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Rebels' ineptitude worthy of billboard


I don’t know William Riggins. His Twitter account tells us he is a graphic designer from San Diego. He has a nice website at wjriggins.com, where we discover he loves music, spent two years in the Dominican Republic and speaks “ugly Spanish.”

He had a great tweet around 8:50 on Saturday night.

It read: “What was Lon Kruger thinking there?”

It came after UNLV’s football team trotted out its punt unit during the second quarter of its home opener against Arizona at Sam Boyd Stadium.

The Rebels forgot one major part.

Their punter.

Wackadoo.

UNLV was forced to take a timeout, and the comedy continued, an act we have seen time and again and yet perhaps not to this level of nonsence, ending in a 58-13 loss before an announced gathering of 26,950 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

And you thought things couldn’t possibly get worse for UNLV than the billboard fiasco.

The week began with a picture of former men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger (instead of current head man Dave Rice) being placed beside one of football coach Bobby Hauck on a highway billboard inviting fans to purchase tickets, hence the creative tweet from Riggins.

It ended with, given this is Hauck’s fourth season at UNLV, arguably the worst performance by the Rebels under him. Arizona led 45-6 at halftime in a game it was favored to win by 10 as late as Monday.

It’s a good Arizona team that has a terrific running back in junior Ka’Deem Carey.

It’s not Oregon good. I’m not sure it’s UCLA or Washington good.

It’s certainly not good enough that the Rebels should have been so utterly embarrassed, and yet they were at every phase of the game. I was sort of hoping they would have hiked the ball when no punter was on the field, because the three up-men had no clue that no one was behind them.

The billboard would have had nothing on that.

Here’s the thing: UNLV always was going to lose its first two games, always going to fall at Minnesota last week and against Arizona this week, always going to be 0-2 to begin the season. Those teams are just better.

That’s not the surprising part.

How it has managed to be 0-2 is.

UNLV wasn’t in the Minnesota game with 10 minutes remaining, and it didn’t seem to be in Saturday’s game for 10 seconds. It hasn’t been nearly as competitive as you would have thought when the Rebels broke camp in Ely, with Hauck proclaiming this is his best UNLV team yet.

A side that had 69 yards rushing at halftime against Arizona.

With 4:55 remaining in the third quarter, it had 61.

It’s getting nearly impossible to make these things up.

The crazy part: Things can change quickly.

UNLV next hosts Central Michigan and Western Illinois in consecutive weeks before opening Mountain West Conference play at New Mexico. It could be 2-2 heading to Albuquerque, which is the mark most everyone predicted for the Rebels before the season.

It could begin, amazing if you saw one play from the debacle that was Saturday’s loss, building momentum.

That is, if Nick Sherry can stop making foolish mistakes.

The sophomore quarterback watched the second half from the sideline Saturday, a smart move by Hauck after his starter turned the ball over three times the first 30 minutes, including two interceptions that were returned for scores.

Sherry now has thrown 11 interceptions his past five games. He’s making Pop Warner reads. It’s an issue that obviously has landed inside his helmet, and if his confidence isn’t restored quickly, well, Western Illinois no longer should be considered a gimme.

Sherry gives UNLV its best chance to win games, but he’s making throws that would get a high school quarterback benched. The Rebels aren’t near good enough at any spot to hand others points.

It was a mess Saturday and shouldn’t have been. It shouldn’t be this bad in a fourth season of a coach’s tenure against a good but hardly great Pac-12 opponent. You shouldn’t have to be doing things like faking a punt when down 48-6 with 3:21 left in the third quarter for a few reasons.

First, when you’re getting ripped like the Rebels were, why not just go for the first down instead of showing a fake to future opponents on film?

Second, the way UNLV is going, punter Logan Yunker might be one of its best players.

You know, when he remembers to be on the field.

The good part: With 2:50 remaining Saturday, the scoreboard flashed a reminder about how fans can purchase tickets to the Central Michigan game. Lon Kruger was nowhere to be found on the advertisement.

You know me. Always looking for the positive.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.