Turnovers chill UNLV in loss to Colorado State

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Bobby Hauck didn’t want to hear about the cold weather affecting his football team.

Maybe it didn’t, but his offense sure seemed frozen in place.

Saturday’s game had the feel of another Southern Utah, but with biting cold and snow thrown in the mix.

UNLV, similar to that Southern Utah game last season, handed Colorado State 21 first-half points, allowing the Rams to dictate the tone and roll to a 33-11 victory at Hughes Stadium.

"Turnovers killed us," UNLV running back Tim Cornett said. "Nobody’s winning a game with a lot of turnovers like that, I don’t care who you are."

The Rebels might have suffered an even bigger loss than the game. Quarterback Nick Sherry was injured with 5:58 left, appearing to bounce his head off the turf. Hauck said he didn’t know Sherry’s status, but the quarterback seemed to move fine afterward.

As for the game itself, come clear weather or bad, the Rebels once again proved to be a sure loss outside Clark County. They have lost 21 road games in a row, five short of the school record set between 1994 and 1998.

"We can’t win on the road," Hauck said. "We can’t come in here and give their team three touchdowns with our offense and hope to win the game. It’s aggravating, to say the least, and disappointing. It’s got to stop. We have to play better on the road."

UNLV, which plays Wyoming on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium, has one more chance to win on the road. The Rebels close the season at Hawaii on Nov. 24 in what should be a winnable game.

Then again, the Rebels (2-9, 2-4 Mountain West Conference) figured Colorado State (3-7, 2-4) was an opponent they had a good chance to beat.

UNLV, though, never gave itself a chance, committing four first-half turnovers. Sherry threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, and running back Bradley Randle lost a fumble.

Three of those turnovers led directly to touchdowns and a 21-0 lead by the Rams midway through the second quarter.

"Even the best teams don’t overcome that," Hauck said, "and we aren’t one of the best teams."

Hauck said the deficit forced the Rebels to become more aggressive. UNLV threw 34 passes and ran 29 times, probably not a winning mix in these conditions. The temperature was 28 degrees shortly before kickoff.

"They put us in a hole, and it was hard to dig back all night," UNLV offensive tackle Yusef Rodgers said. "I think it kinds of changed up our offensive game plan a little bit, and we just couldn’t get out of it."

The turnover-fest was reminiscent of last season’s three-interception game by Caleb Herring against Southern Utah. All three were returned for touchdowns in a shocking 41-16 loss.

This defeat wasn’t as surprising, but it was nearly as ugly.

UNLV at least prevented the shutout with 13:09 left when Sherry completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Max Johnson on fourth down. Eric Tuiloma-Va’a blocked a punt to set up the score.

The touchdown was a rare highlight in a rough night for Sherry. He completed 12 of 30 passes for 88 yards.

Cornett provided one of the other bright spots for UNLV by rushing for more than 100 yards for the eighth time this season, the most by a Rebels back since Ickey Woods had nine in 1987. Cornett finished with 102 yards on 20 carries, giving the junior 11 career 100-yard games to tie Dominique Dorsey (2001 to ’04) for second all time.

Mike Thomas set the school record with 17 in 1973 and 1974.

On the other side, Colorado State’s Donnell Alexander rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Conner Smith passed for only 109 yards, completing 16 of 27 attempts.

The Rams outgained UNLV 340 yards to 219.

"Their guys played better in (the snow) than we did," Hauck said.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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