Rebels stun No. 15 Arizona State in OT, 23-20

TEMPE – UNLV sophomore defensive tackle Malo Taumua emerged from the locker room after Saturday night's stunning 23-20 upset of No. 13 Arizona State with a nice souvenir from one of the biggest wins in Rebel football history.

Between his right wrist and elbow was a big, red bruise where Taumua blocked Thomas Weber's potential game-tying 35-yard field goal try in overtime, setting off a wild celebration by the Rebels at the center of Sun Devil Stadium.

"This is the best feeling in the world right here," Taumua said pointing to the red welt. "When I blocked it I didn't feel any pain and I hit the ground and everybody started jumping on me. I couldn't believe I had blocked the kick.

"We just played hard the entire game. We never gave up."

"I'm proud of our football team," UNLV head coach Mike Sanford said. "They were a team that just kept fighting and just kept going. … We played four quarters tonight, and that's what you have to do to win a football game the magnitude of that."

UNLV (2-1) was a 23-point underdog. The Sun Devils (2-1) were ranked 13th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches making them the second highest rated team to be beaten by the Rebels in school history. BYU was ranked No. 8 in the nation when UNLV knocked them off in 1981 in Provo.

"I think a big thing is that we believed that we were going to win," Sanford said. "Our players believed and our coaches believed. And that's how you win those kinds of games. It's not by accident."

The Rebels did it without their best defensive player, linebacker Starr Fuimaono, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week's 42-21 loss at Utah. They also did it with constant shuffling in the offensive line where starting tackle Evan Marchal sprained an ankle bad enough that he required crutches afterward, and starting right guard Joe Hawley had to spend part of the game at center for injured starter John Gianninoto.

And they almost had to do it without starting quarterback Omar Clayton, who missed the first series of the second half while waiting for the results of X-rays for a possible broken jaw suffered while throwing a two-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Payne with 33 seconds left in the first half.

"I was spitting out blood," Clayton said. "They thought that I had broken my jaw. Something is messed up right here. I just took a shot."

By the time Clayton returned from the locker room, Arizona State had increased its lead to 20-10 on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Rudy Carpenter to wide receiver Kyle Williams.

The score stayed that way until midway through the fourth quarter when the Rebels capped an impressive 87-yard, 18-play drive that chewed up 9:16 with a 20-yard field goal by Kyle Watson to cut the ASU lead to 20-13.

UNLV eventually got the ball back on its own 26-yard line with just 3:03 left on the clock and no timeouts remaining.
<>br> Clayton hit a wide-open tailback Frank Summers on a wheel route up the left sideline for a 31-yard gain to start the game-tying drive. The 6-1, 200-pound sophomore completed seven of eight passes on the series, the final one an eight-yard touchdown pass to Payne who made a highlight-reel one-handed grab while falling backward in the left corner of the end zone. Watson's PAT tied it, 20-20, with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't even know what the play was," Payne said. "I just figured it was like a fade because it was goal line and that's what you usually run. … (Clayton) put it right on the spot perfectly. I was shocked."

UNLV lost the toss to start overtime and Arizona State elected to start on defense. The Rebels drove to the Sun Devil two but were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Watson en route to a 23-20 lead.

Now it was Arizona State's turn. Two runs by Dimitriu Nance garnered seven yards but Carpenter's third down pass fell incomplete.

Enter Weber, the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner who had connected on 14 straight field goal tries, to attempt a game-tying 35-yarder that would have forced a second overtime.

"When ASU had scored (an earlier field goal) I saw the guard bend over on that play," Taumua said. "I told myself that if he bent over (again) I was just going to take his gap. When I got through, I just put my hands up and blocked the kick."

The crowd of 59,852, some of whom booed the home team during the game, then filed out of the stadium quietly.

"It's sickening," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said of the loss. "It starts with me. I didn't have them ready to play and I'll take the blame. But we have to play better as a group. There are a lot of guys in that locker room that understand that."


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