AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
Published Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 | 6 p.m.
Updated Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 | 11:12 p.m.
Once the Wildcats got rolling it looked like there was nothing UNLV could do to stop them. Bishop Gorman grad Anu Solomon set a freshman record with 425 passing yards for the Wildcats and the team finished with a school record 787 yards in a 58-13 beatdown against UNLV that matched last year's score.
The game was scoreless 13 minutes in, with both teams going back-and-forth trying to establish a rhythm. Then Arizona broke through with a three play, 96-yard scoring drive. That turned out to be one of their long ones.
Arizona followed up with another three-play score just more than a minute later and then things got of hand. The Wildcats led 24-6 at halftime and then Solomon hit Austin Hill for a 92-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half.
Occasionally the Wildcats were wide open. More often they were breaking through arm tackles or beating single coverage that was up far too tight with no safety help over the top.
In his debut, UNLV junior quarterback Blake Decker finished 22-of-41 for 252 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 56 yards.
Devante Davis caught eight passes for 102 yards while freshman Devonte Boyd hauled in six catches for 100 yards. Those are the kind of things UNLV fans can get excited about. The defense? That's a whole different issue, something that will be dissected this week as UNLV prepares for its home opener against Northern Colorado.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' loss.
With UNLV football entering game week for the 2014 season opener at Arizona, Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Case Keefer dust off the Rebel Room to break down UNLV's first game and the season outlook.
TUCSON, ARIZ. — One of the most unique offseasons in UNLV football history officially comes to an end tonight at 7:37. That’s when the Rebels kick off against Arizona in Arizona Stadium and close the book on the “will they or won’t they?” postseason ban that followed their first winning season in 13 years.
The winning was enough to make these past few months stand out. UNLV’s 7-6 record and bowl berth saved coach Bobby Hauck’s job and created the genuinely realistic expectation that the Rebels should be able to pull this off a little more often.
Then came the postseason ban for a low Academic Progress Rate, seemingly stymying the momentum. A couple of players transferred and a light gray cloud hung over the program until — voila — the academic team applied what it learned at a conference and found the necessary points to lift the ban.
It didn’t come without a cost. Offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson transferred to Arkansas, running back Adonis Smith suits up tonight for Arizona and the Rebels scheduled a 13th game that wouldn’t be on the slate if the ban never happened. But the more important thing is the bottom line: There’s nothing holding the Rebels back but themselves.
The schedule isn’t impossibly hard. There’s depth at most positions. There are legitimate playmakers to get excited about like receiver Devante Davis and Sonny Sanitoa, who slides over from defensive end to help in the middle at defensive tackle.
This year is different perhaps because it feels realistic to be optimistic. Not 13-0 optimistic, but a winning record? A second straight bowl game for the first time in school history? Those feel attainable. It will be interesting to see if that feeling lasts the night.
Arizona is a 24-point favorite with former Bishop Gorman quarterback Anu Solomon making his collegiate debut. It feels almost impossible for things to go like last year’s meeting when Arizona mollywhopped the Rebels 58-13. Of course, the Wildcats were only 14-point favorites that night at Sam Boyd Stadium, so it seemed unlikely to get that bad back then, too.
At Monday’s press conference, Hauck discussed trying to take his time with the ball on offense and keep the game close into the fourth quarter. I think the first quarter will dictate how closely he sticks to that plan.
If things are going well? Part of the reason you picked Blake Decker at quarterback is because he can run your hurry-up and get the ball to the talented receivers. But if the Rebels turn it over or start to get overwhelmed?
That would seem to be the time to use the clock and play conservative, although I question Hauck’s ability to contain himself to that plan. I think he wants to get after it right away. Remember, this is the same coaching staff that called a hook and ladder in the first quarter of last year’s season opener at Minnesota.
That play got a first down, for what it’s worth.
Bern’s prediction: The past two seasons I’ve been interested in UNLV’s first games, both against Minnesota, but this year is different. Today I’m genuinely excited to see what happens. A lot of the key players today were starters back in 2012, too, only now there’s considerable more experience to their moves. Tonight could be very intriguing if the Rebels are able to get a couple of bounces to go their way in the first half. That said, I think the hill’s going to be a little too high to climb. Arizona 35, UNLV 20
Last season: ATS 8-5, O/U 7-5-1