interception and set UNLV up at the ASU seven-yard line with just over a minute to go in the half.
Clayton came back in, and after a couple of short-gainers on the ground, it was pretty easy to guess what was coming. Out of a timeout on third-and-goal, Mike Sanford lined Phillip Payne up at the bottom of your screen one-on-one with Omar Bolden, one of the Pac-10's top corners. Moments later, the freshman from Western High made it three fade passes caught for three TDs in - you guessed it - three games. Now you can legitimately say that play is no fluke.
Sanford then burned his final two timeouts after two Rudy Carpenter passes got ASU to the UNLV 32-yard line. They were meant to ice Thomas Weber, but it didn't matter as he pushed ASU ahead 13-10 heading into the break.
Still, the Rebels have quite a bit to be excited about. Granted, they haven't been able to run the ball much at all (15 yards on 14 carries), but they've capitalized on an ASU team that appears to be snoozing a bit. Now UNLV gets the ball out of the break, and has a chance to keep in this slugfest. Now we see if they really learned from a week ago.
A few first half numbers of note ...
-Rudy Carpenter was 10-of-16 for 179 yards, with a touchdown and a pick to his credit. He's found nine different targets so far.
-Without Keegan Herring, ASU is still finding success on the ground. Dimitri Nance and Shaun DeWitty have combined for 79 yards off of 17 carries.
-Omar Clayton's numbers are modest (7-of-10, 64 yards, one TD), but he looks comfortable, and that's the key.
-Total yardage: ASU 248, UNLV 78. And it's only a three-point game. TELL me ASU isn't looking ahead. Seriously, I dare you. Just TELL me. I mean, can you fault them? No. That's what young guys do with the biggest game so far this season on the horizon. But the fact that those yards have only led to 13 points means the precision just isn't there.
Second half forecast: ASU's going to score a couple more touchdowns. There's no question about that. But the fact that Frank Summers has just five yards on six carries stands out on the stat sheet. If UNLV can't successfully run the ball, the Rebels might have trouble hanging around - unless they force a couple more turnovers like Orth's pick. That's the play of this game so far. I still say the Rebels cover the 22.5 points.
First half side observation: I'm betting this one isn't a ratings scorcher for FSN. It took the network only a few minutes into the second quarter to get Sun Devils hoops coach Herb Sendek into the booth for an interview. Eesh.
2nd quarter, 4:53 - 8:06 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Well, spoke too soon. Not that ASU's now showing much fire of any kind, but the Devils did manage to finish off a drive the way they're used to doing so. Rudy Carpenter capped a five-play, 78-yard jaunt which took 2:09 off the clock by finding Chris McGaha for a beautiful grab from 22 yards out. He did so in between a pair of Rebel defensive backs.
Carpenter has completed eight passes to eight different receivers.
2nd quarter, 7:09 - 7:58 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Never again will I let another former coach turned commentator come close to convincing me the look-ahead theory is bogus. The Sun Devils aren't playing with a ton of fire or precision, and with that UNLV, has snuck up to tie things up, 3-3, mid-way through the second quarter.
It started with another solid UNLV defensive stop, where after ASU opened up the drive with six straight successful runs, the Sun Devils were left with no choice but to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the UNLV 35. Rudy Carpenter's pass was tipped at the line by Jacob Hales, thus negating a flag thrown along the sideline against Geoffrey Howard for what would have been pass interference.
Omar Clayton continued to look comfortable down here in the other part of the desert. He was three-of-four on the ensuing drive, including a nice 18-yarder over the middle to Jerriman Robinson. Ben Jaekle then connected on a 44-yarder to tie it up, 3-3. That kick was a career-high for the sophomore kicker.
... And updating a previous note, while John Gianninoto did not get the start at center, he entered the game on UNLV's last possession, and appeared to be fine. He played hobbled for much of last week's game at Utah.
1st quarter, 1:33 - 7:37 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Just like last week on the road, the Rebels refuse to let an overpowering home team grab a big early edge. This time, supplying the bricks was the pass rush, which hadn't recorded a sack since the opener on Aug. 30.
On ASU's second possession of the game, Heivaha Mafi and Isaako Aaitui (say those both five times fast, I dare ya) each sacked Rudy Carpenter on back-to-back plays. Then the Rebels showed a little flash on offense, moving the ball out near midfield before the drive went dead. But the immortal Dack Ishii (maybe the nation's top third-string-QB-starting-punter combo?) got an incredible bounce off his first punt of the game, sticking ASU on its own one with just over a minute to go in the quarter.
One thing that's got to change here for the Rebels is the ability to run the ball. Frank Summers hasn't found much success so far, with no yards on three carries. If UNLV is to establish any kind of a real offensive retaliation, that's got to get working.
1st quarter, 9:25 - 7:18 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Rudy Carpenter & Co. looked pretty much in control to open the game, taking a drive from their own 20 down deep into the UNLV red zone. Things were aided by a personal foul call against Rebel linebacker Rusty Worthen. Yes, the same Worthen whose horse collar personal foul kept the Utes late second quarter drive going last week en route to tying the game before halftime. Now that one could at least be forgiven, because a horse collar sometimes can happen in the heat of action. This one, though, was diving on a pile after a play had been completed. That's inexcusable, and it negated a nice stop of ASU running back Dimitri Nance for a loss of two yards on first-and-15.
The drive was capped with a Thomas Weber 20-yard chip shot.
UNLV's opening drive? Well, not much. First came a loss of two by Frank Summers, then a nice eight-yard gainer to Ryan Wolfe. Omar Clayton kept it for himself on third-and-four, but got zilch.
A couple of injury notes ...
-No, ASU's Keegan Herring will not be playing tonight. Nance got the start, while 6-foot-2, 227-pound bowling ball Shaun DeWitty is the No. 2 back for the Devils.
-UNLV starting center John Gianninoto did not in fact start. Joe Hawley moved over to guard, and Sifa Moala is in his spot.
Pregame, 6:40 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- No warm-blooded male visiting the Arizona State campus for the first time can help but have the same reaction after getting out of the car for the first time: 'Why did I NOT go to school here?'
I guess you could say the scenery is just delightful.
OK, had to get that out of the way. Apologies if you're offended. Lets get on to some football chatter.
The buzz round here - though nothing's been confirmed yet - is that ASU running back Keegan Herring will not play tonight. Granted, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone. The Sun Devils' senior spark plug tweaked a hamstring injury a week ago against Stanford, and there's no point in not saving him up for next weekend's non-conference clash back here in Tempe with No. 2 Georgia.
How much would Herring sitting help the Rebels tonight? Well, lets just say it certainly wouldn't hurt them. It takes away one of ASU's handful of homerun threats which could sting UNLV right off the bat here. While it still doesn't level the playing field, it takes a couple of jelly beans out of the Sun Devils' loaded half of the scale.
The student body here at ASU is out in full force. Sure, this isn't what you'd call a marquee matchup - especially with next week's game being all the rage here in Tempe - but this team has a buzz surrounding it, and seemingly everyone in town wants a glimpse. Expect Sun Devil Stadium to be awfully close to full.
We've analyzed this game as much as it can or should be analyzed already this week, so on to today's three big predictions ...
1) Our virtual projection of this game on lasvegassun.com could prove to be pretty accurate - at least in terms of the final score. Though, Mike Sanford probably wouldn't mind seeing those two virtual defensive touchdowns coming to fruition, either.
2) Don't expect Nate Carter to be Lawrence Taylor in his first starting role as a Rebel. Carter, a Las Vegas High product, is of course the strong side replacement for Jason Beauchamp, who is starting on the weak side in Starr Fuimaono's absence. D-coordinator Dennis Therrell called Carter the speediest member of this linebacking corps. While he may take some rookie lumps tonight, you'd better believe he'll be better for them in the coming weeks, as nothing he'll see between now and maybe Oct. 25 (when UNLV plays BYU) will compare with ASU in terms of raw talent.
3) I'll say 'Why did I NOT go to school here' at least six more times. (Of course, nothing against the old University of Kansas. I'm just sayin'.)
Talk to you around kickoff.