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September 21, 2021

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Defense does just enough in UNLV victory

Rebels give up 505 yards of offensive, but make plays when it counts

UNLV vs. Hawaii

Sam Morris

UNLV defensive back Terrance Lee loses his helmet while taking down Hawaii wide receiver Kealoha Pilares during the first half of their game Saturday in Las Vegas.

UNLV vs. Hawaii

UNLV players celebrate their 34-33 defeat of Hawaii. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

Hawaii Postgame

Ryan Greene and Rob Miech break down the circus that was UNLV's 34-33 victory over Hawaii on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium, take a look at how the win resurrects the Rebels following the heartbreak of a week ago and also take a look ahead to next week's trip to Wyoming.

Next game

  • Opponent: Wyoming
  • Date: Sept. 26, 12 p.m. PST
  • Where: Laramie, Wyo.
  • TV: None
  • Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM

The numbers say the UNLV defense played poorly in Saturday’s 34-33 victory against Hawaii.

The Rebels gave up 505 yards of total offense, including 477 through the air, and 23 first downs against the Warriors.

But the statistics don’t tell the whole story.

The UNLV defense made enough plays and emerged in key situations to halt Hawaii from leaving Sam Boyd Stadium with a victory.

“We didn’t have the best defensive game,” senior linebacker Jason Beauchamp said. “But we did what we needed to win.”

The defense’s shining moment came midway through the third quarter on Hawaii’s first second-half possession. The Rebels trailed 20-14 and senior kicker Kyle Watson had just missed a 24-yard field goal.

UNLV’s morale waned. The Rebels needed hope. Beauchamp and the defense delivered by forcing Hawaii’s only three-and-out of the night.

“That was really big,” UNLV coach Mike Sanford said. “That was a big thing in the game. Once again, our guys believed that they were going to win the game and that our defense was going to slow them down.”

The Rebels slowed the Warriors down thanks to a big play on first down from Beauchamp.

Beauchamp burst through the left side of the offensive line and planted Hawaii quarterback Greg Alexander into the ground.

“I had been getting around all game, but the thing was, I needed to get separation,” Beauchamp said. “I wanted to attack and get off of him. It worked.”

The Warriors’ second-down play failed to gain any yardage, which brought up a third-and-14 from their own 16-yard line. Alexander spotted an open receiver in the middle of the field on the play.

But UNLV senior defensive back Terrance Lee stepped in and deflected the pass to force a punt.

“I knew if we stopped them then, we had the game,” Lee said. “Everybody had to step up and make a play.”

After the stop, the UNLV offense drove down the field and scored to take the lead at 21-20. Sure, the defensive stand in the third quarter was just one stop.

But it was one more than Hawaii forced for the rest of the game.

“We’ll take it any day,” Beauchamp said.

Lee may serve as the perfect poster child for UNLV’s gutsy defensive effort against Hawaii. On the Warriors’ first drive, Alexander targeted Lee and connected with receiver Kealoha Pilares for a 32-yard gain down to the UNLV three-yard line.

Hawaii proceeded to throw at Lee twice more on the drive. Both times, he broke up the attempt in the end zone. The Warriors were forced to settle for a field goal.

If Hawaii would have scored a touchdown there, UNLV would have likely lost.

“I think they were trying to go at me a little bit,” Lee said. “I just had to keep playing. It felt good.”

The final 36 seconds of the game were also notable for the Rebels defense. Hawaii has an offense that’s capable of scoring in a hurry, so the game was anything but clinched when UNLV took a 34-33 lead.

To chants of “defense” from the crowd, UNLV dropped nine men into coverage to prevent Hawaii from producing any miracles. It was a success. Like it did all night, the UNLV defense stood up when it mattered most.

“I love this defense,” Lee said. “I think we did a good job.”

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