Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009 | 9:15 p.m.
Ryan Greene, Christine Killimayer and Ray Brewer discuss a busy day in UNLV athletics, including the hoops squad's resounding 76-71 victory over No. 16 Louisville at the Mack and the football team's sendoff to coach Mike Sanford and its 16 seniors coming in the form of a 28-24 come-from-behind victory at home over San Diego State.
Final, UNLV wins 28-24
For all of the drama surrounding the UNLV football program over the past few months — and especially the past few weeks — the 2009 squad can at least say it went out as winners.
Omar Clayton struggled for most of the night, but found just enough in his bag of tricks to lead a three-play, 54-yard drive in 34 seconds to push the Rebels over the edge to a 28-24 victory over San Diego State on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
In front of an announced crowd of 13,730 — which in reality was probably less than half of that — SDSU sputtered late after leading by as many as 17 points at 24-7 early in the second half.
UNLV whiffed on an opportunity to tie it up late, when Kyle Watson's second field goal miss of the night gave SDSU the ball with just over three minutes to play at its own 20-yard line. The Rebels forced a punt, and then Clayton worked some magic.
On the second play of the drive, he hit Jerriman Robinson for a 35-yard gain, and then on the next snap, he found Phillip Payne for a 17-yard score in the front of the end zone.
Payne busted a vicious late-season slump, catching five balls for 107 yards and the score. Clayton was 21-of-35 for 274 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
SDSU sophomore QB Ryan Lindley was on fire for much of the game, but finished with two ugly interceptions to go with his 341 yards. One of those was returned for 40 yards by UNLV's Terrence Lee, which went down as the Rebels' lone defensive touchdown of the season.
At the end of the day, UNLV sent Mike Sanford off with a 16-43 career record. The Rebels finish 5-7 for the second consecutive season, while San Diego State dropped its final three games of the year, ending up 4-8 in Brady Hoke's first year at the helm.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, video, photos, stats and The Rebel Room podcast, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
1:58, fourth quarter, SDSU leads 24-21
UNLV's late-game momentum came to a thud with 3:29 to play, as a game-tying field goal try from senior Kyle Watson off the left hashmark missed to the left, putting the pressure on the Rebels defense once again.
The Rebels missed a golden opportunity to take the lead when Omar Clayton overthrew Phillip Payne in the back of the end zone a play earlier.
The miss was Watson's second of the night.
13:35, fourth quarter, SDSU leads 24-21
UNLV made a momentum-changing play on defense, this time scoring its first defensive touchdown of the season.
Malo Taumua deflected a Ryan Lindley pass at the line of scrimmage. It hung up in the air long enough for senior safety Terrence Lee to swoop in and fly untouched for 40 yards en route to the end zone.
He was flagged for taunting during his runback, and SDSU took advantage of the 15-yard penalty assessed on the kickoff, starting its ensuing drive near midfield. However, UNLV was able to force an Aztec punt, and will start again at its own 15-yard line.
The Rebels' offense is still struggling, but all they need to do now is put one decent drive together.
By the way, attendance was announced at 13,730, which might be a bit of a stretch.
8:56, third quarter, SDSU leads 24-14
Ryan Lindley is now up to 252 yards through the air for the Aztecs, and in turn, his team grabbed a three-score lead on UNLV. Lane Yoshida's chip-shot field goal to cap the first drive of the third quarter put San Diego State up 24-7 on UNLV.
The Rebels responded however, as Omar Clayton ran in a score from eight yards out. It came a snap after Phillip Payne nearly made a circus-like touchdown grab in the back of the end zone. Either way, UNLV managed to work its way back to within 10 at 24-14.
Still, UNLV will only have a shot to complete the comeback if the defense can figure out a way to silence Lindley, who has completed 16 of his 25 pass attempts tonight.
Halftime, SDSU leads 21-7
Some halftime numbers to chew on ...
— SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley had a solid first half, repeatedly exposing a soft zone in the middle of UNLV's defense. He was 11-of-18 for 181 yards and a touchdown toww.
— Omar Clayton was 11-of-18 for 125 yards and two picks. He was also sacked twice.
— How about a nice welcome back for Phillip Payne and Rodelin Anthony, as the two UNLV wideouts who had disappeared down the season's stretch run each had a first half catch.
— UNLV might want to utilize Channing Trotter more. On four carries, he has 48 yards, including a 29-yard scoring run.
— Alex De Giacomo is definitely playing his best game of the season, with five tackles and an interception to the junior safety's credit so far.
— Jason Beauchamp recorded a first half sack, giving him 6.5 on the season.
— UNLV allowed 254 yards of total offense in the first half.
3:36, second quarter, SDSU leads 21-7
Thanks in large part to a 64-yard connection from Ryan Lindley to Jon Toledo, San Diego State extended its lead over UNLV to 14 points at 21-7.
The big play made up the majority of the 79 yards covered in a six-play drive downfield for the Aztecs, who appear to be more determined to finish 5-7 in 2009 than the Rebels.
The drive was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Brandon Sullivan.
On the night, Lindley is 7-of-14 for 136 yards and a score, while his counterpart, Omar Clayton, is struggling to say the least. He's 7-of-14 for 81 yards and two interceptions.
Getting the ball back with three minutes to go before the half, the Rebels went into hurry-up mode, which was interesting, as San Diego State has proven it can strike quickly. Leaving time on the clock might not be the wisest option.
It wound up hurting the Rebels, as a jump ball thrown into the end zone by Clayton under pressure was picked. SDSU took over at its own 20 with just over a minute to play in the first half.
1:43, first quarter, SDSU leads 14-7
Things looked good just moments earlier for UNLV, as Alex De Giacomo laid out for his first career interception, picking off a Ryan Lindley pass and setting the Rebels up at the SDSU 48-yard line.
A play later, UNLV was down a touchdown.
Luke Laolagi intercepted an Omar Clayton offering and rumbled 55 yards down the right sideline, giving the Aztecs their first lead of the game. It made it five straight years in which SDSU has returned a pick for a touchdown against the Rebels.
UNLV will begin the second quarter facing a third-and-long at midfield. The score was nearly tied up a couple of plays earlier, as Channing Trotter's 17-yard gain up the middle was nearly broken for a score before a touchdown-saving tackle right in the middle of the UNLV logo.
Still, Trotter was the most impressive Rebel in the first quarter, with 46 yards on three carries with a score.
7:46, first quarter, game tied 7-7
UNLV watched SDSU's poor tackling which helped set up Channing Trotter's early touchdown run and apparently wanted to play a game of copycat.
The same style of porous defense sprung Walter Kazee on a 61-yard run to set up San Diego State's first score of the game. Moments later, Ryan Lindley hit Roberto Wallace up high for a 15-yard score, tying things up at Sam Boyd Stadium, 7-7.
On the run, Kazee was shoved in the back along the sideline towards the play's tail end, adding roughly 10 yards to the jaunt before he went out of bounds.
Lindley so far is 3-of-5 for 41 yards and the aforementioned score.
13:42, first quarter, UNLV leads 7-0
Deante' Purvis set the table, and Channing Trotter pretty much did the rest in giving UNLV a 7-0 lead just over a minute into its contest with San Diego State.
Purvis ran back the game's opening kick to the SDSU 36-yard line. On third-and-three, Trotter ripped off a 29-yard run for his team-best ninth rushing score of the season.
On the play, he shot left, and while being tackled by the tail of his jersey, Trotter was flung forward towards the goal line instead. Showing great balance, he stayed on his feet and shot for the end zone and the game's first score.
Now, it will be the defense's turn against Ryan Lindley, who as a sophomore has proven to be the Mountain West's most prolific young gun.
It wasn't all that long ago when optimism could be found left and right around the UNLV football program. This was supposed to be the year in which it all turned around and Mike Sanford, in his fifth season, would get over the hump.
Here we are, however, on Thanksgiving weekend, and roughly 5,000 fans — maybe — will be in the stands to witness the final portion of a disappointing 2009 campaign.
UNLV will say good bye to 16 seniors and Sanford, too, as the 4-7 Rebels take on 4-7 San Diego State tonight at a chilly Sam Boyd Stadium.
It's a somber reminder that whoever takes over as the 10th coach in UNLV history will have quite a bit of work ahead of him in inspiring the fan base.
A few of the key pieces which got the Rebels to the brink of being a player in the Mountain West Conference will play their final games at Sam Boyd Stadium tonight.
Two of those who will be suited up are senior linebacker/defensive end Jason Beauchamp, who leads the team in tackles (80), sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (9.5). Another is senior guard Joe Hawley, who is part of an experienced offensive line which has been one of the bright spots for UNLV this fall.
Another — senior receiver Ryan Wolfe — won't get the chance to play. Wolfe broke his foot in practice during the bye week, but finishes his collegiate career as both the program's and the Mountain West Conference's all-time leading pass catcher.
Meanwhile, this one honestly may come down simply to who cares more. Neither team has anything to play for, yet these are two programs in very different places. Behind first-year coach Brady Hoke and his staff, SDSU has shown vast improvement from a 2-10 campaign a year ago under Chuck Long. Meanwhile, UNLV will field a sideline full of both players and coaches unsure of their futures.
Stay tuned for updates throughout. Be back after kickoff.