Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 | 2 a.m.
- LIVE GAME BLOG: UNLV falters after spirited first half effort, drops 48-21 decision to No. 5 Boise State
- Take Five: A closer look at UNLV vs. No. 5 Boise State (11-4-2011)
- Tim Cornett, Tani Maka among 5 UNLV players suspended for 1 game (11-2-2011)
- UNLV’s late rally nets victory against Colorado State, gives Rebels confidence for next week’s Boise State game (10-30-2011)
- 2011 UNLV Football Schedule/Results
- All UNLV Football Coverage
To defeat the machine that is fifth-ranked Boise State — one that is tough to throw off in all facets of the game — it would take the perfect performance from UNLV.
The Rebels played one of their best halves of the season in the first 30 minutes Saturday night against the beastly Broncos at Sam Boyd Stadium.
But the 48-21 final score was a stiff reminder that 30 strong minutes isn't nearly enough.
"It was a pretty good football game," UNLV second-year coach Bobby Hauck said calmly afterwards. "I was obviously more pleased with the first half than the second half. I thought our guys played pretty hard, pretty physical."
Clearly, local oddsmakers didn't figure the struggling Rebels (2-6 overall, 1-2 Mountain West) to be either tough or physical enough when they installed the hosts as a six-touchdown underdog heading in. Anyone who backed the visitors with their money was likely tearing up a ticket at halftime.
UNLV forced Boise State (8-0, 3-0) to go three-and-out on two of its first three offensive possessions, with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Heisman Trophy candidate Kellen Moore to Gabe Linehan sandwiched in between.
The Rebels' defense held the Broncos — who entered ranking a respectable 38th in the FBS in rushing offense — to only 19 yards on the ground before halftime. Meanwhile, Caleb Herring put together two impressive scoring drives, capping one with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Michael Johnson.
UNLV out-gained Boise State in terms of total offense in the first half, 198-161, and trailed by only seven at 21-14.
But the second half offered a clearer look into the gap between the most powerful mid-major program in the nation and one that is still trying to establish an identity.
With star running back Doug Martin out with a leg injury, fellow senior D.J. Harper stepped in to rush for 109 yards off of 13 carries for Boise State, including a 36-yard dagger of a touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Oh, and Moore was pretty good, too.
The senior set an NCAA record with his 46th career win, throwing for 219 yards and five touchdowns off of only 18 completions. UNLV in the first half recorded just the third sack against Moore all year, and was able to provide consistent pressure in the first half, but that wasn't nearly enough to rattle him.
"He's really accurate under duress, throwing off of one foot, throwing on the run," Hauck said. "He's as accurate as when he's standing in (the pocket), which is, I think, the most impressive thing other than the smarts.
"The screen hurt us, he really fits it in there nice. He just doesn't miss. He's a good player, he's an impressive guy."
He was able to operate with much more ease in the second half, also, because Boise State simply wore down UNLV's depth-challenged defensive front as the evening wore on.
The Rebels matched the Broncos hit for hit all night, quite literally. But they also paid a price for it.
While UNLV knocked out Martin and standout defensive tackle (and Las Vegas native) Billy Winn, Boise State came back with some big licks of its own that took Herring and senior safety Mike Clausen out of the game.
Herring was put on the turf for extended periods of time twice. The first was a right knee injury that looked scarier than it actually was in the third quarter. The knockout blow was a shot to the head that gave Sean Reilly a chance to play the rest of the night. The severity of Herring's injury was unknown after the game.
Herring went 12-of-17 for 114 yards and a score, and also added 40 yards with his feet.
The Rebels could use him a week from now, when they travel to Albuquerque for the most winnable game remaining on their 2011 schedule. The lowly Lobos suffered a 35-7 loss to San Diego State earlier in the day Saturday that dropped them to 0-8 overall and 0-4 in league play.
No matter who makes that trip for UNLV, Hauck hopes the physical play comes with them.
"I told them last night that I thought we were getting better and thought we had prepared well," he said. "I like our attitude, I like our fight. All signs that one day we can be a really competitive, hard-nosed football team."