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Ron Kantowski:

Rebels made mistakes in a game where they couldn’t afford to …

… but also showed a winning season is theirs for the taking


Leila Navidi

James Dunlap of UNLV gazes up at fans as he walks off the field Saturday after the team’s 23-21 loss to Oregon State at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Oregon State vs UNLV

Despite a fourth-quarter rally, UNLV fell short at home against Oregon State 23-21.

UNLV vs. Oregon State

Malo Taumua (left) and Preston Brooks of UNLV drop after Oregon State kicked in the go-ahead field goal Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium. Oregon St. won the game 23-21. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

Oregon State Postgame

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.

Next game

  • 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.

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  1. Ron,
    Let me point out about the fact that three of those four penalties was on Deante Purvis. How about the two face mask penalties in the 3rd quarter? That's what happens when you tackle high. I'm sure Deante will see the films of this game and the coach's might realize that he was a major factor in their loss. I hope the coaches also see another kid, #9 Travis Dixon, missed a few key tackles by his diving tactics that clearly showed his inexperience in tackling running backs. Quit trying to tackle high and get back to the basics, boys! The defensive coach benched both Deante and Travis in the middle of the 3rd quarter but unfortunately put Deante Purvis back into the game at the end of the 4th, which led to his senseless penalty. The QB was hit while throwing the ball that fluddered into the air and Purvis had to hit a receiver who wasn't anywhere near to catching the ball. Rebel fans will be watching this kid against Hawaii next week. If this is an indication of what the weakest link is all about, I say BENCH the KID !!

  2. DRDU, I couldn't make the game this past Sat, so I payed for that online viewing ,which I downloaded. And boy have I gotten my monies worth.
    Your assesment of events are very true, however
    Purvis DB, #9 and # 5 the safeties are part of a rotation by UNLV, no one was or is benched.
    What gave Rodgers a fantastic evening? Was when both of those safeties were in. Only then did Rodgers go for his long runs.
    Just because a player doesn't make a tackle especially in the secondary,there are things to make the runner get tackled.<team sport>
    Turn runs inwards, hold up flow etc these are basics.
    If those runs did not occur Rodgers would of averaged only a aproximate 2yds per carry. Those personal penalties on Purvis could also be contributed to his poor fundamentals . We saw one ball stripped by UNLV 1 <once>in the 4th with about 7 min on clock, This was the beginning of what should of been a beautiful ending,by #22 one of the JC transfers.Why was this the only strip,or attempt to strip ? Strip the ball, tackle ,hit clog and crumble all this should of happened from the beginning whistle, Help make the turnovers, that is College football.
    Now ,these JC recruited players ,must be bewildered ,told by the coaches why they are needed , and then to watch those individuals start and play before them. Wow.
    Sanford wtf. are you doing?
    DRDU and what a shame if those who are the weakest links play next week.
    What a non motivating slap to the other player's. (see)also ReF.to camp Ely- wasn't that to prove who is to play?

  3. Word in Corvallis is Mike Riley, Coach of the Beavers will be trying to get a 2 game set, home and away with the Rebels because of his friendship with Coach Sanford many of we beaver
    fans would welcome that!! We have great respect for the Rebels and the treatment we received in
    Vegas. The Rebels have not a thing to be ashamed
    of, they played their heart out and that was very evident and they did not act like a bunch
    of cry babies after the game!! The only thing
    I would question was at times it seemed the
    officials let the game get to rough and that perspective could be applied to both teams. I
    will be following the Rebels and wish them the very best for the remainder of the season and

  4. I hope coach sanford means what he says in taking no solace whatsoever in this game ... what i saw saturday is what i have seen for a while now and i have no reason to believe any different (i.e. air force, byu, san diego state, colorado state) all of which were last year...the fact is when this team comes "close" they show me they dont have the heart to finish and personally i have no reason to believe otherwise and id expect more of the same rebel fans ... thats right more games where the program has seemingly "closed the gap" on quality programs in the mwc but good teams finish teams off especially at home pac 10 or D1AA as for the interference call get over it... bad penalties happen to EVERYONE i recall OSU getting a bunch of ticky tack illegal substitution calls ... although we may have the talent i see a bunch of close games on the schedule that frankly this team doesn't gave the grit, heart, or whatever you call "it" to finish

  5. We're two games in Tito, you don't know that. Last year we won two close games against BCS opponents and then floundered against the next 5. It could flip flop for all we know. Stick with em. Who knows, the Rebs may reward you for your loyalty.

  6. Despite all the mistakes UNLV still did enough to win that game. I wouldn't be surprised if we see Di'Giacomo & Grant in the starting lineup against Hawaii, I sure hope so. Bring Purvis in as a nickle or dime back so he gains experience but isn't out there on an island the whole game to make big mistakes. Make Starr Fuimaono the team captain on defense he made some huge hits, & is always around the ball. He is the only one on this defense that tackles perfectly all the time. They definately need his leadership vocally & physically.

  7. Last thing: Lets put this in perspective & bring the right balance to UNLV football. We have had some great induvidual talent roll through Vegas but lets be honest this town has no football tradition to whatsoever. 3 sorry bowl games over 40+ years isn't tradition. Building a team that can win with high school players takes time & this program is right on track with that time frame. Don't be so impatient because the only alternative is to blow out this coaching staff, destroy this team, & start all over again with the same old arguments that have already been used. Look at all the positves we can take out of the OSU game & they sure outweigh the negatives. UNLV was 1 play away from winning that game against the Pac-10's second winningest team next to USC & I promise you the OSU players know that they got lucky against the Rebels. I still think UNLV can win 8-9 games this year. If they play the rest of the year with the heart they showed in that game they will be just fine. Quizz IMO is the best running back in the country & I think he will lead the nation in rushing this year. Players like Quizz are Barry Sanders like talent that come around once every 20 years. You cannot coach a defense against guys that can cut any angle from any angle & are as fast as gazelles. We will not face an offensive threat like that again this year so I like our chances against the MWC, even against BYU, Utah, & TCU. Stay with it rebel faithful this is a talented team don't jump off ship just yet.

  8. Totally agree! Starr is just a plain playmaker! This was a game which was decided by a couple of plays here and there. I am proud of the Rebels. I was in Tempe on Saturday and there were sevral Beaver fans at the bar I was at. They all agreed this was a game in which anyone could win and they were totally suprised how good the Rebels were. I hope they stick with it, get better and take it one game at a time. Go Rebels! Lets get this next one!

  9. Mike Sanford is 2-7 in his last nine games vs. FBS opponents (Division-1A).

    The program is not improving and it is time to make a change.

    UNLV must follow a simple philosophy in firing coaches. What must be done eventually should be done immediately!

    Sanford has to be shown the door.

    UNLV needs as much time as possible to search for a COMPETENT REPLACEMENT so that we can finally become a big time Football program.

    Since we are in the year of INTERIM at UNLV, why not fire Sanford now and put in an interim coach for the remainder of the season so that we can start a new search for a head coach IMMEDIATELY!

    How about we make Bradeson the interim coach. I bet he can beat RENO!

  10. Sufferin'

    Not improving? You have said a lot of dumb things in your life, but this is outrageous. We are getting better...much better. Look for us to be 3-1, as I and many predicted, going into the Reno game. We will also be either 5-2 or 4-3 after the Utah game. After that there are 3 games which we should win, but there are 4 winnable games. (NM, Colo St., SDSD are "should win" games, and AF is winnable). Even if we are 3-4 after the Utah game we could still finish 6-6 or 7-5 and make a bowl game. The backside of our schedule, with the exception of TCU and maybe AF, is bad...very bad. I don't get the love for the Rams...they barely beat a very bad Colo team and they barely beat Weber State at home.

    If we do not win those games, I will be on your side and calling for Sanford to be fired. If I had to make a guess, the vast majority of anyone associated with UNLV will be calling for Sanford's dismissal.

    I hope for the sake of our program and our recruiting efforts that Sanford is able to put together a bowl season. Sanford has begun to bring in some good talent and I would hate for kids to back out or transfer because of the insecurity with the program.

    Until then I will continue to call for Sufferin's dismissal.

  11. Sufferin what do you expect? This is frikkin UNLV not USC, FSU, U of F, Ohio State. Do you think this program should be top 10 after a year or two or even in the top 25 for that matter?
    Obviously you didn't read my post above about there being no tradition here in Vegas at all. If Sanford flames out and this team falls apart at the seams, then yes he will be fired, that is already in the buyout clause in his contract. If that happens then look for another rebuilding process, the blowing up of this current squad, and the firing of the next coach after a couple seasons, and so on & so on & UNLV will never get off the ground. To say that they aren't better is just flat out inaccurate. UNLV has a whole lot of recruiting competition out here on the west coast, so it's not as easy as you think to get the right players here that can win big time games. Besides you can have the best D-1 coach here and without the talent to make plays you have lost every game. Players win games not coaches....

  12. My take on the Rebels is that they are indeed improving and right now can play with many upper level teams!! Do not get down on them and their Coach because one player made several very poor defensive plays. The Rebels overall played their hearts out and Coach Sanford was just drained and
    emotionally spent after that last field goal, he
    is doing his level best and doing a great job! It
    took Mike Riley, the beaver coach several years to get his program underway and he had help from Dennis Erickson along the way. Hang in there with Coach Sanford he is a real good coach and
    very well respected by his peers. I beleive the
    Rebels will do really well the remainder of the
    season, at any rate they have my respect!! I have been a avid beaver "beleiver" since 1952 and
    I can assure we have hit some real rough patches over the years but worked through them and I
    just know the Rebels are and will do the same!
    Go Rebels!

  13. I deem olbeav the bizarro-Sufferin'. If he has been a Bevuh Believuh since 1952 then he has gone through some crap. If my sources are correct, Oregon State did not have a winning season between 1971 and 1998, and during that time they have the worst winning percentage of any D-I football program in the country. Way to go.

    I have been a fan of Rebels football since 1983 and during those 26 years at least I have seen a couple of winning seasons and three bowl game wins...well, two according to the books. We will have a winning season this year and I am excited of what Sanford has begun to build. He may not be the future head coach of the program, but I like the foundation he has set.