Published Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 | 9:29 p.m.
Idaho’s Matt Linehan hit Callen Hightower streaking across the middle and Hightower snuck into the end zone for the game-winning score, handing UNLV a 33-30 overtime loss tonight at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The Rebels trailed basically the entire game, only tying the game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and briefly leading 30-27 in overtime. The Vandals benefited from turnovers and penalties early on, but as the game went on they played like the better team.
UNLV’s rushing attack finished with 364 yards but it wasn’t enough to overcome the struggles in the air or a defense that got worse as the game went on. This, bottom line, is an inexcusable loss that inspires little confidence that UNLV can win its share of coin flip games in Mountain West play, including next week’s home game against Fresno State.
The Rebels looked awful in Saturday's 44-21 loss at Central Michigan, but the schedule eases up with home games against Idaho and Fresno State, and many of the problems will likely be fixed as a result. Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer and reporters Case Keefer and Taylor Bern discuss any possible changes UNLV should make to compete in the Mountain West, including what to do at quarterback.
After two straight road games, UNLV is back home for the first of two consecutive weekends at Sam Boyd Stadium. Tonight’s game against Idaho (1-2) kicks off at 6 p.m. and will stream on UNLVRebels.com, MWN and Twitter.
Coach Tony Sanchez knows this is a game the Rebels can’t afford to lose, and after falling flat last weekend it’s an opportunity for the team to get some confidence heading into conference play.
I asserted last week that we were about to learn a lot more about junior quarterback Johnny Stanton, and the results weren’t good. I don’t think it’s time for a change, in part because I’m not sure how much better UNLV’s options are, but if things don’t go relatively smoothly against this porous Idaho pass defense it could be cause for real concern.
Elsewhere, senior center Will Kreitler said the line was emphasizing pancake blocks this week because he didn’t feel like they put enough people on the ground at Central Michigan. I expect that will work decently well and it should open some holes for the Rebels’ running game to get back on track.
This is Idaho’s third straight road game, and they lost the last two at Washington and Washington State by a combined score of 115-20. It should be a night for UNLV’s offense to look good, and if that’s not the case it could present some problems heading into Mountain West play.
The Rebels said it was mostly communication issues that led to several Chippewas getting wide open down field last Saturday. One example Sanchez offered: a cornerback didn’t make any contact with a CMU receiver at the line, so the safety had no time to get over and help over the top.
It was all stuff that should be easily identifiable mistakes in the film room, so the key is applying it to the game. While UNLV’s defense isn’t the most talented, I think they will naturally start to look a little better against quarterbacks that don’t stack up to UCLA’s Josh Rosen and CMU’s Cooper Rush.
This was probably UNLV’s best area of last week’s game, and even that didn’t go well. The Rebels blocked a punt for their first touchdown and then gave up a blocked punt later, and UNLV’s average starting position was its own 22-yard line, 13 yards behind Central Michigan.
We still don’t know how Evan Pantels will be as a placekicker because through three games the Rebels have yet to attempt a field goal. I’ll predict that the first attempt comes today. Meanwhile, his first punt last Saturday was perfect and then it was mostly line drives after that.
”If one guy is not on the same page as all 11 guys then you’ll see it and it will mess up everything else.”
— Senior cornerback Torry McTyer on the mistakes that led to Central Michigan’s big plays
Song and Beer Recommendation
The weather is gorgeous and you’re preparing for a win, so spend the afternoon happily drinking Joseph James’ Citra Rye and listening to the Naked & Famous’ “Punching in a Dream”. For my money, Citra Rye is the best local beer we have to offer, and this is the best song from a group that will be taking a stage across town around the time UNLV kicks off.
With a victory, UNLV would enter October with a record of .500 or better for just the second time in seven years, and the fourth in the last 13.
UNLV 41, Idaho 20
(1-2 ATS, 2-1 SU, 2-1 O/U)
UNLV 31, Idaho 20
(2-1 ATS, 3-0 SU, 1-2 O/U)
UNLV 42, Idaho 21
(1-2 ATS, 3-0 SU, 1-2 O/U)
UNLV 34, Idaho 18
(1-2 ATS, 3-0 SU, 1-1-1 O/U)