Nevada packs it in vs. UNLV
LAS VEGAS – Keone Kauo didn’t mince words.
“This is the worst loss I’ve ever been associated with in this program,” the Nevada senior free safety said after UNLV pounded the Wolf Pack 48-13 Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium to retain control of the Fremont Cannon. “It hurts so much when it’s the biggest game of the year and the thing that matters most to you.”
The win was UNLV’s fifth straight in the annual series, and it was the second-worst setback in the 30-year history of the game. Nobody in the Nevada program currently has a victory over UNLV. In that span, the Rebels have outscored Nevada 160-61.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” said senior co-captain Chris Barry, who missed the entire second half with an ankle injury. “It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not the way you want to go out your senior year in one of the most important games. It was disappointing to come out and play like we did.”
If Barry had a bad taste in his mouth, you can imagine how head coach Chris Ault felt. The veteran coach hates to lose, especially to UNLV. His frustration was clearly evident in the post-game press conference.
“We got beat on both sides of the ball,” Ault said. “We played well in the second half, but turnovers came back to haunt us. We physically got beat by a team that is 0-4. It tells you where our program is, and that we have to get better.
“We continue to make mistakes that are costly, very costly. It was very frustrating.”
Nevada turned the ball over five times – three interceptions and two fumbles – leading to 24 points by the Rebels, who won their first game of the season.
A key mistake came early in the second half with UNLV leading 13-6. Travis Moore threw an inside screen to Caleb Spencer, who was hit by Marlo Hill and fumbled. Terrence Young recovered at the UNLV 40.
On second-and-1 from the UNLV 49, Dominique Dorsey, who gained 97 of his game-high 141 yards in the second half, bolted 41 yards down to the 10. After a nine-yard gain by Erick Jackson, Dyante Perkins plowed over from the 1. Sergio Aguayo’s extra point made it 20-6 with 8:41 left in the quarter.
“They went down and scored and got their momentum going,” Ault said.
UNLV went on to score 28 fourth-quarter points on touchdowns by Perkins, Earvin Johnson and two by Jackson.
“Things went right for us tonight,” UNLV coach John Robinson said. “I didn’t think that was going to happen in the beginning, but we got scoring and things went our way.
“I was impressed with our footbal team. (Dominique) Dorsey is a great player. We are down to two tailbacks, and he really stepped up.”
The first half was a battle of field goals, two each by Nevada’s Damon Fine and UNLV’s Aguayo, until the Rebels pushed across a touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Kurt Nantkes to Johnson with 1:49 left before intermission to take a 13-6 lead.
It was a frustrating half, especially for the Wolf Pack. Nevada seemed to move the ball at will between the 20s, but ultimately couldn’t convert once it got into the red zone. Nevada was deep in UNLV territory three times (15, 11 and 18-yard lines), but had just the two Fine field goals and one huge interception to show for it, which ultimately led to Jeff Rowe’s benching despite going 9 for 14 for 99 yards.
“Offensively speaking, when you get the ball down there you’ve got to score,” Ault said.
“Nevada outgained UNLV 249-135 and held the ball for nearly nine more minutes, but had nothing to show for it except a lot of frustration.
Nevada scored on its first drive of the game, mixing pass and run efficiently. Rowe completed his first four pass attempts for 45 yards, the last completion a 9-yarder to Caleb Spencer for a first down at the UNLV 15.
The drive bogged down at that point, as B.J. Mitchell was stuffed for no gain on two straight carries, and Rowe was sacked for a 9-yard loss by Leon Moore. Fine came on to kick a 41-yard field to give the Wolf Pack a 3-0 lead.
Fine made a huge play moments later, slowing up Dorsey at the UNLV 47 on the ensuing kickoff return. The Rebels drove to Nevada’s 29, but UNLV quarterback Kurt Nantkes didn’t handle a snap cleanly, and Barry fell on the loose ball at the UNLV 31.
Nevada went on another prolonged drive. The sophomore quarterback completed four passes for 45 yards down to the Rebels’ 24-yard line, but again couldn’t make the key play.
On first-and-15 from the UNLV 16, Rowe rolled left and threw to Talib Wise, who was unable to hold onto the ball, though it was slightly behind him. Rowe’s second-down pass was deflected by safety Joe Miklos. One play later, Miklos stepped in front of a Rowe pass at the UNLV 5, and returned it 79 yards down the left side before Rowe forced him out of bounds at the 16.
Rowe played one more series before being benched in favor of Moore. Rowe wouldn’t comment on his benching. Ault said he’d planned to give Moore some snaps in critical situations.
Taking a page from Nevada, the Rebels’ offense sputtered. They got down to the Nevada 1, but Perkins was stopped for no gain and then slipped for a two-yard loss on third down. Sergio Aguayo came on to kick a 20-yard field goal, knotting the score at 3.
UNLV scored on its next possession, driving 54 yards in 11 plays with Aguayo capping the drive with a 41-yard field goal to make it 6-3 with 10:08 left in the half. Nantkes’ 31-yard completion to Alvin Marshall on a third-and-8 was the key play in the drive.
Nevada bounced back with a 13-play 54-yard drive which culminated in Fine’s second field goal, this one from 37 yards out. Moore’s 18-yard pass to Talib Wise and an 11-yarder to Spencer were the key plays.
On the ensuing kickoff, Fine put it out of bounds, giving UNLV great field position at its own 35. The Rebels didn’t waste it, driving 65 yards in seven plays for its first TD of the game, Nantks hooking up with Johnson deep in the end zone. The key play was a pass interference call on Kauo on a third-and-1 play. Nantkes was trying to hit tight end Michael Freund over the middle. The Rebels scored on the next play.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281.