Rebels reinstate Payne

UNLV is back from a break, and so is Phillip Payne.

The junior wide receiver is listed as a starter for Saturday's 8 p.m. game against No. 4 Texas Christian at Sam Boyd Stadium after sitting out the previous two games.

Payne, perhaps the Rebels' best player, had been suspended for criticizing the coaching staff on his Twitter account.

Coach Bobby Hauck said Payne, who is not being made available for media interviews for the rest of the season, worked hard to earn his way back.

"It's kind of like everybody else," Hauck said Monday. "You've got to go out every day and practice hard and play hard, and everyone on the team gets evaluated every day. In regard to that, Phil did a real good job the last two weeks."

Payne, UNLV's lone representative on the preseason all-conference team, has 23 catches for 389 yards and two touchdowns.

The Rebels (1-6, 1-2 Mountain West Conference), five-touchdown underdogs against TCU (8-0, 4-0), are coming off a bye.

The break should shorten UNLV's injury list, but the Rebels are still far from healthy. And the Horned Frogs are a fast, physical team capable of adding to UNLV's injury woes -- quarterback Omar Clayton suffered a season-ending knee injury two years ago against TCU.

"We've lost a lot of guys, and this will be a real physical game," Hauck said. "That's their style. We don't have a lot of 'back-down' in us physically. We like to get after it ourselves."

TCU has won the last six meetings, and UNLV has been held to 10 or fewer points four times in that span.

Last season, TCU whipped the Rebels 41-0 in Fort Worth and didn't allow them past its 34-yard line. UNLV had just seven first downs and 42 yards passing and gave up 390 yards rushing.

This season's statistics point to another rough night for the Rebels.

The Horned Frogs lead the nation in scoring defense (9.0 points per game), pass defense (117.9-yard average) and first downs allowed (12.1 average) and are second in total defense (219.9-yard average).

TCU's offense, which averages 480.1 yards, ranks 11th nationally and has scored in all but one quarter.

The Horned Frogs have outscored Mountain West opponents 141-10 in the past four weeks, shutting out Colorado State and Wyoming and allowing only a field goal to Brigham Young and a touchdown to Air Force.

"They're awfully good, I think deserving of their ranking," Hauck said. "When you look at them statistically on both sides of the ball and on special teams, they're a handful. They've really gone through a lot of folks."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at or 702-387-2914.