UNLV wide receiver suspended for West Virginia game

UNLV wide receiver Phillip Payne did not travel with the Rebels to West Virginia on Thursday, and the junior’s future in the program beyond Saturday’s game is uncertain after a critical message he posted on Twitter.

“Phillip Payne was left home for disciplinary reasons,” coach Bobby Hauck said in a statement, offering no further explanation.

A message posted on Payne’s Twitter account said UNLV’s program was in better condition under previous coach Mike Sanford, according to a person who had access to the tweet. The person did not want to be named because of the topic’s sensitivity.

A Review-Journal message to Payne via Facebook went unreturned.

UNLV has a 1-4 record in its first season under Hauck, though Sanford would probably have had a difficult time faring better against an early schedule that included three ranked teams.

Sanford, now offensive coordinator at Louisville, was fired by UNLV late last season.

Whether Payne’s absence will be for only the game at West Virginia (3-1) remains to be seen. Publicly questioning the new coaching staff could incur a heavier penalty, perhaps even dismissal from the team.

Payne, a Western High School graduate, leads the Rebels with 23 receptions for 389 yards and two touchdowns. He was coming off his best game of the season, a seven-catch, 180-yard performance against UNR.

The Rebels are 27½-point underdogs to West Virginia and would have had a difficult time winning even at full strength. Payne’s absence means fellow wide receiver Michael Johnson might routinely face double coverage, especially because a third receiver hasn’t emerged.

Payne and Johnson have combined for 46 of UNLV’s 66 receptions. Running back Channing Trotter, who has four catches for 23 yards, is third on the list.

Freshman Marcus Sullivan (Cheyenne High) could make his first start. Sullivan, who has two catches for 26 yards, is listed behind Payne on the depth chart.

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

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