Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010 | 2:30 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Case Keefer take a closer look at UNLV's first win of the Bobby Hauck era — A 45-10 blowout of lowly New Mexico. Plus, how do the Rebels respond next weekend at home against red-hot rival Nevada-Reno? And where do the Lobos go from here, if anywhere at all?
With the first victory of the Bobby Hauck era appearing to be all but a lock even at that point, the thinking on the field among the team was mutual.
"You could feel it, and we were talking amongst ourselves just saying, 'Don't let up, because nobody else lets up on us,'" senior linebacker Calvin Randleman said. "I wouldn't say that we needed it, but it was more that we went out there and just wanted it."
There was no sense in the Rebels (1-3 overall, 1-1 Mountain West Conference) letting up against the Lobos (0-4, 0-2) during the latter stages of their 45-10 romp, as opportunities to do so again in the immediate future could be limited.
"We feel a lot better about ourselves winning this week than had we not," a visibly relaxed Hauck — un-tucked shirt and all — said at his postgame press conference. "With two Top 25 teams coming up on the schedule, it doesn't get any easier. We're going to enjoy this one for a few hours, then let's talk about the next one tomorrow."
When Hauck does arrive in his office at 8 a.m. on Sunday, he'll likely have a more pleasant time breaking down game film than he did in the season's first three weeks.
New Mexico started fast behind speedy true freshman quarterback Tarean Austin, taking their first lead of the season at 7-0 after he hit Bryant Williams on a 48-yard post patter down the seam.
That clearly served as a wake-up call of sorts for UNLV, who reacted with what, to that point, was by far its most imposing drive of the season, moving 58 yards in 2:46, tying things up with a short Channing Trotter touchdown plunge.
From there, it snowballed, as former starting quarterback Mike Clausen made his first major defensive contribution at his new free safety post with an interception off of a tipped ball on New Mexico's ensuing possession.
It was the first of three touchdown passes from Clayton — all to Johnson — who got a much-needed boost against New Mexico's patchy defense.
Clayton struggled to a 44.3 completion percentage in the team's first three games, as he was rarely granted enough time to set and pick apart opposing defenses. On Saturday, he was a like-his-old-self 14-of-20 for 194 yards, the three scores and no picks.
Afterward, he credited the added emphasis offensive coordinator Rob Phenicie put this week on blitz pick-ups, as multiple swarmings from Idaho a week ago in a 30-7 loss held Clayton to just 3-of-8 passing and made him the victory of three sacks on top of several other big hits.
"It was kind of nice to see us make some plays," Hauck added. "As I said earlier in the week, the mental part of it was pretty good the last few weeks. Our errors were just more physical. We did a good job of making the plays when we had the opportunities tonight."
Despite some breakdowns which kept UNLV from sustaining drives in the game's latter stages, what maybe pleased Hauck the most was how his team reacted to play from ahead for the first time all season.
"Neither team's played from in front, so I was interested to see how we'd respond, and I was real interested to see how we would respond coming out of the locker room at halftime with a big lead. I thought our guys were locked in and focused, and it was a decent second half."
As is the case with any blowout victory, UNLV was even able to provide the signature moment where the 16,961 in attendance knew it was really over.
That came with just over four minutes to go in the third quarter, when freshman cornerback Sidney Hodge came on a blindside blitz and drilled Austin in the back, jarring the ball loose with a bone-crushing hit.
Defensive end B.J. Bell scooped the ball up in stride and ran 40 yards for a score, putting the Rebels up 42-7.
It was the finest performance of the year for UNLV's defense in terms of numbers. While New Mexico totaled a respectable 291 yards, the Lobos turned the ball over three times and allowed four sacks.
UNLV's offensive line used the opportunity against a struggling opponent to have a better showing, helping pave the way to 185 yards on the ground — more than doubling the meager 91 yards per game the Rebels were averaging on the ground coming in.
Now, in a sense, it's back to the reality that is UNLV's loaded 2010 schedule, as next week begins the start of another uphill climb.
Whether it helps or not, the Rebels now at least have a little more steam behind them.
"I'll say that in the subconscious, yeah, we feel ready for these next two games because we're not going into these two games going for our first win," Randleman added. "We've got one under our belt, and we get to kind of live it for a day-and-a-half."