AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 | 12:55 a.m.
Once you start it’s easy to get lost in the numbers — 2, 4, 787 — because they’re all staggering in their own way. They also tell the story of Arizona’s shellacking against UNLV tonight better than any words could.
“They took it to us again,” said UNLV coach Bobby Hauck. “Just like they did a year ago.”
The final score tonight at Arizona Stadium was the exact same as the Sept. 7 beatdown last year at Sam Boyd Stadium. This time, though, 58-13 only scratches the surface.
Let’s start with the three figures listed above:
• 2: One-play scoring drives for Arizona. That’s one more touchdown than UNLV had the entire game and it doesn’t even include the Wildcats’ 63-yard scoring strike in the first quarter.
• 4: Touchdown passes for Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon, a Bishop Gorman grad. Solomon also set an Arizona freshman record with 425 passing yards on 25-of-44 passing to go along with 50 rushing yards.
“We missed a few, too,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He had 425 yards but he could have had 700 if we didn’t miss a few things.”
• 787: Total offensive yards for Arizona, a Wildcats school record and the second-most yards UNLV has ever allowed. Looking back it’s amazing that the game was still scoreless with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Of course there are more numbers, too. Arizona fifth-year senior Terris Jones-Grigsby had zero career rushing attempts coming into the game. He finished with 124 yards and one score on 13 carries.
The Rebels might have been able to keep things competitive longer if they were only getting thrashed through the air or just in the running game, but not both. Last year UNLV allowed 397 rushing yards, so Hauck came in with a plan to keep the ground game contained.
“When you do that you have to hold up in one-on-one situations with your coverage and they won those matchups,” Hauck said.
Seemingly every time there was a play to make on the ball the Rebels came up short.
An early example was safety Peni Vea over-pursuing a run and then watching Jones-Grigsby break through an arm tackle for a 41-yard gain. At that point Arizona was on its own 4-yard line in a scoreless game. Two plays later Solomon hit Nate Phillips for a 39-yard score.
Vea got beat again for a 63-yard score on Arizona’s next possession, and from there it was one missed tackle after another. The defensive errors kept piling up one on top of the other to the point that you could forget what started it all.
It was like trying to figure out how the first couple of cop cars crashed in the climactic chase of “Blues Brothers.” In the end those details get lost amid the giant pile of wreckage.
“The numbers are what they are,” Hauck said. “If you don’t make the play (in space) then you’re going to give up some big plays.”
In his Division I debut, UNLV junior quarterback Blake Decker finished 22-of-41 for 252 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Decker was also the Rebels’ leading rusher with 56 yards on 10 carries.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity to go look at film and figure out what we need to do collectively and individually to improve and be better because it was unacceptable how we played tonight,” Decker said.
The Rebels’ brightest spots, not surprisingly, were the receivers. Devante Davis notched his eighth career 100-yard game, tying him for second in school history, and Basic High grad Devonte Boyd caught six passes for 102 yards in his collegiate debut.
That was about it for the highlights, though. Considered a strength coming into the season, the offensive line was called for several penalties and Decker was often under pressure. And running back Keith Whitely will have a tough time finding his way back onto the field after fumbling in the red zone when the game was still close.
This isn’t the same doomed postgame feeling as 58-13 last season, when Hauck was seemingly week-to-week with his job and UNLV still hadn’t been to a bowl game since 2000. Still, this is about as far from a positive debut as you could get.
Once Arizona started racking up its stats the Rebels were crushed by the numbers’ enormity. Now they must put themselves back together and move forward.