weather icon Clear

Rout doesn’t teach UNLV anything it didn’t already know

They should take a match and set the game tape ablaze and immediately wonder how in the world Utah beat the snot out of UCLA. They should wake up today and move on.

It’s something UNLV football coaches would likely never consider — not reviewing and critiquing even a lopsided loss would probably cause their collective heads to explode — but there’s nothing to be gained from evaluating a 49-14 defeat to Hawaii on Saturday night.

It’s not as if the Rebels will again encounter anyone like the Warriors this season. (No, Brigham Young doesn’t count.)

It’s not as if UNLV ever had a chance anyway.

This was men against boys before Hawaii won the opening coin toss and (gee, here’s a fresh thought) proved head coach June Jones has more of a clue than a majority of his brethren by actually wanting the ball instead of deferring.

The Warriors were always going to win. The only uncertainties were the number of points they would score on the field and the number of arrests police would make among the Sam Boyd Stadium sellout.

Hawaii has now scored at least 32 in 13 straight games and to think UNLV could come close to matching touchdowns is like thinking Rocky Hinds can still attend a team function without being invited.

UNLV isn’t yet in the same offensive neighborhood as Hawaii. The same offensive planet, for that matter.

It’s more significant now to see how the Rebels react to a 1-2 start, to truly discover whether they are more mature and improved from last year’s bunch that wasn’t nearly good enough to recover from early defeats. To see if this is a program finally capable of more than two wins.

This much we know after three games:

1. UNLV coach Mike Sanford is now officially the Steve McClain of Mountain West Conference football, because if you ever saw how much time the former Wyoming basketball coach spent on the court during games, you have an idea how much Sanford spends on the field during them.

2. Eventually, all these foolish personal fouls are going to cost the Rebels a win, and this is the last program that can afford to lose a game by combining blatant stupidity with inferior talent.

3. UNLV is unquestionably better on defense.

The latter is enough of a reason to ditch anything related to this loss and immediately begin preparing for a conference opener against visiting Utah on Saturday. The Rebels weren’t awful in trying to contain Hawaii’s run-and-shoot quarterback Colt Brennan. They weren’t overly decent. They were like most who attempt to slow Hawaii — lots of effort but overmatched by the scheme and skill.

Brennan was held to under 300 yards passing for just the second time in 16 games with each occasion coming against UNLV, but that was because both outcomes were decided by the fourth quarter and Jones would prefer his star not break a leg during a rout.

But in beating Utah State and offering an inspired effort against Wisconsin, the Rebels had managed to rank fourth among conference teams and 35th nationally in total defense. Before Saturday they had allowed averages of just 18 points, 137.5 yards passing and under 300 total yards.

They are more physical defensively this season. Better aligned. They don’t miss as many tackles. They don’t blow as many coverages. They haven’t yet come close to giving up on plays like they did when the losses continued to pile up last year.

UNLV played the Warriors without starting safety Tony Cade, who was suspended for breaking team rules. I had assumed it was for running over Sanford at practice when the coach wandered on the field during a play. It’s really not important why Cade spent the game in his jersey and jeans, because anyone short of Ed Reed wouldn’t have bothered Brennan’s steady pursuit of the end zone.

The goal of UNLV coaches was to hold Hawaii to 28 points, which the Rebels did for much longer than most probably forecast. The Warriors zoomed past the mark with under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Rebels’ goal now should be to forget this and move on. To burn the film. To figure out how Utah went from pansy to giant-killer.

Hawaii is too different to worry about handing out grades for how well the Rebels executed or not. The Warriors aren’t like anyone else.

Besides, they were always going to win. That much was guaranteed.

Well, that and UNLV being flagged for more personal fouls.

Ed Graney’s column is published Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. He can be reached at 383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.