Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009 | 2:35 a.m.
Ryan Greene, Rob Miech and Alex Adeyanju digest all there was to take in from UNLV's 59-21 loss to BYU on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
- UNLV-BYU Box Score
- Instant analysis: Loss to BYU leaves Mike Sanford hanging by a thread
- Harvey Unga puts on show for BYU fans in ‘Provo West’
- BYU quarterback has a ball — at UNLV’s expense
- Notebook: Team leaders think signs of belief are still present
- Live Game Blog: BYU rolls reeling Rebels, 59-21
- Opponent: Utah
- Date: Oct. 17, 7 p.m.
- Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
- TV: The Mtn. (Cox ch. 334)
- Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM
Outside of the UNLV locker room Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium, interim Athletic Director Jerry Koloskie said that his stance hadn't yet changed regarding the status of coach Mike Sanford's job.
"As the athletic director, my position hasn't changed," he said in the wake of the Rebels' 59-21 thumping at the hands of No. 18 BYU. "We're halfway through the season, there's six games to go and my position hasn't changed."
Unfortunately for the Rebels, now 2-4 in a once-promising season that appears to be close to entering a downward spiral, nothing else really changed from last week's humbling 63-28 loss at rival UNR, in which the UNLV defense allowed 773 yards of total offense and was punchless against both the run and in third-down situations.
Big, bad BYU came to town — backed by the majority of a crowd of 25,597 on hand — and had its way from start to finish.
While totaling 611 yards of offense — 291 of which came on the ground — and playing a well-executed, mistake-free, disciplined brand of ball, the Cougars also snatched away any whiff of momentum the Rebels were able to grab in the process.
Each of UNLV's three scores were answered by a BYU touchdown inside of two minutes apiece.
It made for two sound beatings in a row, plain and simple.
"Kinda in the tank, to not be explicit," junior quarterback Omar Clayton responded when asked what the mindset of the team was following another lopsided loss. "The only thing you can do is get ready for the next game and learn from mistakes."
With BYU showing no cracks in its armor for UNLV to jump on and exploit, the Rebels committed one of their three turnovers relatively early, with the game still on an even keel.
Trailing 3-0 on the Rebels' second offensive possession, Clayton, who missed last week's game at UNR with a sore right shoulder, was flushed from the pocket to his right. He floated the ball up in the air, sending it out of bounds as a form of surrender on the play.
Instead, it hung up close enough to the field of play for BYU's Jordan Pendleton to get in the air, snag the ball with one hand and come down barely inbounds. Three plays later, the first of three Harvey Unga touchdown runs made it a 10-0 contest, and the blowout was essentially in effect.
As for senior quarterback Max Hall, who has a reputation of being forced into mistakes when under duress and flushed from the pocket, he operated like a surgeon, completing 21 of his 27 pass attempts for 320 yards and two scores. He was hardly touched all night, and for the first time in six games this season, went without throwing an interception.
"He had time, he was able to hit open receivers," Sanford said. "They had guys open, we didn't cover him and we didn't defend him like we're capable of.
"It's very obvious, we didn't tackle well enough to win."
Sanford pointed out that the Rebels were without junior linebacker and leading tackler Starr Fuimaono, who suffered and ankle injury against the Wolf Pack last weekend, while his top sidekick, junior Ronnie Paulo, was banged up early, spraining his shoulder.
But no matter who was in, the tackling only appeared to get sloppier and sloppier as the game progressed, ultimately ending with another unsightly set of digits on the scoreboard.
UNLV's offense again couldn't answer every score the Cougars were able to register, and turnovers didn't help that cause.
Clayton was 20-of-32 for 253 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while backup Mike Clausen went 5-of-9 for 39 yards and a pick.
UNLV again abandoned its rushing attack early on as things began to get out of control. Clausen led the team with 17 yards on five carries, while junior Channing Trotter had five carries of his own for 14 yards, giving the team's leading rusher 16 yards on eight carries in the past two outings.
"We're just playing so uncharacteristic right now," said senior receiver Ryan Wolfe, who caught eight passes for 69 yards and, in the process, became the Mountain West Conference's second all-time leading pass-catcher. "We show signs of being able to move the ball pretty well. It takes one guy to do what they're not supposed to be doing to make a play fall apart."
After several of them fell apart, at his postgame press conference, Sanford deflected a question regarding his job status to Koloskie, who was standing in the back of the room.
New UNLV President Neal Smatresk, who was vocal over the last week on the subject, was out of town on Saturday night.
"I'm not gonna answer that," Sanford said. "(Koloskie's) right back there. If you want to talk to him, you can talk to him."
Contacted by the Sun after he left the stadium, Koloskie was asked if he thought it was premature for some fans to want a coaching change immediately.
"It is, in my mind," he said. "Absolutely."
While still mathematically alive to reach its goal of getting to at least six wins and earning a postseason berth, UNLV has a tough road ahead.
Next Saturday, 4-1 Utah comes to town for a 7 p.m. kickoff, having opened Mountain West Conference play earlier in the day with a come-from-behind 24-17 victory at Colorado State.
With all of the speculation and talk going on around the program and regarding its future, the UNLV players know that getting caught up in it would only make matters worse.
"Coach Sanford makes sure that all of our focus goes into the game," Clayton said. "Those things are out of our hands. What we can do is try to play hard, do well in practice and that kind of stuff, so we try not to worry about the coaches' jobs."