GAME DAY GRADES
Caleb Herring completed 26 of 49 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns and was UNLV’s leading rusher with 55 yards on 14 carries. His two interceptions were both very costly, but one wasn’t his fault. Herring’s second half efforts nearly brought the Rebels back in a game they trailed by 21 at halftime. He shared some of the blame for that deficit, however. Herring and the offense were unable to sustain any sort of drive in the first half and the exhausted defense was torched by San Jose State. Herring was also under constant pressure, particularly in the first half.
Running Backs: D
This grade certainly comes with an asterisk. Tim Cornett never had a chance to get anything going. Whether it was because UNLV was in an early hole or by design, the Rebels went away from the run and were never able to establish any sort of ground game. Cornett got just 12 carries and managed 24 yards. Shaq Murray-Lawrence made the most of his one carry, popping it for seven yards. Neither back was able to get very involved in the passing game, either. Cornett can hardly be blamed for failing to find the end zone on a huge third-and-goal from the 1 in the first half. As soon as he took the handoff in the backfield, he was being tackled by a swarm of defenders.
Receivers/Tight Ends: C+
It was not a marquee day for the receiving unit on Saturday. Devante Davis had eight catches for 79 yards, including at least two of his typical highlight-reel grabs. Davis failed to find the end zone, however, and had a key drop on a third down play in the third quarter. Marcus Sullivan had six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, but a key bobble that turned into an interception may have been the biggest play of the game. Maika Mataele was the bright spot. The senior hauled in six passes for 89 yards and a score, flashing great hands and an ability to get open. Taylor Barnhill was serviceable at tight end.
Offensive Line: D-
The line has been very good at times this season, but was well on its way to earning an “F” in the first half. That’s only because the scale doesn’t go any lower. The San Jose State defensive front had its way in the first half, pressuring Herring just about every time he tried to drop back to pass. The running game was completely non-existent for UNLV, which could not establish any sort of rhythm in the first half, largely because of an inability to block anyone. Things changed in the second half as Herring had more time to throw and started to find some success. Still no holes the few times a running play was called, though. As low as the grade had fallen in the first half, it would have taken something remarkable after the break to avoid this grade.
Defensive Line: C-
Again, this unit was abysmal in the first half. San Jose State dominated up front on both sides of the ball and when all was said and done, the Spartans went into the break with 188 yards rushing. That number was a combination of poor play and complete exhaustion as the defense was seemingly on the field the entire opening 30 minutes. Like most of the team, the defensive front came out much better after halftime. San Jose State struggled to find the same holes that were wide open in the second half. Jordan Sparkman and Efrem Clark shared the team’s lone sack. Tyler Gaston made nine tackles from his defensive tackle spot.
They get to share in the grade with the defensive line for largely the same reasons. The San Jose State rushing attack racked up an unacceptable 312 yards on 45 carries and there were huge holes all day long. Things got better for much of the second half, but there was absolutely nobody in the middle of the field on a third-and-seven draw play that went for a clinching 37-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tani Maka was all over the field as usual with 12 tackles. It just wasn’t enough, though. Someone needed to make a big play and it never happened.
Defensive Backs: B+
Granted, the secondary wasn’t tested a whole lot as San Jose State’s ground game was working so well. But UNLV held Spartans quarterback David Fales to a career-low 150 yards passing on 15 of 30. Tajh Hasson broke up two passes and safeties Peni Vea and Frank Crawford each came up with an interception. Vea’s pick was a great one on the sideline that set UNLV up with a short field, but the Rebels had to settle for three points when they were unable to punch it in for a touchdown. Coverage was pretty good all game long, but there was no chance for an “A” grade after Kenneth Penny allowed Kyle Nunn to catch a pass from the tight end in the end zone despite being well-positioned to make a play.
Special Teams: B+
Logan Yunker averaged 44.5 yards per punt and pinned San Jose State inside the 20-yard line twice. He also boomed a 58-yarder that flipped the field for the Rebels. UNLV also held the Spartans to just 18.5 yards per return on the two kickoffs they tried to bring back, though the Rebels didn’t have much success on returns either. It was just a quiet, solid performance by the special teams until Nolan Kohorst missed a field goal wide right in the final minute with UNLV down 10 points to close the book on the loss. Had he made the 45-yard attempt, the Rebels still would have needed to recover an onside kick and score a touchdown. But at least there would have been a chance.