FORT WORTH, Texas — Texas Christian makes a weekly habit of stopping opposing offenses, so UNLV knew it had a tremendous challenge even before Saturday’s game began.
The Rebels, though, weren’t just stopped. They were completely shut down, needing binoculars just to look at the Horned Frogs’ end zone.
Heck, forget the goal line. No. 8 TCU defended the first-down marker with seemingly equal fervor in handing the Rebels a 41-0 defeat at Amon Carter Stadium.
UNLV reached Frogs territory only four times and never advanced past TCU’s 34-yard line.
"I don’t remember ever in my career playing against as good a defense as that," UNLV coach Mike Sanford said.
The statistics told the story:
— It was the first time the Rebels were shut out since a 7-0 home loss to San Diego State on Nov. 8, 2003.
— UNLV’s seven first downs were its fewest since picking up six two years ago at TCU.
— The Rebels passed for 42 yards, their lowest total since gaining 40 against Arkansas in Little Rock in 2001.
— TCU rushed for 390 yards, second for a UNLV opponent this season only to UNR’s 559 on Oct. 3.
— UNLV’s Kyle Watson punted 11 times, the most since Gary Cook had 12 against Brigham Young in 2004.
The Rebels (3-6, 1-4 Mountain West Conference) now have no margin for error. They must win out to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible, that task starting next Saturday at home against Colorado State.
TCU (8-0, 4-0) will play in the postseason somewhere, whether it’s a Bowl Championship Series game or a lesser bowl. The Frogs are competing with Boise State, which defeated San Jose State 45-7 on Saturday, for a BCS bid from a non-automatic conference.
UNLV, no doubt, would support TCU’s effort.
"They’re deserving of their rankings," Sanford said.
TCU’s defense, which was ranked No. 5 entering this game, lived up to its status. Rebels quarterback Omar Clayton, who seldom had any open receivers, completed 8 of 21 passes for 38 yards.
"If you beat one guy, there’s a guy right there behind him ready to take you down," UNLV receiver Ryan Wolfe said. "That’s even if the quarterback has the time to get the ball off. Their front seven gets off the football so fast."
Making the game even more frustrating for the Rebels, they failed to take advantage of the rare opportunities they had. TCU twice fumbled in the first quarter, but UNLV lost a combined 2 yards on the ensuing drives.
The defense had its own problems.
TCU scored first-half touchdowns on a 75-yard pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver Antoine Hicks and a 59-yard run by tailback Ed Wesley. Rebels defenders were there both times to make stops, but failed to wrap up.
"We can’t do that," Sanford said. "I thought our defense came back and tackled better in the second half, but we’ve got to keep working and keep getting better at that."
UNLV’s defense allowed 578 yards, the fourth time this season it has given up more than 500. Dalton aided TCU’s running game by passing for 178 yards and three touchdowns.
"I don’t think they did anything different from what we’ve seen, but they definitely have the athletes to run a great offense," UNLV defensive end/linebacker Jason Beauchamp said.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Read the latest UNLV football updates at lvrj.com/blogs/unlv_sports.TEXAS CHRISTIAN – 41
UNLV – 0
KEY: The Rebels crossed into TCU territory just four times, and the Horned Frogs gained 578 yards on offense.
NEXT: Colorado State at UNLV, 7 p.m. Saturday, The Mtn. (334), KWWN-AM (1100)