Just for the record, I did not get the chance to watch the entire game. I was at my son's middle school football game and started watching partway through the third quarter.
The score does not reflect how well UNLV played in this game. Utah scored three touchdowns off of UNLV special teams mistakes this game. If UNLV had a better special teams, it's possible that UNLV could have won this game. If those three touchdowns aren't made, then it was 17-10 towards the end of the game. At the end of the game, Omar Clayton drove the ball down to the 1 yard line on 4th and goal, but coach Hauck elected to kick a field goal, which was missed. That could have been the game tying touchdown had UNLV not made so many mistakes on Special Teams.
If you don't think that my explanation is good enough to show you how well the Rebels played, just look at the stats:
|3rd Down Efficiency||9-20||5-11|
|4th Down Efficiency||1-3||0-0|
|Yards Per Pass||5.9||10.4|
|Yards Per Rush||2.4||4.7|
The stats that stand out to me are 1st downs and TOP. Seriously, UNLV got more 1st downs then the team that beat Pitt? Plus they controlled the ball for way more time? Another thing is that the yards were about even, Omar Clayton had a better passing percentage then Cain and both lost fumbles, although UNLV's was on a dropped punt - Another special teams mistake.
Don't get me wrong, Utah made more big plays and didn't get stuck at the Opponent's 40 every time. They deserve to win this game and did. But UNLV did play better than everyone thinks. They actually hung around until just before the end of the half. The game was tied at the end of the first quarter and then UNLV had to punt after a three and out, one of the few three and outs for UNLV this game. Utah then drove down the field to take a 10-3 lead.
UNLV then got the ball back and got a couple of first downs before having to punt at around the 50 yard line. Utah then did a quick 84 yard drive in 1:33 before the half expired to get another touchdown to push their lead to two scores.
Utah started off with the ball in the second half and scored on a three play drive that went 80 yards - a 15 yard screen pass to Matt Asiata, a 10 yard pass to Jerome Brooks, and a 55 yard pass to Shaky Smithson. It was a horrible way for UNLV to start the half. They really could have used a good start, considering they hung around in the first half. Instead they were down 24-3. On the flip side, this was the best case scenario, a quick score to get our hopes down.
UNLV and Utah then traded three and outs but Utah's punt was blocked and returned for a Touchdown. Great for UNLV, they needed something to give them life again and they got it in the blocked punt returned for a touchdown. If UNLV could get another stop, then hopefully the momentum would carry over to the offense and we could do something on offense other than get to the Utah 40.
I came into Buffalo Wild Wings a few minutes before the blocked punt and now can give a semi-detailed description of the game.
On Utah's next drive, they got a 14 yard run from Matt Asiata, but then Cain threw an incomplete pass and a 5 yard false start penalty made it third and 12. A punt from Utah gave UNLV hope. This next drive was a complete momentum changer. UNLV had all the momentum and on first down ran for 5 yards, second down wasn't so great with a 0 yard rush, but then on 3rd and 5, Omar Clayton ran 15 yards for the first down. But wait, what's this? A holding penalty brings the ball back 10 yards and no first down. When you looked at the replay, Evan Marchel did not even need to hold on his block as Clayton would have gotten around him anyway. Then the punt was returned for a touchdown by Shaky Smithson.
Nothing exciting happened the next two drives with Utah and UNLV trading three and outs. Although UNLV's drive after Utah's three and out was kind of strange. UNLV drove from the 9 yard line all the way to the Utah 47, but then did a team punt to the Utah 33. What? Here is the explanation: UNLV had a long snap go over the head of their punter and he ran back to it, picked the football up and punted it as the Utah defenders were sprinting towards him. According to NCAA Rules, that's consider a team punt, not a punt by the punter.
Utah then easily drove down the field and scored on a touchdown by Eddie Wide. This next drive will shock you, UNLV drove 19 plays from their own 20 down to 4th and goal on the 2, but Omar Clayton's pass was incomplete to Austin Harrington. UNLV showed that they can convert on third downs to keep a drive alive when they needed to. The only issue was the fact that both times that it was 4th and short inside the 10 yard line at the end of the game, we could not convert.
Utah then got the ball back and ran 4 minutes off the clock before UNLV called a timeout to get the ball back with 1:21. The punt was absolutely horrific, going 17 yards to the Utah 40 and UNLV had no problems getting to 4th and goal on the Utah 1. But this time Bobby Hauck elected for a fake field goal that ended with a -1 yard rush and yet again, no score on the board as time expired.
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