Monday, Sept. 14, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech break down UNLV's last-second 23-21 defeat at the hands of Oregon State, which was similar to several games the Rebels let slip from their grasp just a year ago. The guys look at what went wrong, and whether you can expect Mike Sanford's club to still have its edge next Saturday when Hawaii comes to town ... and beyond.
- UNLV-OSU box score
- Series of mistakes doom UNLV in 23-21 loss to Oregon State
- James and Jacquizz Rodgers power Oregon State
- Notebook: Clayton’s knee injury not believed to be serious
- Instant analysis: Close game with Oregon State something to build on
- NFL rookie Frank Summers back to support UNLV
- UNLV fan photos
- Opponent: Hawaii
- Date: Sept. 19, 8 p.m.
- Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
- TV: The Mtn., Cox ch. 334
- Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM
If Oregon State is the 24th-best team in college football, that would make UNLV the 25th-best team in college football, based on the Rebels’ 23-21 snatch-a-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory performance on late-night television Saturday.
I don’t know if either one of those is true.
But at least you can make some observations and draw some conclusions from the Rebels’ second game of the season, which you really couldn’t do after an uneven season-opening 38-3 victory over Division I-AA Sacramento State.
I observe that the Rebels are good enough and improved enough to put together the winning season predicted for them.
I conclude there is little room for error.
OK, there’s a little room at quarterback, where Omar Clayton made an uncharacteristic error in the first half — telegraphing a pass that turned into an easy interception — before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a bum knee, an injury that at first blush doesn’t look that serious.
Mike Clausen came off the bench and was more effective as a relief pitcher than Goose Gossage. He led UNLV on consecutive touchdown drives that erased a 20-7 deficit and put the Rebels squarely on the verge of another early season upset of a Pac-10 opponent after they beat Arizona State in overtime around this time last year.
You watch, said one of the press box pundits as Clausen passed and ran UNLV down field. If the Rebels come back and win, the first thing coach Mike Sanford is going to say is “this is why we play two quarterbacks” or something to that effect.
Actually, that was the second thing Sanford said. The first thing he said was “no comment” in reference to a disputed pass interference call on Deante’ Purvis on third-and-26 that kept alive Oregon State’s game-winning field goal drive. Was the ball catchable? We’ll never know. Not after Purvis tackled the intended receiver.
It probably should be noted that whereas Sanford did play two quarterbacks in the first half against Sacramento State, Clausen never put down his clipboard Saturday night until Clayton was injured, which may or may not say something about the confidence Sanford had in Clausen’s ability to make plays against a big-time opponent. At least he knows he’s capable of making them now, and if Sanford wants to take credit for it, fine by me.
But that pass interference call shows how razor-thin UNLV’s room for error is, at least against the good teams.
The Rebels committed only four penalties Saturday night, but that one was huge. When teams like Texas and USC and those Southeastern Conference schools get flagged on third-and-26, they just wait for the next guy to make a play. Teams like UNLV that get flagged on third-and-26 wind up shedding tears afterward and lamenting the one that got away on a field goal with 0:07 showing on the scoreboard.
Teams like Texas and USC don’t fret about making a turnover or two in the first half or coming up shy on fourth-and-short or falling behind 6-0 at halftime in a game that started off sloppy, which is what the Rebels did Saturday night. During his postgame remarks, Sanford said those turnovers probably cost UNLV the game. Maybe he was right. A fumble by wide receiver Rodelin Anthony not only halted the Rebels’ deepest penetration of the first half, but also led to the Beavers’ first touchdown.
You could argue that Anthony’s ill-advised attempt to hurdle three tacklers like Edwin Moses at the Penn Relays potentially cost the Rebels 13 points, which might make Deante’ Purvis feel a little less responsible for what happened at the end of the game (but most likely won’t).
Teams like Texas and USC don’t worry about a great running back such as Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers giving them fits. OK, that’s a fib. They do worry about guys like Rodgers, who rushed for 186 yards on 37 carries against USC as a freshman last year. So the Rebels allowing him 166 yards on 26 carries wasn’t a disgrace. UNLV actually looked better on defense against the Beavers than it did against Sac State the week before.
But that’s how it is for teams such as UNLV or Wyoming against Texas. You miss a tackle on or get juked by a quality running back, and quality is going to bite you square on the rear end.
Afterward, Sanford said there are no such things as moral victories anymore, no solace to be taken from losing a game to a nationally ranked opponent on a questionable pass interference call and a field goal on the next-to-last play.
That’s where he and I disagree. If UNLV gets boat raced, or even loses 20-7, which for the longest time appeared to be the team’s destiny Saturday night, then all that talk about winning seasons and bowl games and beating Nevada-Reno for once doesn’t amount to much more than that.
The Rebels showed Saturday night that all those things are within their reach.
They also showed there’s little room for error when you are stretching on your tiptoes to achieve them.