Key: Arizona rushed for 397 yards to cruise by the Rebels.
Next: UNLV vs. Central Michigan, 7 p.m. Saturday, Sam Boyd Stadium, Mountain West Network
At least last season, UNLV was in every home football game.
Even won a couple.
The Rebels never had a chance Saturday night against Arizona, and if getting routed 58-13 wasn’t bad enough, the night was one big comedy of errors at Sam Boyd Stadium.
If fourth-year coach Bobby Hauck was going to make a strong argument to return for a fifth season, this game wouldn’t come close to d0ing it.
Not when the punting team takes the field early in the second quarter sans the punter, forcing the Rebels to call a timeout.
Not when UNLV (0-2) appears to panic and go for it on fourth down deep in its terrority — in the first quarter.
Not when quarterback Nick Sherry throws two first-half interceptions that are returned for touchdowns and sets up another Arizona TD with a fumble.
And that was all in the first half as the Wildcats (2-0) built a 45-6 lead, a performance more resembling what Oregon might put together. Or, perhaps, UNLV made the Wildcats look that good.
The Rebels next embark on the most winnable part of their schedule, beginning with Central Michigan at home next Saturday. They then host Western Illinois, visit New Mexico and return home to face Hawaii.
But if the Rebels don’t play any better than this, then it may not matter who the upcoming opponents are for UNLV.
Maybe UNLV players should be careful about predicting success against those teams. Rebels defensive end Jordan Sparkman said his team would “dominate” Arizona standout running back Ka’Deem Carey try to hold him to zero yards.
“Let’s cut the head off the snake, and the snake should die,” Sparkman said.
On Carey’s first carry, he went for 58 yards and a touchdown. He had 110 yards and two touchdowns on nine rushes by halftime, looking every bit like the runner who gained 1,929 yards last season to lead the nation.
Carey didn’t even start after sitting out the season opener because of suspension.
Didn’t matter for an Arizona team that rushed for 397 yards, with 171 from Carey and 82 from Daniel Jenkins. Given how inept the Wildcats’ passing game looked at times, with quarterback B.J. Denker competing 8 of 21 passes for 81 yards, it’s a wonder Arizona ever called a pass play.
Sherry probably could’ve used fewer pass plays called, and he was given the night off after halftime, with Caleb Herring taking over. The sophomore completed 6 of 22 passes for 111 yards, though he did have a 69-yard touchdown strike to Devante Davis.
With those two interceptions, Sherry has thrown 11 over his past five starts.
Herring, a senior, played the entire second half, and he completed 3 of 5 passes for 14 yards.
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence led the Rebels in rushing with 82 yards on four attempts, though 79 came on one chunk for a touchdown. He also gained 108 yards on four rushes last week at Minnesota.
The game got out of hand early, with Denker scoring touchdowns of 35 and 4 yards for a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. The second score was set up by a 36-yard fumble return by Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers.
Then the Wildcats blew open the game with four touchdowns in the second quarter, with the final two coming on those long interception returns.
UNLV did not have a record for most points given up in a half or largest deficit, that first half probably was on the short list for both categories.
And now, just two games into the season, the same doubts that constantly face this program are back, if they ever left. The Rebels have the next four games to change the conversation, or this game could be a precursor of what is to come.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.