At the time, it seemed like just another bonehead stunt. Fake a field goal, maybe you get lucky and you extend the drive. Or, better yet, you catch Utah State completely unaware and you score a touchdown.
UNLV coach Bobby Hauck probably will have trouble with the bonehead reference. But when you lose by four points in a game you could have won with a field goal at the end, “bonehead” works pretty well in light of the Rebels’ 28-24 loss Saturday to the Aggies at Sam Boyd Stadium.
It happened in the second quarter. Utah State was leading UNLV 14-10. The Rebels had drove to the USU 11 where the drive stalled. And while a little trickery might have been in order on some occasions, this wasn’t one of them. Utah State’s defense is the best in the Mountain West and the Aggies don’t allow you to just have your way with them.
So the prudent thing if you’re UNLV is to kick the field goal, pull within 14-13, keep doing what you’re doing on defense, which was getting pressure on freshman quarterback Darrell Garretson and force him into mistakes.
Instead, Hauck decided to reach into his bag of tricks and have kicker Nolan Kohorst take a pitch from holder Caleb Herring and run around the right side. According to the coach, the percentages were in UNLV’s favor.
Utah State’s Nevin Lawson was in perfect position and he sniffed out the fake. Kohorst was a dead duck before he could get rolling and wound up losing 11 yards. More important, UNLV lost a chance to come away with points against a team that yields just 18.9 a game.
“It works 80 percent of the time,” Hauck said when asked if he saw something that would lead him to do what he did.
This move fell into the 20 percent category. And with it, the Rebels are still chasing that elusive sixth win which would get them bowl eligible.
And while the Rebels would eventually take the lead at 17-14 and 24-21, the move to not take points when the opportunity presented itself did indeed come back to haunt them.
If UNLV takes that second-quarter field goal, it changes its philosophy during the final drive, one which saw them go down to the Utah State 16. Quarterback Caleb Herring probably wouldn’t have gone to the end zone four straight plays. Instead, he could grind it down to the final seconds, put the ball in the middle of the field and Kohorst can be a hero.
But with the Rebels trailing 28-24, Herring had no choice but to try and score a touchdown. And while you can question the play-calling in the final four snaps — a draw or a screen might have been more effective, especially given UNLV had all three of its time outs remaining and 35 seconds to play. There was no need to force things.
However, that’s the difference between a four-point deficit and what should have been a one-point deficit. And it may ultimately be the difference between playing football in late December or watching someone else playing on television.