When Mike Clausen moved from quarterback to safety last week, Caleb Herring knew his chances to take a college football snap skyrocketed.
Herring was UNLV’s No. 3 quarterback before Clausen’s switch, but he was a prized recruit under previous coach Mike Sanford and perhaps just as valued by the current Bobby Hauck-led staff.
So when starter Omar Clayton struggled in Saturday night’s 30-7 loss at Idaho, Hauck didn’t hesitate to put in the redshirt freshman, who took over with 8:06 left in the third quarter and played the rest of the game.
“That’s what you live for, playing college sports,” Herring said. “That kind of juices me up.”
Herring faced the same daunting Vandals pass rush that helped create a miserable night for Clayton, who completed 3 of 8 passes for 41 yards. Each quarterback was sacked three times.
But Herring also stood his ground in the face of an Idaho blitz to throw a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Phillip Payne with 1:19 left in the game to avoid a shutout and snap a seven-quarter string without an offensive TD for the Rebels.
“Once you see the blitz, you go over adjustments on the sideline,” Herring said. “You get it squared away with the O-line and your running backs, and the next time the blitz (came), I was definitely more calm standing there in the pocket. I was more patient.”
That scoring pass followed a 43-yard pass to Payne two plays earlier.
Both throws also were a good sign for how Herring handled adversity. He was intercepted on the previous drive, which set up a Vandals field goal.
“Any time you make a mistake like that at quarterback, it’s going to be hard, but that’s part of playing quarterback,” said Herring, who was 4 of 7 for 87 yards. “It’s going to happen. It happens to everyone, but the (important) part is being able to bounce back.
“I think that’s one of the virtues of being a quarterback is being able to shake that last play off, whether it was a 60-yard touchdown pass or an interception for six (points).”
There is no quarterback controversy for now, however. Hauck said after the game that the job remains Clayton’s, but “that’s like any other position on the team,” Hauck said. “If someone’s not having a good night, then we’ll try something else.”
Herring said he was fine with going back to backing up Clayton, but he will be available should the Rebels struggle in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against New Mexico at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“Any game-time experience is valuable no matter what happens the next game or for the rest of the season,” Herring said.
■ NOTES — Hauck said during the week he didn’t anticipate Clausen playing safety at Idaho, but the ex-quarterback was in for a healthy number of plays. He also played on special teams. … The Rebels recorded their first sacks of the season, with tackle Isaako Aaitui picking up the first one and end B.J. Bell and cornerback Sidney Hodge getting credit for collaborating on the second one. … UNLV is favored by 10 points over New Mexico. It’s the first time the Rebels have been favored this season. Both teams are 0-3.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914.