STEVENS: The 2-5 UNLV Rebs Haven't Rolled Over Just Yet
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/22/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 22, 2009

Lobo Football
UNLV at Lobos
When/Where: 6:06 p.m. Saturday, University Stadium
Radio: 770 KKOB-AM, Lobo Radio Network
TV: The Mtn (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Online: GameTracker; game story on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

You start a look at the UNLV Rebels by looking at senior wide receiver Ryan Wolfe and then quickly looking away. This guy is Halloween scary.

Wolfe for sure is one of the top receivers in college football. He is kind of a combination of halfback, tight end and wide receiver. He is a tough, rugged, smart Rebel. He has caught 259 career ball and 50 this season on his journey toward the NFL.

Wolfe has deceptive quickness because his routes are made on angles that would make a diamond cutter envious. His hands should be tested to see if they emit super glue like Spiderman's palms emits webs. He knows how to gets his 6-foot-2 frame between a defender and the ball.

Oh, Wolfe can be slowed down -- if teams want to double cover him, overplay him a bit. That can be scary, too. That creates bigger holes and seams for Phillip Payne and Michael Johnson -- two more sets of hands that should be included among the best in the Mountain West.

Yeah, the Rebels have plenty of talent to burn a team through the air. The key here really is quarterback Omar Clayton and the Rebel O-line. When given time to look and throw, Clayton can be pretty good.

The 6-foot-1 junior has completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,459 yards and eight touchdowns. He averages 243 yards per game. In comparison, UNM's Donovan Porterie has tossed for 1,098 yards for four scores and a 183-yard average. Clayton isn't bad.

Actually, the Rebs (2-5, 0-3 MWC) aren't bad. "I think they are a much better team than their record shows," said George Barlow, UNM's assistant head coach. "They are a pretty good team."

Another key for the Rebs is revving up their running game. That doesn't happen much. It is an average attack that averages 107 yards yards on the ground. Channing Trotter, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound tailback, is UNLV's statistical leader with 357 yards on the year for a 51.0 average. The next Reb runner averages 15.6 yards per game.

The intent of the UNLV running game is obvious. They use it now and then to keep teams honest up front. Still, there isn't a lot to worry about statistically. The Brigham Young Cougars held UNLV to 45 yards on the ground.

What the Reb numbers on the ground do is quickly bring you back to Clayton, Wolfe, Payne and Johnson. These guys are the heart of the UNLV attack. You stop them, you got a shot.

Wolfe's 50 grabs have been worth 539 yards. Payne has snagged 45 passes for 463 yards. Johnson has 24 catches for 321 yards. If there is a flaw in this group, it's their scoring output in 2009: six total touchdowns.

Actually, one of the Rebs you have to watch closely in the end zone is Jerriman Robinson . This 6-2 Rebel has 12 catches for 194 yards with four scores. UNLV lists six receivers on its two-deep depth chart that stand 6-1 or taller.

The Rebs' best effort through the air this season was 340 vs. Hawaii. That was a 34-33 UNLV win. Their best total output was 466 yards against an overmatched Sacramento State team. The Rebs had 216 rushing yards in that game. UNLV's lowest output was 310 total yards vs. Oregon State.

The Rebs can move the ball behind their version of the spread offense. At Wyoming, UNLV rolled out 29 more total yards, had seven more first downs and won the time-of-possession battle in a 30-27 loss. The Rebs were damaged by four turnovers and got none in return.

What hurt the Rebs' respect was a 63-28 bomb put on them by then-winless Nevada-Reno. Brigham Young next slapped the Rebs around pretty good in a 59-21 romp.

The Rebs' 35-15 loss in Vegas to Utah didn't look good on the scoreboard, but UNLV wasn't that bad on the field.

It was UNLV's best time-of-possession game as they controlled the clock for 34:44. The Rebs ended that game with 327 yards in total offense. Utah had 327 in total offense. The Rebs won the time-of-possession battle by almost ten minutes and had nine more first downs than Utah.

The Utah game was ugly on the scoreboard, but the stats suggest something else -- that the Lobos' visitors on homecoming Saturday haven't exactly rolled over in 2009.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner