Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 | 10 p.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV and BYU's upcoming Saturday night clash at Sam Boyd Stadium, which pits a red-hot Cougars offense against a Rebels defense -- and head coach, for that matter -- that is truly against the ropes.
Final, BYU wins 59-21
With a season and maybe a coach's job on the brink, UNLV tried to get off the mat repeatedly against BYU on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium, only to find itself losing by submission, 59-21.
The Cougars followed up UNR's 773-yard performance against the UNLV defense by rattling off 613 yards. BYU improves to 4-1 on the season, while UNLV is now 2-4, with three straight defeats.
BYU senior quarterback Max Hall was 21-of-27 for 320 yards and two TD passes, while Harvey Unga ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
UNLV threw three interceptions and was never able to truly make it a game after falling behind early, 17-0.
The Rebels will now welcome Utah to Sam Boyd Stadium next week, while the heat under fifth-year coach Mike Sanford's seat now appears to be at an all-time high.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, analysis, stats, photos, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame podcast, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
13:17, fourth quarter, BYU leads 52-21
Omar Clayton threw his second touchdown pass of the day, this time hitting Rodelin Anthony for a four-yard score.
But, like every other UNLV touchdown or opportunity to grab momentum, BYU salted all over it.
O'Neill Chambers ran the ensuing kickoff back to the UNLV 3-yard line, and one play later, backup quarterback Riley Nelson scored on a draw play, going untouched.
Max Hall appears done for the night, along with the rest of BYU's first-team offense. He finished up 21-of-27 for 320 yards and two touchdown passes. It was the first time this season in which Hall did not throw a pick.
2:20, third quarter, BYU leads 45-14
BYU apparently is in no rush to let off of the gas pedal.
In the Cougars' most recent offensive display, they went 53 yards in two plays to do the deed.
First, JJ Di Luigi ripped off a 38-yard gain on the ground against a defense comprised of second-stringers. Then, Hall threw him a screen pass, which he easily took in for a 15-yard score.
BYU now has 559 yards of total offense inside of three full quarters, and is averaging 9.8 yards per play. The final numbers in both categories could end up looking eerily similar to those of last week in Reno.
4:41, third quarter, BYU leads 38-14
An interception thrown on a gimmick play by Mike Clausen set up yet another BYU touchdown, this time with freshman Jo Jo Pili doing the honors from a yard out, to put BYU up 38-14 late in the third quarter.
A deep toss to Brett Thompson from Max Hall set the Cougars up inside the UNLV 20-yard line, as the Rebels' defense has yet to put much pressure of any kind on the prolific Cougars' senior gunslinger.
The play by Clausen was a head-scratcher.
Omar Clayton appeared to be finding a rhythm after the 75-yard touchdown toss to Mike Johnson, but then Sanford sent Clausen in along with two tight ends to set up what appeared to be a Clausen sneak. Clausen took one step forward, then dropped back and threw it deep to Ryan Wolfe in double coverage.
UNLV went three-and-out after the BYU score. The blowout might go to another level now.
10:20, third quarter, BYU leads 31-14
BYU's opening drive in the second half stalled out in UNLV territory, and the Rebels showed how serious they are on keeping this one a game.
Right away, they did.
Omar Clayton threw a beautiful ball over the middle for speedster Michael Johnson, who sprinted away from two BYU defenders en route to a 75-yard score, pulling the Rebels to within 10 points early in the third quarter.
Johnson now has 3 catches for 97 yards on the night, while the TD pass was Clayton's seventh this season.
But it was just more of the same, as each chance UNLV has to grab momentum goes right by the wayside thanks to a porous defense.
Just moments after Clayton's throw, a four-play, 69-yard drive was capped by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Max Hall to standout tight end Dennis Pitta. Pitta caught the ball streaking down the right sideline, then faked safety Chris Jones to the inside and went in with relative ease.
At 31-14, BYU appears to have firm control of this one, no matter how many big plays UNLV rips off.
Halftime, BYU leads 24-7
UNLV forced its first punt in two weeks and Deante' Purvis returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown — the first time a Rebels kick returner had done so in 10 years.
Those were pretty much all the highlights there were for UNLV in the first half tonight against BYU, as the Rebels trail 24-7 at the half.
Here are the main numbers of note through one half...
— Harvey Unga has done most of the damage for the BYU offense, as the Cougars are fully exploiting UNLV's faulty run defense. So far, the junior has three touchdown runs and 115 yards on 16 carries.
— Max Hall hasn't had to do much, and has been pretty much a piece of backdrop scenery for the Cougars. So far, the senior QB is 13-of-18 for a quiet 174 yards. No scoring tosses, but also no interceptions.
— Omar Clayton's up-and-down season continues. After throwing four picks in nine starts last year, he threw two in the first half tonight, giving him seven in less than five full games played this season. He is 11-of-17 for 95 yards.
— Some props to UNLV senior receiver Ryan Wolfe, who had six catches for 43 yards in the first half, moving him into second place on the Mountain West Conference's all-time chart for receptions.
— BYU is 5-of-7 on third downs, meaning that in the last six quarters, UNLV's defense has allowed opponents to go 12-of-14 on third downs. Eek, again.
BYU will take the ball out of the break, and this is where we see what kind of control Mike Sanford has over this team. Facing a huge deficit and a potential 2-4 record on the season, does this team play for him? We shall see.
11:12, second quarter, BYU leads 24-7
So much for capitalizing on the momentum.
UNLV linebacker David Blair tried to tackle Harvey Unga up high and paid a dear price, as Unga wiggled away and shot 52 yards downfield for his third touchdown run of the game. It completely wiped out any momentum UNLV had from Purvis's 94-yard kickoff return for a score.
Unga, in a little over a quarter of play tonight, has 109 yards on 11 carries.
13:05, second quarter, BYU leads 24-7
Another BYU drive, another Harvey Unga touchdown run, another collective sigh from the UNLV faithful who held out hope that the Rebels would make this one a game.
Harvey Unga's second touchdown run of the night almost had those in red headed for the gates early, but UNLV sophomore Deante' Purvis breathed some life into the Sam Boyd Stadium stands, running the ensuing kickoff back 94 yards for the Rebels' first score of the night.
He shot up the right sideline, juked kicker Mitch Payne out of his shoes and then showed incredible open-field speed in finishing it off.
Not sure what the fans were more pumped about — The 17-7 score, or the fact that the Rebels' first kickoff return for a score in 10 years gave them free food at Raising Cane's ...
However the kick return is only as valuable for UNLV as the defense makes it. They need a stop in the worst of ways.
3:36, first quarter, BYU leads 10-0
BYU was able to take full advantage of Omar Clayton's mistake, and even overcame a foible of its own.
After a holding call on the first play of the drive gave the Cougars a first-and-20 to deal with, it took the Max Hall-led offense two plays to score. The capper was a 33-yard touchdown run by Harvey Unga, who has killed UNLV in his first two career outings against the Rebels.
He shot up the middle, bounced outside to the right and streaked in with relative ease, avoiding a Deante' Purvis tackle attempt late.
Here's where it gets interesting, folks. Do the Rebels still believe after a disastrous first quarter? Does this get ugly beyond reproach? Still something to watch for here.
4:45, first quarter, BYU leads 3-0
UNLV took an interesting approach on the game's opening drive, playing musical quarterbacks between Omar Clayton — who started — and Mike Clausen.
Either way, it stalled out at the BYU 38-yard line, and a punt set the Cougars up at their own.
Now, granted, UNLV allowed BYU to convert its first two third-down opportunities of the game, but showed some surprising stinginess against the run and held the Cougars to a 28-yard Mitch Payne field goal, after a run attempt on third-and-nine only netted about four yards.
Still, UNLV's weaknesses over the middle against the pass on third downs were exposed early by Max Hall. Expect BYU to still accumulate lots of offensive yardage.
The Cougars won't need many more to score again, though.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Omar Clayton attempted to throw the ball away after being chased towards the UNLV sideline. His throw didn't flutter far enough out of bounds, as BYU's Jordan Pendleton made a phenomenal one-handed grab to set the Cougars up at the Rebels' 36-yard line.
Pregame, part deux
UNLV won the coin toss and elected to receive, which can be read several ways. First off, this is the second time the Rebels have taken the ball at home this season after winning the flip. Is it a lack of confidence in the defense to set the tone? Is it the want to send an offensive statement early? We shall see.
When UNLV ended its 3-game home stand to start the 2009 season, the Rebels were 2-1, fresh off of a thrilling 34-33 victory over Hawaii and heading on the road to face Wyoming — a very beatable opponent.
Flash forward three weeks, Wyoming is now 4-2 and turning into a serious sleeper in the MWC, and UNLV is still licking its wounds after two rough road losses. The most recent being a 63-28 embarrassment at UNR.
We've covered that over and over ... and over ... on this site over the past week, and now the 2-3 Rebels have no choice but to push forward.
That effort begins with another two-game home stretch, welcoming conference heavyweights BYU and Utah to town.
First up tonight is 4-1 BYU, who looks to kick the UNLV defense while its down. As everyone knows by now, the Rebels surrendered 773 yards of total offense and 559 rushing yards to the Wolf Pack last week.
Between senior quarterback Max Hall, junior tailback Harvey Unga and a slew of other weapons, a repeat performance by the UNLV defense could lead to an interesting upcoming week within the program, as the heat is now turned way up under Mike Sanford's seat.
Want one other little bit of salt for that wound?
Well, remember how UNLV's 30-27 loss at Wyoming tied the Rebels for the longest road losing streak in conference games in the nation at 20? Well, now that honor belongs solely to UNLV, as Duke snapped its skid earlier today with a 49-28 victory at North Carolina State.
So far, judging by how easy it was to get into the Sam Boyd parking lot tonight, it's not going to be an insane atmosphere. And after another trip around the concourse, it's definitely going to be a pro-BYU crowd. But, then again, that was to be expected.
Final note: Junior linebacker Starr Fuimaono, who hurt his ankle last weekend, is not dressed for warmups, so it looks like he'll be a no-go.
As for predictions, I'm saying 45-28, BYU. My colleague, Rob Miech, is going 62-9 in favor of the Cougars.