Omar Clayton had the kind of roller-coaster ride that was exhilarating and nauseating Saturday night.
UNLV’s junior quarterback passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns against Brigham Young. He also was intercepted twice and forced several other passes as the Rebels continued their slide with a 59-21 Mountain West Conference loss at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“I was excited to be able to play again,” said Clayton, who was 20-for-32. “I was able to make all of my throws, but the turnovers hurt us.”
Clayton, who was held out last week at UNR after injuring his right shoulder Sept. 26 at Wyoming, was back as the starter against the No. 18 Cougars. He hit wide receiver Michael Johnson over the middle on the game’s second play but made an ill-advised throw on UNLV’s second series.
BYU linebacker Jordan Pendleton made a nice one-handed catch for the interception, and the Cougars converted the turnover for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
Clayton was picked off again late in the first half as a potential UNLV scoring drive died at the BYU 2.
“The turnovers were costly,” coach Mike Sanford said. “We turned it over three times, and it was the difference in the game.
“Omar had flashes of brilliance and flashes of mistakes. That first interception was a weird play. He has to throw the ball into the stands in a situation like that, and we told him that.”
Clayton appeared to have redeemed himself in the third quarter when he and Johnson connected for a 75-yard touchdown. It was his best pass all night, and it got the Rebels back in the game, as they trailed 24-14 with more than a quarter and a half to play.
However, Sanford inexplicably switched to backup Mike Clausen, who promptly forced a pass into double coverage trying to connect with wide receiver Ryan Wolfe and was intercepted.
BYU again took advantage of the mistake and scored to go up 38-14.
“That was a personnel decision,” Sanford said. “We play both of those guys like we would any other position.”
Clayton said it already had been determined that Clausen would be inserted for the series following the touchdown pass, so he wasn’t concerned that he was being yanked for poor performance.
“It was planned for Mike to play, so I just supported him,” Clayton said.
Sanford did not blame his starting quarterback for the loss but conceded that Clayton has had brighter moments.
“Omar can play better,” he said.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.