UNLV football:

Blog: Rebels squander their opportunities for bowl eligibility vs. Utah State

The Rebels’ fake field goal attempt came back to bit them big time in a crushing 28-24 loss to the Aggies

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck and defensive back David Greene cheer after UNLV recovered a fumble by Utah State during their game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Updated Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 | 8:45 p.m.

UNLV vs. Utah State Football

UNLV defensive back Frank Crawford winces in pain after injuring his knee on a play agasint Utah State during their game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »

Utah State 28, UNLV 24

Game over

The Rebels have only themselves to blame for tonight's 28-24 loss to Utah State. From bad third-down defense to poor third-down offense, to the truly bizarre play-calling at the end of the game and a fake field goal that came back to bite them big time, the Rebels held this game in their hands.

UNLV was the better team most of the night and simply failed to capitalize on that fact. Utah State was good, too. The Aggies consistently escaped the Rebels' grasp on offense and got home with most of their second-half blitzes. Still, the Rebels ended the game with the ball in their hands and failed to convert.

It would have been easier had UNLV only needed a field goal, which likely would have been the case had they attempted a short field goal in the first half instead of going for a fake.

That will be one of many things coach Bobby Hauck has to answer for in the postgame press conference. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's defeat.

 

For the second week in a row, UNLV has the chance to end the day at home as a bowl-eligible team. This time around it’s going to be even more difficult, especially if the Rebels haven’t figured out how to play the entire game like they do in the second half.

Last week, UNLV fell behind San Jose State 24-3 at halftime, a hole it couldn’t dig out of in a 34-24 loss. Today the Rebels (5-4, 3-2) host Utah State (5-4, 4-1), which comes in on a two-game winning streak after blowing out New Mexico and Hawaii. The game kicks off at 5 p.m. and will air on ESPNU.

The line has inched up to more than two touchdowns, likely because of the Aggies’ defense. It ranks 16th in the country in total defense and scoring defense. On paper, it's by far the best unit UNLV will face this season.

That defense, plus the understanding that almost anybody can get hot and run on this UNLV defense, is why bettors like Utah State today. The Rebels have been able to score against average defenses, but we haven’t seen them against a stellar unit.

To have success, UNLV must get a better performance from running back Tim Cornett, who averaged only 2 yards per carry last week. His first-half struggles — including the offensive line’s inability to create holes — were a big reason the Rebels fell behind. If they can get out to even an OK start, let’s say down by about 10 at halftime, they’ll be confident that they can still win.

UNLV has been an excellent second-half team, but a quick start becomes even more important as the level of competition increases. The Rebels have won some games this season despite making mistakes. They’ll need their closest thing to a mistake-free game today to have a chance.

Bern’s prediction: This line keeps getting bigger — it’s moved from Aggies minus-12.5 to minus-15 — and it’s sharp bettors moving that number. When a line is that far off of what I was expecting (around 10) and keeps moving away, it generally suggests someone knows something I don’t. But while I don’t advise actually betting on the Rebels, I’m going to stick with my gut reaction to this matchup. Utah State 30, UNLV 21

Season: ATS 6-3, O/U 5-3-1

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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