Phillip Payne was impressive throughout fall camp and eventually earned himself a spot in the starting lineup for UNLV on opening night.
The freshman from Western High School is responding to his role. Payne caught four passes for 52 yards in the first half, including a touchdown on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone.
Payne also laid down the biggest block of the first half when he walloped Utah State linebacker Daryl Fields on a Mike Clausen run late in the second quarter. The block really didn’t help Clausen gain much extra yardage, but it sure excited the crowd.
Payne’s catch gave the Rebels a 14-7 lead, and UNLV tacked on a field goal in the closing seconds to open a 17-7 halftime advantage.
The field goal was actually the result of a UNLV blunder.
Kamu Kapanui ran into Utah State’s Kejon Murphy, who was trying to make a fair catch on a punt at his own 15-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the half.
Utah State got to move out to the 30-yard line to start the drive instead.
Had they been at the 15, they likely would have just tried to run out the clock and go into halftime down by just a touchdown.
Instead, they tried to capitalize on their improved field position and threw the ball downfield.
Lorenzo Bursey Jr. came up with an interception and UNLV capitalized to extend the lead just before the break.
That being said, the Rebels may want to avoid those types of stupid penalties when they take on better opponents.