Published Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 | 6:30 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 | 10:10 p.m.
Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer take a look back at just what has gone wrong for UNLV in its first three games of the Bobby Hauck era, and peek ahead to what will be the team's best chance to notch a win so far in 2010 — Saturday's home date with New Mexico.
Final, UNLV wins 45-10
It may have taken a bit longer than he'd originally planned, but the first win of the Bobby Hauck era was a convincing one. UNLV pummeled the limping New Mexico Lobos on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium, 45-10.
The win could also serve as a nice confidence boost for the struggling Rebels (1-3 overall, 1-1 MWC) with high-powered rival Nevada-Reno (4-0) coming to town next Saturday.
UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton was 14-of-20 for 195 yards and three touchdown passes, helping lift a dormant offense. All three of those scoring strikes went to junior receiver Michael Johnson, who finished the night with eight catches for 138 yards.
After trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, the Rebels weren't scored upon until the Lobos kicked a field goal in the final minute. For the night, UNLV totaled 415 yards of offense, including 185 on the ground.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, stats, photos, video and The Rebel Room postgame podcast, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
2:46, Third Quarter, UNLV leads 42-7
The UNLV defense was apparently sick of watching the offense have all of the end zone fun.
On a blindside blitz, cornerback Sidney Hodge destroyed New Mexico QB Tarean Austin, forcing a fumble that was returned by defensive end B.J. Bell for a 40-yard score. That makes it 42 unanswered points for the Rebels.
Austin was left on the turf for several moments, but has since returned. Remember, New Mexico at a time led this game 7-0.
What's most important at this point for the UNLV defense is that you can visibly see its confidence growing along with the team's lead. They're hitting harder and sniffing out plays much more efficiently. This is a big boost, considering they've got high-scoring rival Nevada-Reno coming to town next Saturday night.
10:00, Third Quarter, UNLV leads 35-7
UNLV is getting its kicks at this point, enjoying its 2010 breakthrough performance thoroughly.
For the third time, senior quarterback Omar Clayton found junior receiver Michael Johnson for a score, this time from 36 yards out.
In reality, Johnson ran about 70 yards on the play, catching a short pass on the left sideline, then cutting across the entire field before barely sneaking in by the right pylon.
On the night, Johnson has six catches for 125 yards and the aforementioned trio of scores.
Halftime, UNLV leads 28-7
UNLV struck yet again as the offense has found some rhythm with the night wearing on at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Omar Clayton, on a third down play, found Michael Johnson streaking down the left sideline for a 43-yard score, giving the senior two TD passes on the night. He's looked like his 2008 self so far, going 10-of-13 for 124 yards.
Funny what facing one of the patchiest defenses in the FBS ranks can do for a team.
The Rebels added some insult to the Lobos' struggles late, as Tarean Austin was picked off by Will Chandler. It was the junior cornerback's third pick and fifth takeaway so far this season.
Nolan Kohorst missed a 48-yard field goal try as time expired, but the Rebels' 28-7 edge at the break appears to be pretty safe.
Here are some other numbers of note from the first 30 minutes ...
— UNLV has 143 rushing yards on 20 carries, while New Mexico has 104 on 23, respectively. Both run games are getting healthy tonight.
— Austin started 3-of-6 for 65 yards and a TD. Since then, he's 4-of-11 for 57 yards and two picks. Freshman growing pains — everyone goes through them.
— Phillip Payne has been well-involved in the offense with four catches for 39 yards. Johnson has four of his own for 68 yards and two TDs.
— Calvin Randleman has been a strong defensive presence for the Rebels, with four tackles and a sack so far tonight.
5:13, Second Quarter, UNLV leads 21-7
UNLV's offense has had very few bright spots so far this year, but one of them, without question, has been true freshman running back Tim Cornett.
He just gave another glimpse into the future. In impressive fashion.
The Houston, Texas, native just took off through the Lobos defense on a 46-yard rush up the left side to give the Rebels a 14-point lead at 21-7 late in the first half at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Cornett got to show off his outstanding speed, creating more and more space between himself and the defenders on the jaunt.
On the season, he now has eight carries for 94 yards, giving him an eye-popping 11.8 yards-per-carry average. I, for one, certainly want to see more of him.
2:20, First Quarter, UNLV leads 14-7
UNLV appeared urgent after the New Mexico score, and Omar Clayton steered a 7-play, 58-yard drive beautifully, including a pair of nice sideline completions to Phillip Payne.
The drive was capped by a 2-yard Channing Trotter TD plunge. He helped set up the great field position with an 18-yard run around the left edge a few snaps earlier.
But the Rebels' spurt wouldn't end there.
Tarean Austin threw an interception three plays into the Lobos' next possession, as a tipped ball found the hands of Mike Clausen, who made his first significant defensive contribution by setting the Rebels up at the New Mexico 22-yard line.
Three plays later, another fortunate bounce helped UNLV, as Clayton's pass from the 10-yard line tipped off of the hands of tight end Anthony Vidal and into those of Michael Johnson, giving the hosts a 14-7 edge.
Payne could be pivotal for UNLV pulling away from New Mexico tonight, as the Lobos are having a tough time covering him. Clayton so far is 4-of-6 for 44 yards, while Trotter now has 35 yards on seven carries.
6:45, First Quarter, New Mexico leads 7-0
New Mexico officially has its first lead of the 2010 season.
True freshman quarterback Tarean Austin, who got his first career start tonight, is sizzling so far. His latest work was a 48-yard strike down the seam to receiver Bryant Williams, who burned UNLV safeties Alex De Giacomo and Mike Clausen on a skinny post route.
Austin so far is 3-of-6 for 65 yards through the air, and has rushed for another 17 yards on two carries, as UNLV is still feeling him out.
The Rebels' first possession of the game ended in a punt, but their second venture on offense is going much better, as an 11-yard pass from Omar Clayton to Phillip Payne and a lang gain down the sideline by Channing Trotter has them threatening.
Have I said before that this is the game that someone will have to win?
I've just sat down in the press box at Sam Boyd Stadium in preparation for tonight's game between two winless, struggling ball clubs — UNLV and New Mexico.
Getting into the stadium's parking lot was much easier than it was three weeks ago when the Rebels were last here, brimming with optimism leading into a Sept. 4 opener against Wisconsin.
As far as atmosphere goes, don't expect anything significant tonight, and certainly nothing that gives the Rebels a distinct home field advantage. If anything does that, it's the random heat wave, that has temperatures approaching 100 degrees as the sun sets.
If UNLV is going to look worlds better in its second home game than it did in the first, here are tonight's three keys to victory:
1) Rough 'em up
New Mexico starting quarterback Brad Gruner is the same guy who started two years ago when the Lobos visited Sam Boyd. UNLV was victorious that night despite trailing early, and a big part of what turned the tides was the defensive front putting heavy pressure on the then-freshman Gruner, forcing him into a handfull of mistakes. The UNLV d-line finally broke through in the second half of last weekend's game at Idaho, registering its first two sacks of the season. A few more of those wouldn't hurt tonight.
2) Run already
I've typed this sentence too many times to count this week on the site: "UNLV is averaging just 91 yards per game on the ground and 2.6 hashmarks an attempt." If there's a defense to reverse those fortunes against, it's New Mexico, who is flat-out bad on that side of the ball. Granted, they've played three powerhouse offenses in all three of their lopsided losses, but if the Rebels' offense wants to find a rhythm, it's going to start on the ground.
3) Treat it like the Super Bowl
If the Rebels lag at all, they could get bitten. Believe it. UNLV needs this one in the worst way. If they somehow find themselves on the losing end tonight, who knows where the first win of the Hauck era will come from?
As for a Pick to Click and prediction, I'm going with Channing Trotter, who was strong against the Lobos a year ago, and with more carries coming his way, he could register his first 100-yard game of the season. I'll take the Rebels, 34-14. Talk to you after kick-off.