San Diego State 19
As good as Caleb Herring was last week in getting the Rebels bowl-eligible with his performance at Air Force, Saturday may have been his best game ever. He threw for five touchdowns, four to Devante Davis, and ran for another. Not only was he accurate with his arm as Herring was 20 for 30 and 270 yards with just one interception, he was also using his legs to extend plays and gain first downs. Herring had 60 yards on the ground and he played with a level of confidence not seen before. He trusted the plays sent in from offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach and he executed the game plan to near perfection. No interceptions. Few forced throws. Efficient and intelligent. Herring was a sight to behold and he deserves to lead this team to a bowl game later this month.
RUNNING BACK: B
On a night where UNLV had great success throwing the ball, it didn’t need to rely on Tim Cornett. Still, the senior running back averaged 3.8 yards per carry and finished with 61 yards. He also did a good job staying in to block when asked to, giving Herring more time to throw.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B+
Anytime a quarterback throws for big numbers, it means the guys in front of him gave him enough time to deliver the ball. And Brett Boyko, Cam Jefferson, Ron Scoggins, Robert Waterman and Andrew Oberg did their jobs well. And when San Diego State managed to get pressure on Herring, the Rebels’ QB had lanes to run through as the line created enough space for him to operate in.
Start with Davis, who set a school record for most touchdown receptions in a season with 14 after his four-TD catch performance. He and Herring were on the same page all night and he simply outworked the SDSU defenders to get to the ball. Davis finished with eight catches for 171 yards. Marcus Sullivan had a 32-yard TD catch as part of his four-reception night and tight end Taylor Barnhill made some nice grabs in traffic and took a couple of big hits. But he held on to the ball and finished with four catches. The receivers were getting open all night, be it down the sidelines or over the middle or in the flat.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-
There were two challenges for this unit going into Saturday’s game — one, don’t let San Diego State running back Adam Muema run wild, and two, don’t allow quarterback Quinn Kaehler to have a vacation in the pocket and pick the secondary apart. For the most part, it was mission accomplished. Muema, who came into the game averaging 91 yards a game, never dominated because he had little space to run through. Muema finished with just 11 yards. However, former Canyon Springs HS star Donnel Pumphrey played well in his return to Las Vegas, finishing with 87 yards. Kaehler may have thrown for 239 yards, but he was under constant harassment and was picked off twice, including once by Tyler Gaston in the first quarter after he wisely stopped suddenly after initially rushing Kaehler and was in the right spot when the throw deflected off Muema’s hands and into Gaston’s.
Good support against the run and help in the flats against the pass were a big part of keeping San Diego State in check. Tau Lotuleilei always plays with high energy and he was all over the field making plays. Same for Tani Maka. They were aggressive and delivered some big hits. They also helped stop San Diego State on fourth-and-1 situations, helping get the ball back to the UNLV offense.
Getting sucked in by that opening-drive flea flicker touchdown scored by the Aztecs was embarrassing and it was a wake-up call. There were enough soft coverages that allowed San Diego State to gain yards and maintain drives. But there were also enough hard hits and good tackles to prevent the really big plays from re-occurring. Kenneth Perry had several breakups and Mike Horsey’s third-quarter interception helped snuff out a potential SDSU scoring drive.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Always an adventure, Saturday had its share of gaffes. There was a 71-yard punt return in the fourth quarter for a San Diego State touchdown. There was a shanked 23-yard field goal try by Nolan Kohorst. There was the fumbled kickoff by Sullivan to begin the second half that wound up in the UNLV end zone and recovered by the Aztecs only to be negated by an offsides penalty. However, there were a couple of bright spots. Kohorst managed to nail a 50-yard field goal late in the first half and he passed Mike Thomas as UNLV’s career scoring leader. Keith Whitley had a 46-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. So it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
A breakdown here and there, but otherwise, Bob Hauck had his team ready to play in a game they probably needed to win to guarantee a spot in a bowl game. At 7-5, UNLV should land somewhere. UNLV had 401 yards in total offense and put up 45 points against a pretty good team that tends to do weird things. getting stops twice on fourth-and-1 was big. Letting quarterback Caleb Herring have a record night was bigger. There was no letdown from getting bowl eligible and Hauck and his staff deserve credit for making sure their guys were ready to play on Senior Night.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.