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UNLV struggles offensively - beat down by Wisconsin

I had the pleasure (or not) of going to the game against Wisconsin last night. I have to admit that there were times where I was jumping out of my seat and there were times I was hanging my head. Overall, I think the score did not reflect what really went on for the Rebels. They made some changes during the game and it showed in the 4th quarter. But other than that, it was a disappointing loss for the Rebels. It was expected to be a loss, but it was disappointing none the less, especially since the score at halftime was 17-14 Wisconsin. I'll go through this by quarter since it is the best way to describe a recap of the game.

1st Quarter

The 1st quarter was not pleasant. To begin, we won the toss but elected to kick the ball off to start the game. I thought that was a bad decision considering that Wisconsin's offense was much better than their defense and we could get the momentum on our side with a few first downs. Instead, we kicked the ball off and Wisconsin just ran over us on their way to the endzone.

You would think that UNLV would be able to stop Wisconsin on at least one of two straight 3rd and 5's, but instead both times the Badgers converted with a short screen pass to continue their march down the field. The first drive started at the 20 and ended in the endzone with 7:23 to go in the quarter. It was a long methodical drive on which every play it seemed like the Rebels could get a stop and gain some momentum. But it turned out that they just finished it off with a 5 yard run by John Clay.

Next up was UNLV, Mike Clausen's time to prove that he was the right choice to start in the game. In this particular drive, he did just the opposite of that, going 3 and out after unsuccessfully running the read option for a two yard loss, trying to escape a sack for another two yard loss and then throwing an incomplete pass. Not the start you want to have for the game.

Next drive was another pathetic attempt of an excuse of defense for the Rebels. The field position for the Badgers was excellent following a bad punt by UNLV, Wisconsin starting at the UNLV 46. On the first play of the drive, Scott Tolzien tossed a 45 yard pass to David Gilreath. At that point we knew it was going to be a Wisconsin TD, but then we held them for one play, before giving up the touchdown on the next...

Next drive for UNLV was pretty bad - 5 plays, 7 yards. We got a facemask penalty against Wisconsin which gave us the first down after running plays on 1st and 2nd down, but then we did so bad to the point where our yard total became 7 for that drive on 5 plays. The punt was a bit of shudder, knowing that Wisconsin was probably going to go up by 21 on this next drive.

This next play will surprise you all. First play after the punt Scott Tolzien throws an interception at the 19 yard line and it is returned for a touchdown. This was huge, we were all expecting Wisconsin to just run right over us again and make it 21-0. Instead the score suddenly was within a touchdown for the Rebels, 14-7.

This next drive for the Badgers carried into the second quarter, so that's where I'll pick it up.

2nd Quarter

This drive by Wisconsin looked to be yet another scoring drive - until we stopped them at the 3 yard line. Phillip Welch made the 20 yard field goal and the Badgers pushed their lead up to 17-7. This was kind of a buzzkill drive especially since this was the drive right after the interception, we were pretty much expecting UNLV to do better on defense, but they couldn't stop the run. Out of 14 plays 12 were runs, and we couldn't stop any until they got down to the 6 yard line.

The kickoff went for a touchback on the next possession, which started with 10:13 to go in the half, and we began our drive at the 20. We were sort of hoping that the momentum from the interception would still be there to carry over to the offense, but instead Clausen showed us yet another 3 and out. This one wasn't as bad as the others, but it frustrated me in particluar because we had gotten a relatively easy 3rd down play. Clausen put a pass on target to Michael Johnson, who was two yards from the first down marker, but he dropped and we had to punt it away again to Wisconsin, thinking to myself "How are we going to stop them?"

Well, this drive was the first time Hauck showed he got the defense ready. UNLV got a 3 and out on the Badgers, with the help of a false start penalty. John Clay had rushed two straight plays, but did not gain more than 5 yards combined on those two carries. The next play was a false start and that put Wisconsin in a 3rd and 10 - something the Badgers had not had to face. Tolzien completed the pass to David Gilreath before being brought down by Ronnie Paulo.

Now we had all the momentum, we had the ball with 8:51 left and we were only down by two scores. I thought we would go out there and get at least a couple of first downs with all the momentum on our side. What was I thinking? Of course they wouldn't get a first down! They've only gotten one all game to that point and that was off of a penalty. And of course Wisconsin started with great field position on the 50 yard line because of yet another short punt.

So with 6:22 to go in the half, Wisconsin is at the 50 yard line and can practically run over us. Everyone around me is saying "Great, now we're going to let them chew the clock on their way to the endzone and it will be 24-7 going into halftime." And that's exactly what they did. Their first three plays of the drive were all succesful runs before Scott Tolzien threw the ball for another first down. But then there was a glimmer of hope, UNLV got Nick Toon in the backfield on a reverse and then a false start penalty on the Badgers, making it 2nd and 17. But an 8 yard screen pass to the half back showed it wasn't going to be hard for Wisconsin to make the 1st down. Now, originally they did get the first down, but once Nick Toon caught the football and was 5 yards from the endzone, he tried to extend the ball over the goal line - Bad Idea. Deante' Purvis forced a fumble and Will Chandler returned 82 yards fromt he UNLV 2 the Wisconsin 16.

The next drive was the only offensive success under Mike Clausen, a 16 yard completion to Phillip Payne in the back of the endzone for a touchdown on the first play after the fumble. Whoa, hold up, there is 1:08 left in the first half, we're down 3 in the game to Wisconsin and we have 12 yards of total offense?

Wisconsin's reaction really surprised me, they just ran the clock out once they got the ball with 1:08 seconds left in the half and having the ball at the Wisconsin 31. It didn't make much sense to me since UNLV's defense could not stop the offense and they were in great field position. Instead they took two running plays to run down the clock and head to halftime.

3rd Quarter

So they come back out and we get the ball first, I'm thinking to myself "If we can get the offense to show some productivity, then we could have a real shot at winning the game." Well, we still had zero offensive productivity with Clausen under center. 1 yard rush by Clausen, -3 yard rush by Channing Trotter and then a screen pass to Michael Johnson fumbled and returned for a touchdown by Aaron Henry... Total disaster, we are now down 24-14 instead of 17-14 when we get the ball back.

We get the ball back at the 19 yard line with 13:35 left in the quarter. But we couldn't do anything at all, having yet another 3 and out forced upon us. If we could just get the offense to do something then we might have a chance but at this point we have 14 yards of total offense and the only bright spot was the 16 yard TD Pass after the fumble recovery by the defense was returned 82 yards in the second quarter.

Next drive was for the Badgers and it started at the Wisconsin 46 with a bang, John Clay ran for 17 yards on the first play of the drive. And then they just ran us over the next four plays, rushing for a total of 21 yards on 4 rushes, but that brought up 3rd and 4 from the UNLV 16. Nick Toon dropped the 1st down pass from Scott Tolzien and the Rebels forced a field goal.

This next drive we finally pulled out Mike Clausen, who was pathetic, and put in the previous two year starter Omar Clayton. His first drive back was a three and out, but it looked like more of an offense that was clicking. Clayton had to toss the ball away twice and threw an incomplete pass to Marcus Sullivan as well. We punt it away... again.

Wisconsin's next drive starts at the Wisconsin 42, with 8:20 remaining in the quarter. It was ridiculous how easily the Badgers ran the ball this drive, going 58 yards in 4 plays and scoring a touchdown. It really was just a pathetic excuse for a run defense on that drive even though they were the same plays they had been running all day. I'm sure the Rebels knew they were going to run a certain play at that point, but the blocking by the offensive line was so good, that the defense couldn't do a thing about it.

Now it's starting to get sad, UNLV is down 34-14 and we just want to at least get back within two scores. And at first, the drive seemed promising. We finally were able to run the ball with C.J. Cox on the first play, going for 18 yards. But after that, it was nothing more than a 3 and out, with a 1 yard rush, a ball thrown away, and an incomplete pass to Austin Harrington.

Now the Badgers were finally starting deep in their territory at the Wisconsin 22, but it didn't matter. Scott Tolzien completed a pass on the first play of the drive to Kyle Jefferson for 21 yards and the running game took over from there. Wisconsin ran the ball for 6 plays straight until they hit the endzone. Score is now 41-14 and we are being thouroughly embarassed.

This next drive by UNLV starts with 1:39 to go in the third, but is completed in the 4th quarter, so that is where it will be diagnosed.

4th Quarter

At this point we were playing for pride, just make the score look somewhat respectable so that we don't look somewhat like New Mexico - they lost 72-0 to Oregon. We did just that. Omar Clayton had his drive start at the UNLV 20 and immediately showed progress as far as offensive productivity went. A 35 yard pass to Phillip Payne put them on the Wisconsin 45 and brought the UNLV fans back to life. He then proceeded to an incomplete pass and then two quarterback keepers on a read option that went for 8 and 9 yards respectively. He then was flushed out of the pocket, but turned it into a 19 yard gain to put us at the Wisconsin 9 yard line. We had a false start that pushed us back 5 yards, but that was gained back by C.J. Cox who rushed for 5 yards on the next two plays. Omar Clayton then completed a 9 yard pass to the fullback Irshad Stolen for a Touchdown! The first complete drive by the Rebels of the season came when we finally got Clausen out of there.

With 12:42 to go in the game, Wisconsin got the ball back and really just wanted to run the clock out, but UNLV wouldn't let them. Isaac Anderson was stopped immediately on a WR Reverse for a 7 yard loss to make it 2nd and 17. But that joy was short lived when Scott Tolzien got the ball to James White on a halfback wheel for 26 yards and a first down. White then was tackled 5 yards in the backfield by our best defensive lineman, Isaako Aaitui, making it 2nd and 15. Tolzien then completed a screen pass that went 6 yards to make it 3rd and 9 and Tolzien made a bad pass to Kyle Jefferson to force a punt. The punt happened, but there was a penalty that made it come back so it was attempted again and the ball was spotted at the UNLV 24 for the next drive.

This next drive by the Rebels started with 12:36 left in the game and was very productive. Clayton completed a pass to Phillip Payne on the first play of the drive for 12 yards and a first down. Tim Cornett then rushed for 36 yards on 3 plays, with the third one being a 27 yard dash. UNLV was then flagged for illegal motion and set back to the Wisconsin 33. Clayton then rushed for 3 yards and then missed two passes to bring on the field goal unit, which missed a 48 yarder.

The Badgers tried to do what had worked all game - running the football. But UNLV finally got a clue and only gave up 3 yards on two carries to James White. Scott Tolzien then threw an incomplete pass to David Gilreath and with 6:24 left, Wisconsin got the ball back but was forced into a three and out by the Rebels defense. UNLV then preceded to call a timeout (for what reason I don't know).

The Rebels got the ball back with 4:47 left and we wanted to see some offense, and it looked like we got it. Clayton completed an eight yard pass to Phillip Payne. But after that, Clayton's pass was incomplete and he was stopped in the backfield on 3rd and 2. Wisconsin forced another 3 and out and it looked like we would have to wait until next game to see how the Rebels offense did.

But hey, look at this! We turned right around and forced a 3 and out of our own. Montee Ball rushed for 9 yards on the first play of the drive, but was then stuffed in the backfield on second down, making it 3rd and 4. Scott Tolzien then completed a screen pass to James White, but he was stopped a yard short of the first down. The punt went to the UNLV 24 and the Rebels got the ball back with 3:28 left in the game.

I was surprised that on this last drive the Rebels didn't run a hurry up offense, it seemed this would have been valuable experience. On 1st down, Clayton was sacked but then got back up and completed a 13 yard pass to Tate Knutson and rushed 3 yards for the first down. Clayton then completed another pass to Knutson for 5 yards and UNLV called a timeout with 38 seconds left. Clayton then ran for 14 yards, threw an incomplete pass, then with 9 seconds remaining ran for 9 yards and the game ended.


This game was not a win on the schedule for the Rebels, but the Hauck learned that Clayton is the much better QB and should be started the rest of the year. The defense finally started clicking in the 4th quarter where Wisconsin did not make it past the 50 yard line, and we learned that our pursuit and tackling needs to improve. On one touchdown run by John Clay in the third quarter, he broke four tackles in 16 yards on his way to the endzone. On another by James White, there were three Wisconsin blockers and 2 UNLV defenders. There was no read option on that play that would make you think the QB has the ball, it was a simple handoff and for whatever reason UNLV could not get over to stopping him. Coach Hauck should address these problems in practice and have the team ready for another beatdown at Utah next Saturday.

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