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Rebels produce under pressure, thump Rams, 35-16

UNLV’s slim bowl hopes stay alive for another week thanks to steady offense, big-play defense


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV defensive lineman Malo Taumua celebrates after defeating Colorado State 35-16 Saturday, November 7, 2009 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Colorado State vs UNLV

UNLV beats Colorado State 35-16 in Las Vegas Saturday night for the Rebels' first home win over the Rams in school history, keeping their bowl hopes alive.

UNLV vs. Colorado State

UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton scrambles under pressure from Colorado State defensive back Elijah-Blu Smith during the first half of Saturday's game at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

CSU POSTGAME: A successful snoozer for UNLV

Ryan Greene, Christine Killimayer and Rob Miech break down a 35-16 victory for the Rebels over Colorado State which was a bit tough to watch at times, but at the end of the day kept UNLV's 2009 season relevant for at least another week. Plus, a sneak peek ahead to next week's test at Air Force, where it's do-or-die all over again.

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UNLV kept its bowl hopes alive against CSU. Can it do the same next week at Air Force?

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Next game

  • Opponent: Air Force (6-3)
  • Date: Nov. 14, 3 p.m.
  • Where: Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • TV: The Mtn. (Cox Ch. 334)
  • Radio: ESPN 1100 AM
  • All-time series: Air Force leads, 10-4

Whether it was by noticing the smiles on their faces that displayed a sense of momentary relief or just by them flat-out saying it, Saturday night's win just felt a bit different than the previous three this season for the members of the UNLV football team.

In soundly dispatching of Colorado State on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium by a count of 35-16, the Rebels ended the Rams' hopes of bowl eligibility, and in turn kept theirs alive by improving to 4-6 with two games still to go.

Yes, the sometimes exciting, sometimes disappointing, mostly maddening season that has been the 2009 campaign remains relevant for at least another week for coach Mike Sanford & Co.

"It's a lot more intense, I'll tell you that," senior receiver Jerriman Robinson said of the Rebels' do-or-die evening in front of 15,902 fans. "Every day in practice is precious, every rep is precious. We take every day like it's going to be our last. Everyone's on their toes, making sure we're on our p's and q's, knowing that this could be our last (meaningful) game."

And guess what? Now they get to do it all over again next weekend at Air Force. Then, if they're fortunate enough to somehow pull that one off, for the second consecutive season, a postseason berth would come down to a meeting with San Diego State.

But for at least a day, the Rebels can enjoy one of their most efficient, sound showings of the season.

UNLV took the dominant position on Colorado State for the first time in the final minute of the first half.

With Colorado State having just tied the game up, 7-7, and milking plenty of the clock to that point in the evening, junior quarterback Omar Clayton engineered a stunning six-play, 72-yard drive which consumed all of 49 seconds. It included a 20-yard connection with senior Ryan Wolfe, a 28-yard pass to sophomore Michael Johnson on a third-and-nine play, then a 13-yard touchdown toss to Robinson with less than a minute to go before intermission.

"It was really great to get it," Clayton said of grabbing the 14-7 halftime edge. "I didn't expect to get it that quickly, but we did."

And UNLV would hold it the rest of the way. The Rebels opened the second half by marching 75 yards in eight plays, with sophomore QB Mike Clausen scoring the first of his two five-yard second half touchdown runs to open things up at 21-7.

Both drives were models of efficiency, which was key for UNLV the entire night.

Colorado State pulled out all the stops in attempting to avoid its seventh consecutive loss following a 3-0 start to the season. The Rams mixed tricky pass plays with straight-ahead runs to hold the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game (37:59). While UNLV's time of possession was only 22:01, it avoided mistakes, averaged a healthy 5.1 yards per run as a team and scored touchdowns on all four trips inside of CSU's 20-yard line.

"The best thing about us was efficiency on offense tonight," Sanford said. "They were trying everything in the book today. They were running double passes, reverses, reverse passes, flea-flickers, everything. Our guys, I thought, did a good job of recognizing those."

The defense certainly bent at times, but on top of Colorado State repeatedly shooting itself in the feet with penalties, the UNLV defense came up with just enough big plays to keep momentum on its side.

Senior linebacker Jason Beauchamp led the way with 14 tackles, while junior cornerback Quinton Pointer had seven stops with two huge takedowns for losses. Senior safety Marquel Martin sealed the win for good with a fourth quarter interception.

UNLV came into the game ranked alone in last out of 120 FBS programs with just two interceptions this season, but Martin's first career pick gave the Rebels their first interception in 30 quarters. The last one came on Sept. 19 in a victory at home over Hawaii.

On offense, Clayton had the steady hand all night. Along with getting the game's scoring started with a thrilling 28-yard touchdown run down the left sideline, he was 10-of-17 for 147 yards and the aforementioned TD toss to Robinson.

He also had the luxury of working hand-in-hand with a consistent running attack. Five different Rebels had at least 22 yards on the ground.

More important for Clayton, however, as UNLV heads into another pressure cooker next week, it was the third game in a row in which Clayton hasn't thrown an interception.

"I feel like as an entire offense, we did a good job," he said. "We were able to get our running game going, which was really solid.

"The defense did a great job. Any time you can get momentum going in a football, it's crucial, so it's good to get it going on both sides of the ball."

Next week's foe, Air Force, will pose a tougher challenge than Colorado State did, though.

The Falcons relieved a bit of pressure of their own, as they gained bowl eligibility earlier in the day on Saturday with a 35-7 romp at home over Army, which improved them to 6-3.

They appear to have found a nice groove late in the season, and while their vaunted rush offense ranks fourth in the nation, its supported by a defense that ranks seventh.

Still, the Rebels are glad to be heading to Colorado Springs still playing for something more than just pride.

"It feels good," Beauchamp said. "I'm just glad the team played together. The defense was hungry, we're on a mission here in November. I'm just glad to get everyone's spirits up. Hopefully we carry this over into Air Force."

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Previous Discussion: 12 comments so far…

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  1. Good job REB'S no criticism here today. Way to play a lot better then I expected, now keep it going!!

  2. Good effort Rebs. Nice win. Now go get Air Force.

  3. Great job Rebel football. There should be a bowl for teams with .500 records. Even better there should be a very special bowl for teams with .500 records that were achieved against community colleges and programs with even less self respect. How about the Old English No Self Respect Bowl? 40's all around. Imagine the week of events. The No Fans in the Stands challenge. The Dirt Parking Lot Car Clean Contest. And finally, the myopic fans contest. Which teams fans can get more excited about wins over Division 4 programs. WORD!

  4. went to the game last night good game rebs

  5. I thought I recognized you myopic, you're Robert's brother. Let me just tell ya, the apple definitely didn't fall far from the tree. Same idiotic, denegrading comments as per usual. Yes Sanford's getting fired as he should but you still have to go on and on and on and on and on........try saying something refreshing for once...if you have the vocabulary to do so, which is doubtful.

    Bet, props to you for giving it up to the Rebels.

    Yeah they've only beat a bad teams....but that's what you're supposed to do. I'm upset that the Rebs haven't improved against a better quality of opponent like they should have but wishing them to lose every game (like myopic does) just flat out doesn't make any sense. If it were to happen it would only serve to hurt the program in recruiting, attendance(if it's anymore possible) and possible hires of an AD and head coach. A good head coach is more likely to come here if he's not starting from scratch. If it were you would you want to start with a program that was 5-7 or 3-9? Neither are great but you get the idea.

  6. The blue seats in the endzone at Sam Boyd Stadium are a disgrace and whoever approved them should be banned from LAS VEGAS FOREVER!

    BLUE SEATS at a UNLV Stadium?

    Any people get upset when I say that the people who work in the UNLV Athletic Department are LOSERS and MORONS?


  7. Right on que Robert, thanks....

  8. I nominate FastCamron for Coach and Provost of the UNLV Rebel Football program. He has proven over the years to be the most committed fan the Rebel football program has ever known. He sees the dirt parking lot not as a symptom of decades of pathetic institutional standards but a sign that there is work to be done. Low attendance isn't community apathy it's poor promotion, and blue seats not as incompetence but a subtle reminder of the community's evolving political composition (get it, soon they may all be blue). FastCamron is the best fan UNLV could ever hope for. Unfortunately, they're not hoping and I hope that he never stops posting. Do you think that the University of Florida has Gold seats in their stadium?

  9. They do need to change the damn seats.
    What the hell is going on in the Athletic department?

  10. Great win REBELS! to: Ryan Greene-Rob Meeshindik -your sidekick(w/o batteries) predicted 51 total pts and UNLV may even be shut out.IDIOT excuse me a IDIOT who can't sing.The question to UNLV defense.Is thier no one who can play Linebacker better then Star does with one foot?Starr is fantastic but not now, ankle injury really showed.

  11. That is a great idea testtube. Best one yet if fact. There's only one problem with your typical rant....where's the word myopic? You've failed us all Robert, whoops! I mean testtube.

  12. Actually testis, I would prefer Caesar over Provost. Could you put that in your lunetic rant next time? Thanks.