Notebook: Johnson makes good after finding some space

Junior becomes first UNLV wideout since 1996 to score 3 TDs in a game

New Mexico vs. UNLV

UNLV earned its first victory in the Bobby Hauck era, taking care of New Mexico on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium, 45-10. Omar Clayton led the rout for the Rebels, connecting on 14 of 20 pass attempts for 194 yards and three touchdowns.

UNLV v. New Mexico Football

UNLV football players sing the UNLV fight song after defeating New Mexico 45-10 in their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, September 25, 2010. From left are Mike Clausen, James Dunlap, Preston Brooks and Isaiah Shivers. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

NEW MEXICO POSTGAME: Hauck's first UNLV win is a doozy

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?

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It's been no secret in his three years with the UNLV program that junior receiver Michael Johnson does his best work in space.

For really the first time in four games this season, the Rebels were able to get their speedy slot receiver plenty of real estate on Saturday night, and he did the most with it in the team's 45-10 romp of New Mexico at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Johnson finished the night with eight catches for 138 yards and three touchdown grabs, making him the first UNLV wideout to score thrice in a game since Lenny Ware did so on Oct. 19, 1996.

"As a receiver, that's what you want," he said of the open pastures. "My game is at its best in the open field. I had a chance to do that tonight and just took advantage of it."

Johnson's first score came off of a tipped ball at the goal line off the hands of tight end Anthony Vidal. His second was on a deep post route down the left sideline, after which he dove for the pylon against the coverage of two defenders.

The third, though, was his most impressive.

On what went in the books as a 36-yard touchdown play, he really ran about twice that distance, catching the ball short on the left sideline, then working his way all the way over to the right sideline, just slipping into the front corner of the end zone while eluding several Lobos.

Three touchdowns might not be a realistic weekly expectation of Johnson, but if he's able to find space similar to what he had against New Mexico, he can remain productive at the very least.

"Anytime you score, it's great," he added. "Three times, it feels that much better."

Backfield's speedy infusion

UNLV's backfield regulars were able to amp up their production on Saturday night against New Mexico's struggling defense.

Channing Trotter and Bradley Randle combined for 103 yards on 23 carries, but the most intriguing production — moving forward, at least — involved a couple of lesser-used guys.

Speedy freshman Tim Cornett had another impressive long gain, as he shot through the entire New Mexico defense late in the first half for a 46-yard touchdown. On the season, he now has 98 yards on just nine carries.

Then, late in the game, junior cornerback Deante' Purvis made his offensive debut, as he'd been working with the running backs all week in practice.

He showed off his own wheels, picking up 12 yards on four carries, including a nice 14-yard spurt up the left side.

Meanwhile, junior C.J. Cox missed his second consecutive game due to injury.

Padding the defensive stats

The Rebels took full advantage of their opportunity on defense against one of the nation's least productive offenses on Saturday night.

After registering their first two sacks of the season a week ago at Idaho, UNLV's unit piled up four of them against the Lobos. Defensive end Daniel Mareko was credited with 1.5 quarterback takedowns, while his half-sack was split with tackle Isaako Aaitui. Calvin Randleman and Sidney Hodge were also credited with sacks.

On top of that, UNLV also accounted for nine tackles for loss, including two from Randleman.

In the turnover department, cornerback Will Chandler recorded his third interception of the season late in the first half, which was his fifth overall takeaway in just four games.

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  1. It was great to see Johnson have a good game. Always thought he would be great in the open field with his speed and moves. It was great to watch him on Saturday. This also has the added benefit of taking the defensive attention off Payne and should help our overall game.