Embattled UNLV coach Bobby Hauck, coming off a humbling 58-13 defeat to Arizona in the Rebels’ home opener, was blunt during the radio post-game interview last night.
“The game was over at halftime,” he said, reflecting on the Wildcats leading 48-6 at that point at Sam Boyd Stadium. “Give credit to our guys for not giving up and hanging in there in the second half.”
Hauck also gave plenty of credit to UA nose tackle Tevin Hood for helping to force UNLV out of its comfort zone of running between the tackles.
“We will watch tape of this tomorrow … you guys had a better view than I did,” Hauck said to Russ Langer and Mike Pritchard of the ESPN radio affiliate in Las Vegas. “But from where I was standing, I thought their nose tackle (Hood), altered a lot of what we do in terms of how we run the ball and attack there in the middle.”
When is the last time an opposing coach praised an Arizona nose tackle for impacting the game?
Rob Waldrop is the last player listed at that position who was an all-conference performer in 1992.
Arizona’s defense in general has not received such acclaim in a long time, especially after being ranked No. 118 in total defense last year out of 120 FBS teams.
Hood finished with four tackles, including one of UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry nine yards behind the line of scrimmage. His tackle popped the ball loose. UA linebacker Marquis Flowers picked up the fumble and returned it 38 yards to the UNLV 9.
Two plays later, UA quarterback B.J. Denker ran for a 4-yard touchdown. Jake Smith’s extra point gave the UA a 17-0 lead with 3:25 left in the first quarter. The tone of the game was set for Arizona.
Although Hood had a modest four tackles, he and Arizona’s aggressive front in defensive coordinator Miles Casteel’s 3-3-5 alignment continually made running back Tim Cornett look tentative with his running, going east and west instead of north and south. Cornett, who is attempting to become UNLV’s career rushing leader this year, finished with only 63 yards rushing on 15 carries.
UNLV finished with 157 net yards rushing, but 79 of those came on a touchdown run by backup Shaquille Murray-Lawrence against Arizona’s subs with 8:21 remaining and the Wildcats leading 51-6.
Sherry was continually pressured by Hood and Arizona’s defensive front. He completed only 6 of 22 passes with two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by linebacker Jake Fischer and safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant. Sherry also had only 111 yards with 69 coming on a touchdown pass at the start of the second quarter.
Sherry completed 35 of 50 passes for 225 yards against Minnesota in the previous week.
Take away Murray-Lawrence’s 79-yard touchdown run and Sherry’s 69-yard touchdown pass and UNLV has only 134 yards of total offense. Those two big plays made up more than half of the Rebels’ 282 yards.
UA freshman linebacker sensation Scooby Wright contributed to Hood plugging up the middle and pursuing Cornett and Sherry. He finished with a team-high seven tackles, six of them unassisted and one for lost yardage.
“Their defensive alignment is different than what we’ve seen and we didn’t adjust to it,” Hauck said in the post-game radio show. “They dominated the game on both sides of the ball.”
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.