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Lack of depth sinks Rebels

SALT LAKE CITY — Injured once again, Starr Fuimaono probably couldn’t help thinking of last year’s game against Wyoming.

The UNLV linebacker’s season-ending shoulder injury changed that game against the Cowboys, and his left knee injury Saturday against Utah helped turn a competitive night into a 42-21 UNLV loss.

Fellow linebacker Ronnie Paulo’s left ankle injury right after Fuimaono went down made the night even more difficult for the Rebels.

“We’re still not to the point in this program where we have enough depth behind them to replace them with equally talented players,” coach Mike Sanford said. “I love the guys that came in, and they gave a great effort and they tried hard, but it affected our team when we lost those two guys.”

The news is better for Paulo, a Western High School product. He could be back in another week or two. Fuimaono’s return isn’t so certain. He will undergo an MRI today, and Sanford said there is a chance of cartilage damage.

Both players came off strong performances in the opening 27-17 victory over Utah State a week earlier. Fuimaono led the Rebels with 14 tackles, and Paulo was next with 12 stops.

They also were instrumental in shutting out Utah for the first quarter. But the Utes began to move shortly after Fuimaono and Paulo exited about five minutes into the second quarter.

“They couldn’t run on us,” Paulo said. “(Then) things kind of fell apart.”

• NOT ALL THE WAY BACK — Rebels cornerback Quinton Pointer started after missing the opener with a dislocated left elbow. Still wearing a brace, he dropped two sure interceptions within three plays in the final minute of the first half.

“You’ve got to adapt to your shortcomings, and I don’t think he had enough time to adapt,” Sanford said.

Pointer later failed to scoop up a fumble, but safety Terrance Lee had the first shot at the loose ball, which Utah recovered.

• ODDS AND ENDS — UNLV defensive tackle Jacob Hales, a Las Vegas High grad, did not start but entered early in the second quarter. Like Pointer, he missed the first game with a dislocated left elbow. … Dack Ishii won the punting job, receiving an assist from teammate Brendon Lamers’ 8-yarder in the first quarter. But Ishii also averaged 44.4 yards. … UNLV’s first-quarter shutout gave it a 51-0 edge over the Utes going back to the fourth period of the 2006 meeting.

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