UNLV snapped an eight-game losing streak with its 27-17 victory over Utah State in the season opener at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday night.
Omar Clayton threw for 192 yards and three scores in the victory.
Ryan Wolfe had seven catches for 103 yards and two scores.
Frank Summers led all rushers with 89 yards, but “The Tank” got just 14 carries. It was really an unacceptable amount for a team that was sitting on a lead the entire second half and has a back that runs with a bruising style like Summers’.
The Rebels have to find a way to get him more carries going forward.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Utah State scored what seemed like a meaningless touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play from the 6-yard line with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter.
There was a bit more buzz in the crowd than there might ordinarily be for a late score.
It’s tough to imagine why.
After all, the NCAA has told us that people who bet on games don’t actually watch them, so there’s no chance any money was to be won or lost by the fans in attendance as Utah State attempted to beat the spread with the final score in the game.
The line was around 12.5 at most sports books.
Freshman Phillip Payne, out of Western High School, was impressive throughout camp. He wasn’t too bad in his first collegiate game, either.
Payne had four catches for 52 yards and a touchdown on a catch that showcased his size and athleticism.
On the scoring catch, Clayton threw up a jump ball in the corner of the end zone that Payne simply went up and snatched.
“When the ball hangs like that, everyone is thinking about making a play,” Payne said. “But I was thinking, I’m going to get my first touchdown.”
He was a bit surprised by the speed of the college game, but it didn’t take him long to adjust.
“At first, it was real, real fast,” Payne said with a laugh. “I couldn’t get adjusted to it. But then it slowed down a little bit and it was OK.”
Coach Mike Sanford was pleased with the receiver’s efforts.
“All training camp long he’s been a guy that when you put the ball in the air, he goes and gets it,” Sanford said. “He’s been making plays all camp and it carried over into tonight.”
Brendon Lamers and Dack Ishii have been locked in a battle throughout camp for the starting punter job.
Ishii, who is also the third-string quarterback, came out to punt the first time the unit took the field even though Lamers was listed first on the depth chart.
Ishii, in fact, handled three of the first four punts for UNLV with Lamers kicking one away in the second quarter.
But it was Lamers’ second punt, UNLV’s fifth of the game, that provided the special teams highlight of the game.
Lamers perfectly placed a punt in the corner and rolled it out of bounds at the Utah State 2-yard line early in the fourth quarter. With the awful field position, the Aggies failed to make a first down and gave the ball back to UNLV at midfield.
The Rebels turned the field position into an insurance field goal.
Both punters punted three times and their statistics were nearly identical. Amazingly, Lamers punted for 112 yards, while Ishii amassed 113 yards.
Lamers did place two punts inside the 20-yard line, however, while Ishii booted one into the end zone for a touchback.
SIGN OF BAD THINGS TO COME?
UNLV had all kinds of trouble with Utah State’s backup quarterback Diondre Borel.
The sophomore entered the game in the third quarter and rushed for 78 yards, while completing 8 of 16 passes for 80 yards and a score.
Borel is a similar quarterback to the signal-caller the Rebels will face next week, Utah’s Brian Johnson.
Johnson, however, is a far superior playmaker at this point, as evidenced by his performance in Saturday’s win at Michigan.
If the trouble the Rebels had stopping Borel is any indication, Johnson may have a field day next week.
Though Omar Clayton seemed to be in quite a rhythm in the second quarter, Sanford inserted backup quarterback Mike Clausen for a series.
Clausen completed 2-of-3 passes for 29 yards and led a pretty good drive, but was sacked for a big loss to derail the progress.
Sanford said the move was planned to give Clausen some experience.
“Omar knew about it and Mike knew about it,” Sanford said. “Mike is a first-time player. In this offense, and in college football, you’ve got to have two quarterbacks ready to go.”
FUTURE OPPONENTS PLAY WELL
Six of UNLV’s next seven opponents have played their first game and all six have come away victorious.
The only team in the group that has yet to play is Colorado State, which opens against in-state rival Colorado on Sunday.
It could be an ominous sign for a UNLV team that struggled to put away a Utah State club that Sportsillustrated.com ranked as 119th out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
On the same list, UNLV was ranked 101. Next week’s opponent, Utah, was at 25.
To conclude the storyline from earlier in the game, San Diego State did eventually take the lead, but lost 29-27 when Cal Poly made a last-second field goal.