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Lansford gets final kicks at home with little fanfare

At 1:06 p.m. Saturday, just before his last game at Sam Boyd Stadium – unless he morphs into a midfielder for Real Madrid or one of those other touring international soccer powers that drop in during August – Chase Lansford jabbed his right hand into the air. This was the signal to his 10 teammates he was about to kick off to Wyoming.

In a lot of stadiums, where tens of thousands of people are in the stands, and they stand and wave their arms and chant w-o-o-o-o-o, like people do before kickoffs – and they stomp their feet until the grandstands sway – this is an electric moment.

At Sam Boyd Stadium, where there was only a ten of thousands – 10,717, the smallest turnout for a UNLV home game since 1995 – it was less than electric. Nobody chanted w-o-o-o-o-o; nothing swayed except the Wyoming fans who by then were on their eighth or ninth beers.

Chase Lansford swung his right leg, and the football traveled 59 yards in the balmy air, where one of the Cowboys returned it 23 yards to the Wyoming 29-yard line.

Nothing was exciting about any of that, though I suppose it was slightly more interesting than a touchback.

Lansford trotted off the field and started practicing fake punts into a net that had been set up at the 25-yard line behind the UNLV bench. Nothing was exciting about that, either.

But the reason Lansford was practicing fake punts is because after it became apparent he would not get the chance to kick field goals and extra points – tasks for which he thought he had been recruited – he made himself into a punter. And he has made himself into a pretty good punter, too, good enough to be named to the Ray Guy Award list both this season and last.

Chase Lansford was one of 15 seniors playing his last home game, and that’s not nearly enough. It might explain why the Rebels lost another close game, 28-23. You need senior leadership, and you also need a pass interference call, or no-call, to go your way when you’re struggling.

Bobby Hauck, the Rebels’ coach, didn’t complain much about the pass interference no-call. He said he was tired of "almost being there," that everybody on the UNLV side was.

He didn’t say anything about the seniors playing their last home game.

But a lot of people, or at least those among the 10,717 who weren’t wearing brown and yellow, which might have been half, were hoping one of the seniors would step up and doing something neat. Like Rudy Ruettiger at Notre Dame.

Me? I was hoping Hauck would call another crazy fake kick, and maybe this time it would work. And that Chase Lansford would run for a touchdown or something. It would have made a good story on Senior Day.

But when Hauck called his crazy fake kick, it was on a field goal. And it did work, at least until Caleb Herring fumbled away an apparent touchdown at the goal line. This is how the Rebels roll.

I had talked to Mike Lansford, Chase’s dad, after the game started, and Mike said he was proud that Chase had made something of his Rebels career. But the longer we talked, the more I sensed he was disappointed and frustrated that Chase never got a chance to kick field goals since transferring to UNLV from Santa Ana (Calif.) Junior College.

Maybe this was just a dad talking. But this also was a field-goal kicker talking, one of the NFL’s best, in fact, during his nine seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, where he kicked barefoot for John Robinson. (Mike Lansford also kicked for another former UNLV coach, Harvey Hyde, at Pasadena JC.)

We were standing away from the field when Stuart Williams, No. 94 in drab gray for Wyoming, came on to kick the extra point after the first Cowboys touchdown. And yet Lansford said "this Wyoming kicker isn’t very good." He said he could tell by the way the ball sounded coming off Williams’ foot.

It sounded like a thwap instead of a thud. A thud is what you want.

Williams’ first field-goal attempt, a 40-yarder in the first quarter, was blocked and returned for a UNLV touchdown. When he tried from 42 yards in the second quarter, the ball sounded like a whoopee cushion when it came off his foot. The kick was short and wide, though the no-pest strips on top of the goalpost barely were fluttering.

I was going to say that Chase Lansford could relate, but he can’t, because he never got to kick field goals for the Rebels after the coaches went with Nolan Kohorst.

"I wanna say it’s worked out for the best," Lansford said after Hauck told reporters he’s tired of the Rebels being almost good enough to win these close ones. "Punting has gotten me a lot of places; it’s gotten me an education, and it might even take me somewhere in the future."

Next week, it’ll take him to Hawaii, where it will end, in football paradise. Warm trade winds will be blowing, pretty girls will be dancing in grass skirts, and somebody in the stands almost certainly will be strumming a ukulele.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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