Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011 | 1 a.m.
Losing never gets any easier.
That much was apparent by the way UNLV coach Bobby Hauck shook his head and frowned as he glanced over the statistics minutes after his team suffered a 31-14 defeat to San Diego State on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“I think we’re more inconsistent than anything else, which is certainly an issue that we’re going to keep addressing,” Hauck said. “We don’t play consistently well.”
UNLV dropped its fourth consecutive game and fell to 2-9 on the season with only a daunting challenge at No. 19 TCU remaining on the schedule.
Hauck bemoaned the Rebels' season-long tendency to ace one half of a game and fail the other. The Rebels controlled the entire first half against the Aztecs and went into halftime with a 14-7 lead.
It was no fluke, either. The offense appeared well-rounded and blazed down the field for a total of 233 yards, while the defense held San Diego State to less and came up with stops in a couple high leverage situations.
“They came out fired up and played very well in the first half,” Hauck said. “They kicked our tail in the second half. It was a dang shame.”
The Rebels had a total of 28 yards and two first downs in the second half. After sophomore running back Tim Cornett broke his career high in the first half with 134 rushing yards, he only had one carry for two yards the rest of the way.
Cornett “tweaked” his ankle after the one attempt in the third quarter. Although he said the pain went away immediately, the UNLV staff opted to rest Cornett for the majority of the second half.
“The coaches know best and I guess they thought I was hurt or whatever the case may be,” Cornett said. “I think that’s why they held me out there.”
Two of San Diego State’s three possessions in the third quarter went for scores to give it a 17-14 edge.
Down a field goal, UNLV advanced to the San Diego State 36-yard line on its ensuing drive. But sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring couldn’t connect with senior receiver Michael Johnson on a fourth-and-7 pass attempt.
Herring finished 14-for-26 for 119 yards, but only threw for 16 yards on four completions in the second half and got sacked four times.
“Us passing and spreading them out more helped our run game a lot,” Cornett said of the first-half success.
But the offense can’t bear all of the blame for the collapse. After containing San Diego State standout running back Ronnie Hillman with the exception of one long run in the first half, UNLV lost track of him in the second.
Hillman, the nation’s fifth leading rusher, found his way to the edge repeatedly on his way to 192 yards on 32 carries. Although Aztec senior quarterback Ryan Lindley had an off night in completing only 13 of his 29 passes, he threw for two touchdowns in the second half.
The pass to put the game away with a 24-14 score came with six minutes left when Lindley found Dylan Denso from six yards out on a fourth-down play.
“We just didn’t execute as well as we did in the first half,” senior linebacker Nate Carter said. “It’s just the same old thing we’ve got to get fixed. We’ve got to be consistent in our play.”
The Rebels throw that word around a lot — “consistency”. The players claim becoming more consistent is the way to move the program forward.
But none of them have an explanation for how they can work on it specifically. All the Rebels know is that the pain hasn’t eased up after 20 defeats in the past two years.
“Losing is never just another loss,” Carter said.