Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 | 12:30 a.m.
- Take 5: Plays that led to UNLV’s demise in stunning loss to Northern Arizona
- UNLV-Northern Arizona box score
- Blog: UNLV falls to another Division I-AA team with 17-14 loss to NAU
- Offensive line working on keeping its promise to keep Nick Sherry off his back
- UNLV punter Chase Lansford among nation’s leaders after solid debut
- Confident UNLV defense, led by Tim Hasson, making positive strides
- Nick Sherry gets hit often in college debut, a 30-27 triple-overtime loss to Minnesota
- Tim Cornett ‘was a warrior’ in UNLV’s triple-overtime loss to Minnesota
- All UNLV Football Coverage
Bobby Hauck sat down, mostly speechless. He looked at the table, as if hoping the words might appear there, then took a deep breath and exhaled as he tried to process what had just happened.
On Saturday night, in a Sam Boyd Stadium that was more than half empty, UNLV lost 17-14 to Northern Arizona, a Division I-AA foe that Hauck went a perfect 7-0 against when he coached at Montana. It was NAU’s first victory against a Division I team since defeating Tulsa in 1987, and the Lumberjacks did it with sophomore quarterback Chase Cartwright making the first start of his career.
Last year UNLV (0-2) lost 41-16 to Southern Utah, another Division I-AA team. Hauck called that an “all-time bad” loss at the time. On Saturday, a year later, he justified that one by saying Southern Utah’s upper classmen were better than UNLV’s, which certainly could have been the course. This time, the Rebels were definitely the better team. Yet the result was the same.
When Hauck finally found some words, they were about all you could expect from a coach who just got run over by a truck, which then shifted into reverse and ran him over again just for good measure.
“I’m not sure what to say other than the fact I’m shocked at the moment,” Hauck said.
UNLV led most of the game. The Rebels came out on fire and their 14-0 lead at the break was the team’s first halftime shutout since a home game against Iowa State in 2008. That game went to overtime before UNLV was able to pull out the victory. This one looked destined for a similar end after NAU (1-1) took over at its own 14-yard line with the game tied and just 1:16 on the clock.
But almost nothing had gone right for the Rebels over the nearly three quarters leading to that moment, so at that point it wasn’t a shock when NAU marched down the field for a game-winning 33-yard field goal with just 12 seconds left.
The Lumberjacks seemed like they might be content playing for overtime, but on the first play running back Zach Bauman, who finished with 103 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, found a hole on the left side and went for 25 yards. After that NAU went for the kill that UNLV left on the table since the second quarter, but the Lumberjacks couldn’t do it without some timely penalty help from the Rebels’ defense — Trent Allmang-Wilder’s hands-to-the-face call moved NAU into UNLV territory. He was hardly the only guilty party.
NAU’s first score was a 75-yard punt return touchdown on its first possession of the second half. Hauck said the punt outkicked UNLV’s coverage a bit and the first players who approached returner Austin Shanks failed to turn him toward the sideline as he streaked nearly untouched to the end zone. NAU’s second score wouldn’t have happened without UNLV’s help.
It started on the first play of the drive early in the fourth quarter, when freshman defensive back Fred Wilson was called for pass interference because he was face-guarding and never looked for the ball. Still, the drive would have stalled three plays later if not for junior cornerback Sidney Hodge’s pass interference on third and 10. It was Hodge’s second pass interference penalty and it seemed to jump start NAU, which would go on to convert a fourth down on its way to Bauman’s eight-yard touchdown run.
“That (punt return) should have been it, and it wasn’t,” Hauck said.
By that point UNLV’s once streaking offense was a shell of its former self.
At the beginning of the game running back Tim Cornett, who finished with a career high 141 yards on 25 carries, was easily carving up NAU’s defense. He scampered for a 42-yard touchdown less than five minutes into the game and the rout appeared to be on. But then nothing really happened.
Backup running back Bradley Randle dove in on fourth down from the 1 for UNLV’s other score early in the second quarter. Besides that, the offense went quiet.
“They made adjustments that really got to us,” Cornett said.
Added quarterback Nick Sherry, “They picked up on our calls.”
The play calling stayed pretty much the same in the second quarter, but when Cornett wasn’t carrying the ball it lacked the same firepower. And when he came back into the game in the third quarter he couldn’t find the same holes. More often than not it just looked like Cornett running into the back of his own lineman.
Sherry, who finished 16-of-29 for 239 yards, actually looked a lot better than last week and made some good throws down the stretch, but his receivers couldn’t match the effort. Several dropped passes derailed possible game-winning drives.
“We threw it successfully, but we’ve got to hang on to the ball,” Hauck said. “That’s probably the most aggravating thing to me is the drops. Those were all big plays in the game.”
As were a pair of special teams blunders. Ahead 14-0 in the second quarter, Hauck spurned a 42-yard field goal attempt for a fake that saw backup quarterback Caleb Herring, who may have had enough room to run for the first down, throw incomplete to defensive end (and former tight end) Jordan Sparkman.
Hauck said after the game he liked the call, just not the result. That sentiment probably also applies to Nolan Kohorst’s missed 30-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.
The kick would have put UNLV ahead 17-7, but it faded right and actually bent back the right upright as it bounced off the post and fell harmlessly to the turf.
After the game a bulk of the Rebels went straight for the locker room rather than shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with the Lumberjacks. After two straight home heartbreakers they had had enough.
This Friday they face Washington State on ESPN and will try to avoid making this place their personal house of horrors. When asked what he said to the team after Saturday’s loss, Hauck said it was all the stuff about mistakes and not being good enough to win when they play poorly.
A little later Hauck remembered he had found more words than just that. He said he challenged them to start the season anew, a trick far easier for him to articulate than it is to complete.
“Winners will come back and play. People that give up on things won’t,” Hauck said. “I think we have enough character in our locker room that (we’ll say) ‘We’re 0-2, so be it. Let’s not be 0-3 next Friday night.’”