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September 21, 2021

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Notebook: Victory sweet for UNLV’s Polynesian contingent

Taumua says he will cherish bragging rights

UNLV vs. Hawaii

Omar Clayton hit Phillip Payne for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left in the game as UNLV beat Hawaii 34-33 Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.

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

UNLV's 34-33 edging of Hawaii in dramatic fashion on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium meant plenty to the Rebels' program as a whole.

But to the sector of Polynesian players on the roster, it had added significance.

"That pride factor that Hawaii plays with every game is a huge advantage that they have, and I just wanted us to have that pride, too, and play with it," said senior long snapper Kamu Kapanui, one of five Rebels who call the Hawaiian islands home. "A lot of the other guys on our team fed off of it from the Polynesian guys. We finally finished. Coach was talking about finishing. It's something coach has talked about for years now, and it feels amazing."

As expected, the emotions simmering in the stands from a crowd of 29,717 that was essentially split down the middle in terms of allegiance, boiled over onto the field in the game's early moments.

There were plenty of love taps, and jawing back and forth that was visible from hundreds of feet away.

In the end, those on the UNLV side were left with the bragging rights they so desperately wanted.

"It's about time, man, I've been waiting for this night for two years," said junior defensive end Malo Taumua, who had two high school teammates in Hawaii uniforms on Saturday night. "To the Polynesian players, it means a lot."

Injury updates

UNLV redshirt freshman Sean Tesoro did not play, and won't be doing so again in 2009 at his left guard post.

An MRI on Saturday afternoon revealed a broken ankle after he originally hurt it in practice on Thursday. He was replaced by fellow redshirt freshman Jason Heath, who coach Mike Sanford lauded in his postgame press conference.

The status for at least next week may be similar for senior receiver Rodelin Anthony, who entered the game with a team-high three touchdown catches and 130 receiving yards in the Rebels' first two games.

He was without a catch on Saturday night, and was knocked out on kick coverage late in the game with what is being diagnosed as a concussion. Sanford said he is 'very doubtful' for next Saturday's game at Wyoming.

Under the radar

While Phillip Payne will grab most of the headlines for his game-winning touchdown grab, senior Ryan Wolfe was his same old reliable self.

The Rebels' all-time leader in both receptions and receiving yards padded those totals with nine grabs for 130 yards.

Sanford said the increasing attention Wolfe drew from the Hawaii defense over the course of the night was integral in helping set up the one-on-one coverage Payne had on that last touchdown grab.

A couple of firsts

Freshman tight end Jordan Barrett, who joined the team late in fall camp after he was originally planning on grayshirting this season, notched his first career reception with a five-yard grab on a fourth-and-one play in the third quarter.

Barrett almost had his first career touchdown catch, too, but it was waved off due to a penalty in the red zone.

Another first came from junior cornerback Mike Grant, who in his inaugural starting assignment recorded his first interception as a Rebel.

Next week's opponent

The Rebels next week head on the road, but take on what — at least on paper — presents itself as a very beatable opponent in Wyoming.

The Cowboys fell to 1-2 on the season earlier in the day, falling 24-0 at the hands of Colorado in Boulder. It was Wyoming's second consecutive game against a Big 12 opponent under first-year coach Dave Christensen. Last week, they were thumped by No. 2 Texas, 41-10.

They have not scored an offensive touchdown since their opening day victory over FCS foe Weber State.

Wyoming is trying to make a spread offense work with limited weaponry, as freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels struggled yet again on Saturday, going 11-of-24 for just 125 yards. Their top offensive weapon is receiver David Leonard, who had six catches for 49 yards against the Buffaloes.

Elsewhere in the MWC

Oddly enough, Colorado State and TCU are now the only two remaining undefeated Mountain West Conference teams.

TCU improved to 2-0 by waxing Texas State, 56-21, and now travels to Clemson next weekend for its toughest non-conference challenge of the year. Colorado State thumped UNR, 35-20, in Fort Collins, and is now 3-0.

As for America's early season darling — BYU — the Cougars' BCS hopes took a wicked hit, thanks to a 54-28 embarrassment at the hands of Florida State in the team's home opener in Provo. BYU QB Max Hall was picked off three times.

Elsewhere, Utah saw the nation's longest winning streak come to an end thanks to a 31-24 loss at Oregon, San Diego State was dumped at Idaho, 34-20, and the first league game of the year saw Air Force keep New Mexico winless under Mike Locksley by a count of 37-13.

This and that ...

Saturday was UNLV's first one-point victory since Nov. 2, 2002, when the Rebels won at home against Wyoming, 49-48, in overtime ... UNLV is now 10-7 against WAC opponents since it left the league following the 1998 season ... Omar Clayton's 12-game streak with a touchdown pass now ranks third in MWC history, while his three TD tosses tied a career high. His 340 passing yards were also a career high, besting his total of 327 in last year's loss to UNR ... Ryan Wolfe notched his 11th career 100-yard game, putting him one away from tying SDSU's Jeff Webb for third in MWC history in that category ... Phillip Payne's 94 receiving yards were a career best ... Greg Alexander's 477 passing yards against UNLV marked the first time the Rebels have allowed an opposing QB to throw for 400 yards since New Mexico's Casey Kelly did so in 2003 with 408 ... Kyle Watson broke the UNLV school record for consecutive extra point conversions, making all four attempts on Saturday night. He is now 49-for-49 in his career.

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