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August 18, 2019

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From Ely: Rebel defense bites back; Summers finds HBO inspiration

Welcome to Ely, UNLV

Check out the sights and sounds of the UNLV football team as they begin their 11-day practice in Ely, Nevada.

Apparently, two days of that was enough for the UNLV defense.

After both the No. 1 and No. 2 offensive units thoroughly took it to the team's defensive groups in red zone drills Sunday and Monday, the emotionally heated battles took a tilt in the other direction Tuesday morning, during the Rebels' lone practice of the day in Ely.

With an emphasis being put on red zone scoring Monday (something UNLV struggled with in '07), coach Mike Sanford took it up a notch Tuesday, ending the practice with live scrimmages involving third- and fourth-down situations inside the red zone.

"I think that's something that we have tried to develop over time, and when we first got here, the competitiveness wasn't where it needed to be, and it's gotten better and better and better," Sanford said. "It's the best it's been right now, without a question."

The defense didn't allow itself to be repeatedly taken advantage of on the fade pattern, which was the case Monday, and the defensive line penetrated the backfield more than it had all week.

The highlight of that effort came in a two-point conversion drill with the No. 1 offense facing the No. 1 defense. In two tries, quarterback Omar Clayton was first 'sacked' (QBs were not live) by Malo Taumua, and then flushed from the pocket to his left and 'drilled' again by Jacob Hales.

"It fetl good because yesterday we kind of got beat," Taumua said. "Today, when we stopped them all those times, I got goosebumps."

Summers takes well-earned black shirt honor

Who says you can't learn anything from T.V.?

In Ely this week, during the little bit of free time he's had, Frank Summers didn't necessarily learn something new while watching HBO, but rather had something he values dearly reinforced.

"I was watching that show 'Hard Knocks' the other night, I see (Terrell Owens) catch every ball, run fast, big, strong, that guy is unbelievable," the UNLV running back said of watching the cable series documenting Dallas Cowboys training camp. "And yet the coaches say 'We can't even teach him anything.' Yet still he's the hardest worker on the field. Even though you're talented, you still need to work. And that's just been me, a blue collar player, a blue collar person my whole life."

The opening scene of last week's debut episode of this season's 'Hard Knocks' showed Owens running early in the morning on the beach, working out on his own.

Summers has emulated that to an extent this week as the team trains in the mountains, staying each day after practice for extra work, be it while running against a bungee cord or practicing blocking techniques on a sled.

It's that type of commitment which earned Summers the offensive black shirt for Tuesday's practice. On the defensive side, Taumua took the honors for the second straight day.

An argument could be made that Summers' work ethic could earn him the honor any given day this week.

"I like the honor of it, and I really appreciate being recognized for working hard, but I pride myself on doing that everyday - That's something I should do," Summers said humbly. "I was thinking today: 'Do I really even deserve to wear this shirt?' I'm gettinbg a privilege for something I'm supposed to do. I'm working hard, and that's what I do."

An animated ending

Practice ended in a more lively fashion than it had at any point so far during camp on Tuesday.

Sanford made a proposition to his offensive and defensive lines - pick two guys to try and catch punts out of the 'Jugs' machine, and should three of the four be caught, no added conditioning would take place after practice.

First, Joe Hawley and Preston Brooks each easily fielded attempts, drawing choruses of hollers from their teammates lined up alongside them. Finally, John Gianninoto added some flair to the third attempt. The ball bounced down off his facemask and he quickly reacted by drawing it in with his hands, setting off a frenzy as he danced in the end zone and tossed his helmet in celebration.

This thin air does kooky stuff to you, folks.

Tuesday's standouts

Corner Will Chandler, who couldn't find a way to stop Phillip Payne Monday on repeated fade patterns, and maybe got a bit down on himself, recovered with a solid showing Tuesday, including a nice pick in the end zone. Earning runner-up honors is junior receiver Rodelin Anthony. Drawing a knock for inconsistent hands through his first two seasons at UNLV, he started to show some consistency with two impressive grabs over the middle in-between defenders Tuesday.

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