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September 21, 2018

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

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Analysis: Moral victory of hanging tough in opener surely not enough to satisfy UNLV players


Steve Marcus

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry passes the ball during UNLV’s season opener against Minnesota at Sam Boyd Stadium Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.

UNLV vs. Minnesota

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry is taken down by Ra'Shede Hageman during UNLV's season opener against Minnesota at Sam Boyd Stadium Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.  Launch slideshow »

Forget about the loss.

Forget about how close the UNLV football team came to winning its season opener Thursday night against visiting Minnesota.

While coach Bobby Hauck and his players surely won’t be content with a moral victory, that’s exactly what the Rebels earned in a 30-27 loss in triple overtime to the Gophers.

Sure, moral victories don’t show up in the standings. They don’t come with a postgame celebration or feeling of accomplishment the next morning. Moral victories, in all honesty, suck. It’s one way for the losing team to make a positive light of coming up short.

But for the Rebels, their moral victory doesn’t necessarily have to be considered a bad thing. It’s definitely not the end of the world.

UNLV played like an improved team. The offense stalled at times, the defense gave up way too many yards and there were plenty of untimely penalties. Those are things that can fixed. Remember, this is the first game.

UNLV trailed for most of the second and third quarter, but didn’t call it a night. They fell behind by three points with about eight minutes remaining, but kept on fighting. That’s a sign of a new team with a new attitude.

“I was proud of the effort, but not proud of the result,” Hauck said.

There are still plenty of challenges left in the season, and if tonight is any indication, UNLV might not be the two-win team it has been the past two years.

Junior Tim Cornett, who rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns, appears to be one of the Mountain West Conference’s best running backs. And while the defense surrendered nearly 500 yards, it only gave up 13 points in regulation — a big-time improvement from the 40 points per game from last year.

UNLV’s season won’t be defined in one game. It will be defined with how the players respond after this tough defeat. In past seasons, when the Rebels were blown out in the opener and realized they had no chance to compete, they essentially had no reason to try to get better in practice.

That’s far from the case this year. This is a different team.

Here are some other observations from the game:

• Nick Sherry shows his youth, potential:

On one play in the first quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry threw an awful pass into double coverage and was intercepted. He tried to avoid being sacked, but instead of living to play another offensive down, tossed the ill-advised pass for an ugly interception.

It was Sherry’s first action since his senior year in high school, and on that throw, he certainly looked like a first-time college starter.

Later in the quarter, however, Sherry showed why he won the starter’s job in camp and could develop into the signal caller to lead the Rebels past their two-win per season hurdle.

When Sherry was again pressured by the pass rush, he took the sack instead of making a dangerous pass. Yes, he’s learning.

Despite seemingly being under pressure all night, Sherry had a respectable debut. He wasn’t all that good. And, despite a few throws that were downright ugly, he wasn’t all that bad.

He finished 16-of-35 for 116 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions — the third of which was another poor decision, heaving the ball into double coverage in the end zone during the third overtime. It gave Minnesota the ball for the game winning field goal.

But, then again, the game would have never reached double overtime if it weren’t for Sherry in the second overtime. On a fourth down play, he avoided the rush and threw an off-balance pass to Devante Davis in the corner of the end zone to extend the game.

The play showed the big-play potential of Nick Sherry. Next time, that big-play could result in UNLV victory.

• Hey Rebel supporters: Did you get lost? :

Local sports fans lived up to their reputation Thursday night. In a town where fans only support a winning team, there were plenty of empty seats for the UNLV football team’s season opener against Minnesota.

Maybe it was because the game was played on a school night or because of the 8 p.m. start. Then again, maybe it was because the Las Vegas 51s were having their last Dollar Beer Night promotion of the year.

Whatever the case, the lack of UNLV fans at Sam Boyd Stadium was definitely an eye-sore. The announced crowd of 16,013 included about 35 percent Minnesota fans. Those poor red benches sure looked lonely.

While I’m not naive to the fact that UNLV football isn’t popular in Las Vegas, I still expected a better showing. After all, this was the home and season opener against a big-time conference opponent. What kind of crowd will there be next week when lower-level Northern Arizona University comes to town?

UNLV needs to do its share, too. Fans aren’t going to show up just because there is a game scheduled — especially when it’s a game between two bad teams. The Rebels need to give the fans something to get excited about.

Tonight, at least during the fourth quarter and overtime, the 16,013 folks in attendance got their money’s worth.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at

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