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Rebels clear another hurdle

A fake punt at Brigham Young was a disaster and helped cost UNLV the game.

On Thursday, a fake punt might have saved the Rebels’ season.

Punter Dack Ishii’s 19-yard pass to wide receiver Jerriman Robinson switched momentum, leading to the Rebels’ go-ahead touchdown in a 22-14 victory over Wyoming that kept alive their bowl hopes.

"This is a big win for this football team, a big win for this football program," UNLV coach Mike Sanford said. "I thought we wanted it more."

The Rebels (5-6, 2-5 Mountain West) have won more games this season than the two previous years combined. Their 4-3 record at Sam Boyd Stadium is the school’s first home winning mark since 2000.

UNLV will try to become bowl eligible when it plays at San Diego State on Nov. 22 but still will need breaks to secure the school’s first postseason appearance since the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl.

To make next week matter, UNLV had to beat Wyoming (4-7, 1-6), but the Rebels were sputtering offensively late in the third quarter. The Cowboys led 14-9 and had forced an apparent punt.

Then UNLV went for a fake.

The Rebels also called for a fake Oct. 25 at BYU, and the failed play led to a field goal in the Cougars’ 42-35 victory.

This time, Ishii made the play work. He zipped a pass to Robinson for a first down at Wyoming’s 30-yard line.

"It actually was a lot easier than BYU because the (defender) was so far off," Ishii said. "I thought I could just throw it out there."

Eight plays after the fake, tailback Frank Summers went off right tackle, broke Wyoming linebacker Ward Dobbs’ tackle attempt and went into the end zone. UNLV failed on the 2-point conversion but led for good at 15-14 five seconds into the fourth quarter.

"That (fake) gave us a lot of spark," Summers said.

UNLV then seized control on the Cowboys’ next drive when cornerback Geoffery Howard tipped a pass that linebacker Rusty Worthen ran down for an interception to give the Rebels the ball at the Wyoming 24-yard line. Quarterback Mike Clausen’s 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rodelin Anthony three plays later extended the UNLV lead to 22-14.

It was Clausen’s second start in a row in place of Omar Clayton, who was out with an injured right knee. Clausen is 2-0, and against the Cowboys he overcame a slow start to make key plays.

He completed 16 of 30 passes for 138 yards and rushed for 52 yards on 13 carries.

"They went into a bunch of different coverages tonight, so it was me getting acquainted with that," Clausen said. "In the second quarter, I got the feel for that.

"As the game went on, it kept building and building, and I got more comfortable and more comfortable."

UNLV’s defense, though, made the ultimate difference, holding Wyoming to 294 yards, the lowest by an opponent since Utah State gained 234 in 2007 season opener.

The Rebels also limited the Cowboys to 151 yards rushing, breaking a six-game 200-yard streak by opponents. Iowa State also rushed for 151 yards on Sept. 20.

Wyoming running back Devin Moore rushed for 91 yards, his lowest output since gaining 74 at New Mexico on Oct. 4.

UNLV’s defense also came through when it had to most. Wyoming quarterback Chris Stutzriem looked like he had a touchdown completion to wide receiver David Leonard with 4:52 left, but Rebels safety Daryl Forte raced over to knock the pass in the air. Cornerback Quinton Pointer intercepted it in the end zone to preserve UNLV’s eight-point lead.

"We just found a way to do it tonight," Forte said.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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