Rebels drop their final home game of the season to Wyoming Cowboys
For the fifth time this year, UNLV played well enough at home to get themselves a victory.
But for the fifth game of the season, head coach Bobby Hauck summed it up the same way the Rebels have summed up their year of missed opportunities.
“We’re tired of being almost there,” Hauck said. “We’re almost there, but we’re sick of it.” [flickr id="8199611098" thumbnail="small" overlay="true" size="large" group="" align="right"]
Caleb Herring, playing in place of the injured Nick Sherry, threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough as UNLV (2-10, 2-5) lost their final home game of the year on Saturday to the University of Wyoming (4-7, 3-4), 28-23.
“I liked our guys’ effort,” Hauck said. “We’re pretty banged up. The guys that had to step in did a good job.”
Sherry suffered a back injury against Colorado State University on Nov. 10 and was listed as doubtful going into Saturday. He did suit up for the game.
Herring, who has spent more time as a wide receiver this year, completed five of his first six passes in his first start since Nov. 26.
“It’s something I’ve done before,” Herring said. “It’s not like the first time that I’ve been out there. So I was pretty much relaxed and I let the game come to me.”
Although Herring had a great game filling in for the injured redshirt freshman, his game may be defined by a fake field goal early in the third quarter in which Herring took the ball and ran it 25 yards for a supposed touchdown.
But after officials reviewed the play, a Wyoming defender chased Herring down and forced a fumble before he crossed the goal line, and the ball rolled into the back of the endzone for a touchback.
“It was one of those things where I was relaxed,” he said. “I thought I was in, but I can’t let that happen. Gotta finish that.”
Despite that missed opportunity, the Rebels defense played strong and kept the game close in the second half, as Wyoming was shut out in the final 30 minutes of play.
The Rebels did eventually cut the 28-17 halftime lead to five points with 6:20 to play when a Herring pass was tipped by a Cowboys defender, but Trey Mays, while sitting in the end zone, made the catch for the touchdown.
“I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Mays said. “It just fell in my lap. It went through his hands and I was lucky enough to bring it down.”
UNLV had one final drive to try and win the game. But on 4th and 11 with 1:18 to go, Herring rolled to his left and fired a pass to Mays as he was hit in the back before the ball got to him. The pass was ruled incomplete, and no pass interference was called.
“That’s not up for me to speculate on,” Mays said about the non-call. “It could’ve went either way. But at the end of the day, we didn’t get it done. We left a lot of plays on the field.”
This isn’t the first time that a controversial pass interference call swayed the outcome of a game for the worse for UNLV. Against the University of Nevada, Reno, Sidney Hodge was called for pass interference after making an interception. The drive continued and UNR went on to win the game.
“It’s interesting how we’ve been victimized in some games,” Hauck said. “They call it like they see it. I don’t agree with them all the time. We believe in our conference’s system in evaluating referees, and the education process.”
Hauck said he didn’t get any explanation from the referees as to why a flag wasn’t thrown.
Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith responded from his terrific game against the University of New Mexico with 412 yards and three touchdowns against the Rebels.
UNLV’s running back attack of Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle combined for 132 yards, with Cornett struggling to get only 56 yards on 19 carries.
The Rebels will conclude their 2012 campaign with a trip to the Aloha State when UNLV will take on the University of Hawaii on Nov. 24. But it won’t be any tropical vacation for the Rebels, as they’ll look to snap their 21-game road losing streak.
“It’s frustrating,” Herring said. “It’s even more frustrating to know that we’re a good team. Sometimes the ball just falls another way, and we can’t come out on top.”