Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
- Opponent: Utah
- Date: Sept. 11, 1 p.m.
- Where: Salt Lake City
- TV/Radio: The Mtn./ESPN 1100 AM
- The Line: Utah by 23
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.
- After rough debut, UNLV offensive line preaching consistency (9-8-2010)
- Notebook: Hauck likely to remain mum on Rebels’ starting QB (9-9-2010)
- Box Score: Wisconsin 41, UNLV 21
- Rebels run down by No. 12 Badgers in Hauck’s debut, 41-21 (9-5-2010)
- Instant analysis: Despite loss, Hauck has Rebels headed in right direction (9-4-2010)
- All Sun UNLV football coverage
Even as his collegiate career at Utah is just now getting off of the ground, a night back in November of 2007, while still a senior at Canyon Springs High, still gets him every time DeVonte Christopher thinks about it.
Back then, Christopher was a quarterback, leading a high-powered offense that put up points and moved the chains as if it was straight out of a video game.
His prep playing days came to a halt prematurely in the Sunrise Region semifinals, with a 28-24 loss to Del Sol that was remembered more for the controversy it sparked than anything else.
Christopher was knocked out of the game briefly early in the third quarter when his head hit the turf hard while he was sacked in the pocket.
A bit woozy, he headed to the sidelines to get checked out, but little did he know that that was the last snap he'd take as a quarterback.
"It seems like it was pretty long ago, but it wasn't that long ago in my mind," he said. "I just couldn't wait to get back on the field. That last game at Canyon still burns to this day, I can't lie."
He pleaded to get back on the field the rest of the night but was helpless as the officials held true to a national federation rule stating that once a ref judges a player to be unresponsive or apparently unconscious, he can't be released to return to the field without the approval of a doctor.
At the time, it felt like the end of the world to Christopher. Three years later, however, a whole new world has opened up to him on the field.
Utah was one of the few schools that was willing to give Christopher a shot as a quarterback, despite chucking the ball around for 3,265 yards and 44 touchdowns as a senior. UNLV was included in the heap of schools that wanted him but only at another position.
Utes coach Kyle Whittingham gave Christopher a chance to swim in the quarterback depth chart, and when it became clear that his chances of seeing the field there were slim, the position switch was the best option.
"At first, it was one of the toughest things I've ever had to acknowledge and live with, especially when you've played (quarterback) your whole life and had success at it," he said. "I'm glad I made the switch. I'm comfortable here. The quarterbacks here are great players and I feel we can make something special happen."
Christopher said that he never thought of transferring when he was told that moving to receiver would provide his only chance to see the field in Salt Lake City. His family initially wasn't too happy about it, but now it appears that Whittingham knew what he was doing.
As a redshirt freshman in 2009, Christopher caught 14 passes for 338 yards — an astonishing 24.1 yards per catch average — in limited duty.
He followed that up with his breakthrough performance last Thursday night in front of a national television audience.
Utah vaulted itself back into the Top 25 polls by knocking off then-No. 15 Pitt in overtime, 27-24. The victory extended the Utes' home winning streak at Rice-Eccles Stadium to 18 games.
Christopher helped things along with eight catches for 155 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. The performance earned him mention as the Mountain West Conference's Offensive Player of the Week.
Despite the great numbers in the opener, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound speedster concedes that he's far from a finished product at his new position.
Christopher said his next obstacle to conquer is continuing to add strength to make himself as solid of a blocker as possible.
What the lofty numbers did do, though, is raise expectations for Christopher the rest of the way this season, which is Utah's last in the Mountain West.
Oddly enough, their league opener is against Christopher's hometown team this weekend in Salt Lake City, where the Utes will host UNLV in a 1 p.m. clash.
He hopes to be the latest in a line of recent Utah gridders to get the best of the Rebels. Last year, it was Cimarron-Memorial product Eddie Wide who ran for 111 yards and a score on just 17 carries in a 35-15 rout at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Utah has five Vegas natives on its roster, including Christopher and Wide, and in recent years has done a strong job of poaching talent from the area. Keeping local talent home is a trend that first-year UNLV coach Bobby Hauck has repeatedly said — and already proven — that he wants to reverse.
Added motivation for Christopher comes from the recollection of UNLV's previous coaching staff waiting quite some time before ever offering him a scholarship.
"I can't lie when I say I take it a little personally. Maybe they didn't feel like I was the right fit for their team," he said. "Any time you have a chance to go back and play your hometown team, it means so much. For some guys (at Utah), it's TCU. Some guys here grew up BYU fans and play for Utah. It always adds a little more."