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Rebels’ fake punt doesn’t fool Cougars

PROVO, Utah — UNLV’s decision to fake a punt Saturday was so obvious that Brigham Young returner Spencer Hafoka was nearly 50 yards away and started sprinting toward the line of scrimmage.

The Rebels were going to try a fake punt and didn’t seem to care if everyone knew it — even BYU.

UNLV gave it away by lining up in a semi-shotgun formation as opposed to a punting look. The Rebels did the same earlier in the game, but a false-start penalty forced a punt.

This time, punter Dack Ishii could throw a slant pass to wide receiver Phillip Payne or a flat pass to receiver Gerold Rodriguez. Ishii, the third-string quarterback, went to Rodriguez, and Cougars linebacker Coleby Clawson broke up the pass to give BYU the ball at UNLV’s 34-yard line with 11:30 left.

“He threw it to the wrong guy,” UNLV coach Mike Sanford said.

“I just made a bad decision,” Ishii said

The Rebels were fortunate that they held the Cougars to a field goal, keeping them within a possession at 34-28. A BYU touchdown probably would have put the game out of reach for the Rebels, who lost anyway, 42-35.

ON TOP FOR NOW — Senior Casey Flair became UNLV’s career receptions leader. He caught eight passes for 92 yards, giving him 192 catches. That moved him past Damon Williams, who caught 187 passes from 1995 to 1998.

Not bad for a former walk-on from Alaska who wasn’t sure he would have a scholarship when Sanford took over late in 2004.

“That’s something I’m very proud of,” Flair said. “I think it shows my work ethic. No matter what happens, I’m going to be there every single day.”

Flair knows his stay atop the receiving chart could be fairly short-lived. Junior Ryan Wolfe is 12 behind.

“So I’ve got to try to keep him on my backside the rest of the season,” Flair said, smiling.

TOUGH CUSTOMER — Rebels quarterback Omar Clayton took two tough hits that briefly sidelined him. He was knocked out in the second quarter and in the third period wasn’t able to see.

Even so, he completed 26 of 40 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown. Clayton also threw an interception on a desperation pass on the final play.

ODDS AND ENDS — UNLV was the nation’s final team to be perfect in the red zone, but Clayton’s final pass ended that streak. The Rebels are 25 of 26 inside the 20-yard line, with 22 TDs. … The Rebels allowed 209 yards rushing, the fourth consecutive game an opponent has run for more than 200.

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