Blown away

As far as embarrassing loses go, it doesn't get much worse than dropping your homecoming game to a team that has 13 straight straight games like Colorado State had before Saturday night's 48-23 victory at Sam Boyd Stadium. But there may have been a silver lining.

True freshman quarterback Omar Clayton, a walk-on making his first college start, became the first player in the 40 seasons of UNLV football to both throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in a game.

Clayton completed 23 of 36 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 135 yards on 19 carries to finish with 439 yards in total offense.

The bad news is the 6-foot, 185-pounder also had five turnovers, including a pair of interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by the Rams (1-6, 1-3). One of them was a 99-yarder by senior strong safety Zac Bryson in the fourth quarter that sealed the Rams' first win since Oct. 6, 2006.

"He's a great athlete," UNLV head coach Mike Sanford said. "He is going to make a lot of plays but he is a true freshman, and he made some true freshman mistakes tonight. He feels really bad."

Four of the turnovers came in the first half which Colorado State parlayed into a 24-3 halftime advantage. Clayton lost fumbles on each of UNLV's first two series.

"The bottom line of that game is we had four turnovers in the first half of that game and you can't win that way," Sanford said. "I think Omar Clayton, as the game played out, did some really good things. But in the first half he had some turnovers."

Clayton, taking over for gimpy starter Travis Dixon (sore knee and ankle), wouldn't blame his miscues on nerves.

""I wouldn't say too much as far as jitters," Clayton said. "I've played before … it was more of this being my first start and playing more. I had a lot more responsibilities this game.

"All turnovers are fixable. Usually I'm not a fumbler but they happened tonight. That means next week I've got to get to work and work on my ball security all week. Holding onto the ball is definitely a priority in next week's practice."

How did Clayton grade his performance?

"Usually there are positives in the game but my effort tonight was a losing effort and that was completely unacceptable. That's all I can say about my game."

Perhaps more distressing for the Rebels than all the turnovers was the fact the defense, once considered the strength of the team, continued to be bullied around.

Junior Gartrell Johnson rushed for a career-high 162 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns and the Rams finished with 279 yards on the ground.

Since hold Nevada to 128 yards rushing in a 27-20 loss at Reno, the Rebel defense has allowed at least 227 yards on the ground in each of its last three games.

"It's just a lack of concentration," senior linebacker Beau Bell said. "It's people not wrapping up, thinking they can take people down with their shoulder. But you can't. In this league backs are kind of big anyway, and we've got to wrap up and take to the ground. Fundamental tackling. That's what we need to do."

So where do the Rebels go from here?

"Man, we've just got to fix the defense," Bell said. "We've got to fix the run defense. We can't let anybody run on us.

It's embarrassing, man. These past few games people are running on us like it's nothing. I take personal blame for that. I'm not the type to jump on people but I need to do something to get these guys going, and myself, too. I'm out there making mistakes also."

The Rebels now travel to Wyoming to face a Cowboys team that also had five turnovers in a 20-12 loss at Air Force on Saturday.

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