UNR made its share of mistakes, seemed to play disinterested at times and didn’t spend all Saturday night embarrassing UNLV like it did in the previous two meetings.
But the bottom line remained much the same.
A clear gulf exists between the schools that the Rebels still have plenty of work to close.
No. 25 UNR maintained its dominance in this series, keeping the Fremont Cannon blue with its sixth consecutive victory over the Rebels, this one a 44-26 win before an announced crowd of 28,958 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
This is the first time either school has beaten the other six times in a row.
The Wolf Pack (5-0) won this meeting with a rushing game that accounted for 374 yards of their 516 total. Running back Vai Taua had 188 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. His 72-yard touchdown run with 15 seconds left in the third quarter gave UNR a 38-17 lead and ended what few doubts remained.
Taua’s biggest plays, though, occurred late in the first half. With the score tied at 14, he scored on a 2-yard run and a 22-yard pass to give UNR a 28-14 halftime lead. The second touchdown was set up by a fumble by UNLV wide receiver Michael Johnson.
"They test you and continue to test you, and if you get out of gaps, then they make you pay," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. "It’s a good offense, and the people running it are awfully good."
UNR quarterback Colin Kaepernick put in a workmanlike effort, completing 13 of 17 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, and rushing for 97 yards and a TD on 13 carries.
It was impressive, but not as dominating as his two previous outings against UNLV in which Kaepernick had 797 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns.
Still, the Rebels won’t shed any tears in seeing Kaepernick’s eligibility finally run out after this season.
UNLV (1-4), which lost by 22 and 35 points, respectively, to UNR the past two seasons, could’ve made the score much closer if it had taken advantage of opportunities.
The Rebels twice failed to score touchdowns on trips inside UNR’s 20-yard line, settling for field goals each time. But UNLV never stopped trying, and quarterback Omar Clayton’s 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Vidal with 4:35 left that brought the Rebels to within 44-26 typified that effort.
"We had a lot of opportunities, and we didn’t take advantage of them," Clayton said. "And some of our mistakes hurt us in crucial situations."
Clayton ended the night completing 14 of 23 passes for 214 yards with one touchdown. Wide receiver Phillip Payne, playing his best game this season, caught eight passes for 170 yards.
But, in the end, the Rebels still remain woefully behind UNR, which hopes to stage a showdown of possible unbeatens against No. 3 Boise State on Nov. 26.
Maybe those lofty goals help explain why the Wolf Pack appeared to sometimes go through the motions against UNLV. UNR coach Chris Ault usually has his team revved up for this game, but now the Wolf Pack have considerably more at stake than in previous seasons.
UNLV is far from such visions, and as this game showed, the Rebels still remain weak against the run.
They also are in the midst of a demanding schedule, which opened with losses to ranked teams Wisconsin and Utah. UNLV travels to West Virginia next Saturday.
Despite playing UNR tougher than in the past few years, Clayton said narrowing the gap didn’t make him feel any better about the final result.
"What progress? We lost," he said. "Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve lost the game. There hasn’t been any progress."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.UNR 44
KEY: Vai Taua rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
NEXT: UNLV at West Virginia, 12:30 p.m. PDT Saturday, Fox (5), KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
UNR defeats UNLV
Pregame tailgate party