MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said wide receiver Phillip Payne’s suspension wasn’t a distraction for the team.
He said a couple of players he talked to Thursday night weren’t even aware Payne wasn’t on the trip.
“That speaks volumes, I suppose. They’re pretty focused,” Hauck said after Saturday’s 49-10 loss to West Virginia.
Payne was suspended for posting negative tweets, including criticism of the coaching staff. His long-term standing with the team is uncertain.
It’s hard to say how Payne’s absence affected what happened on the field. The Rebels faced a fast and talented West Virginia defense, so Payne might have struggled to make plays.
But no one emerged to make up for his void. UNLV’s leading receiver was tight end Austin Harrington, who caught three passes for 34 yards.
“Not having (Payne) on offense puts us down a bit,” quarterback Omar Clayton said. “But other guys have to step up. Phillip could get hurt, and somebody would have to step up. So you have to be ready for this.”
■ ON THE RUN — UNLV entered this game averaging 3.0 yards per carry, and that number dropped after the Rebels gained 96 yards on 40 carries.
But freshman Tim Cornett showed promise in his first start. He rushed for 56 yards on 12 carries, a 4.7-yard average.
“In practice, I worked hard to keep my starting spot, just as hard as I did to earn it,” he said.
■ TAKING SHOTS — Harrington and wide receiver Marcus Sullivan each took big hits on the same fourth-quarter drive, which set up the Rebels’ lone touchdown. Both plays drew personal-foul penalties.
Hauck said be thought Harrington and Sullivan would be OK. Sullivan was taken to a hospital for X-rays but was released and flew home with the team.
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