Notebook: Starter at QB for Utah game to be decided this week

Clausen and Clayton to be dissected on film before Hauck and staff make a choice


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton scrambles for a gain against Wisconsin during their season opening game Saturday, September 4, 2010 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Wisconsin won the game 41-21.

Wisconsin vs. UNLV

No. 12 Wisconsin defeats UNLV, 41-21, in the Rebels' season opener.

UNLV-Wisconsin Football

UNLV defensive back Alex De Giacomo walks back to the line of scrimmage as Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien congratulatse wide receiver Jared Abbrederis after a Wisconsin touchdown in the second half of their season opening game Saturday, September 4, 2010 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Wisconsin won the game 41-21. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

WISCONSIN POSTGAME: Some good, some bad, a lot of running

Ryan Greene, Ray Brewer and Case Keefer talk about the highs and lows from UNLV's 41-21 setback against No. 12 Wisconsin to start both the 2010 football season and the Bobby Hauck era.

Next game

  • Opponent: Utah
  • Date: Sept. 11, 1 p.m.
  • Where: Salt Lake City
  • TV/Radio: The Mtn./ESPN 1100 AM

UNLV-Wisconsin: Fan Photos

UNLV-Wisconsin: Fan Photos Launch slideshow »

Considering how close of friends UNLV quarterbacks Mike Clausen and Omar Clayton are, it's always been hard to consider their competition for the starting job a "controversy."

But whatever it is, it's still on.

Clausen won the right to start the opener against Wisconsin, but struggled to get the offense moving in two-and-a-half quarters on Saturday night in a 41-21 defeat at Sam Boyd Stadium.

The junior lefty was 4-of-10 through the air for 23 yards and a late first half touchdown toss to Phillip Payne.

Clayton, a senior who started the brunt of the last two seasons, came in and spelled Clausen for some relief for most of the second half. He led a scoring drive of his own, finishing 6-of-16 for 82 yards through the air and a team-best 59 yards on the ground off of just nine carries.

So who starts next Saturday at Utah? UNLV coach Bobby Hauck, upon naming Clausen his opening night starter a week ago, said it would go on a game-by-game basis.

"I kind of said all along we would probably play Omar some," he said. "He came in and did a nice job. We'll go back and look at the tape, figure out who we're going to start next week."

It was a rough night for Clausen, as the Wisconsin front four attacked his personal space at will and the Badgers also sent linebackers for support. Each time he dropped back to throw, it seemed like his pocket would collapse within two seconds or less.

In the first half, the Rebels only had two first downs, with one coming via penalty, and only had 15 offensive snaps. At the break, they had only compiled 12 total yards — a figure that was in the red before Clausen hit Payne for the 16-yard score on UNLV's final offensive play of the half.

"They're big, but after a while they kind of slowed down," Clausen said of Wisconsin's defensive front. "The size doesn't matter. We thought we had the speed to out-run them. We just didn't execute very well tonight.

"You're just out there trying to make something out of nothing. That's what it seemed like, but we've just got to take it for what it is. They came out and played better than us tonight."

Clayton went against a defense that had a bit more wear on it and maybe let off of the gas some.

He hit Irshad Stolden from nine yards out for the freshman receiver's first career score and ran the ball aggressively.

"It's not my first game," he said. "Coming off the bench is a little something different. I haven't done that since my freshman year. But I just wanted to come out and move the ball a little bit. We were having a hard time getting first downs and positive yards, so I wanted to come in, put my team in a position to score and move the ball."

After the game, neither quarterback seemed down in the dumps, and neither one had to offer words of encouragement to the other.

Whoever starts next week, though, will know that a performance like Saturday's won't fly.

"When our offense scores one touchdown and the defense keeps us in the game in the first half, neither of us look good," Clayton said. "The quarterback position didn't play well enough tonight. I'll put that on my shoulders, and I'm sure Mike will say the same thing."

Payne earns all-around mention

Phillip Payne, in his first game as UNLV's No. 1 wideout, finished with a nice stat line, catching four passes for 71 yards and the 15th touchdown grab of his 22-game career.

However, Hauck after the game had equal praise for Payne's assistance in the run-blocking arena, which he has stressed since the start of spring ball with all of his receivers as a requirement to see time on the field.

Other numbers of note

• Senior linebacker Ronnie Paulo led the Rebels with 11 tackles, while senior safety Alex De Giacomo had 10. Senior linebacker Calvin Randleman had six stops and one for loss in his first career start.

• Speedy freshman tailback Tim Cornett showed flashes of his potential while getting three carries on a second half drive for the Rebels. He racked up 36 yards, including a 27-yard jaunt in which he sprung down the sideline on the left side.

• The best debut by a freshman in Saturday's game came from Wisconsin's shifty running back prospect James White. In spelling John Clay, he had 59 yards on 11 carries to go with another 37 yards on three receptions.

• UNLV freshman kicker Nolan Kohorst, who won the job out of camp as the Rebels' primary place-kicker, hit all three of his point-after attempts, but missed his first career field goal attempt, pushing a 48-yard try wide right. The kick did have the necessary distance on it, though.

• Wisconsin controlled the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game, finishing with a time of possession of 38:19 compared to UNLV's 21:41.

Next up

UNLV's second test under Bobby Hauck might turn out to be tougher than its first.

The Rebels travel next Saturday to face Utah, who is sure to land in the Top 25 polls this week after knocking off No. 15 Pittsburgh on Thursday night in Salt Lake City. It was the Utes' 18th consecutive victory at noise Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Utah's greatest accomplishment in the game was holding Pitt's Heisman-hopeful running back, Dion Lewis, to just 75 yards on 25 carries.

Ute sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynn was 21-of-36 for 283 yards and three touchdown tosses.

The final word

Omar Clayton on the night not being a total bust for the quarterbacks: "We did a couple of things right. Everything didn't go wrong. At the same time, you kind of just want to put those things you did right to the side and focus on the negatives (in preparing for the next game)."

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  1. Sure loved to see Omar run the ball last night with some speed. Hopefully he'll carry that out through the rest of the season. Hard to not name him the starter for Saturday even if he and mike have similar practice performances this week.

  2. i agree... never seen the kid run so well. He was so timid and first to toss the ball on the option. cant believe how lost our offense looked last night.