The Rebels (3-3, 0-2) set a school record with their 17th consecutive conference road loss, this time a 41-28 setback to Colorado State (3-2, 1-0).
The loss comes just four days shy of the four-year anniversary of UNLV's last MWC road victory, a 24-20 win at BYU on Oct. 8, 2004. It also likely put an end to any talk of the Rebels playing in a bowl game any time soon.
In what is becoming an all-too familiar pattern, the Rebel defense once again broke down at key junctures, especially against the run. Rams tailback Gartrell Johnson romped for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries, including a game-winning 10-yard run with nine seconds left.
Colorado State added another touchdown on the ensuing kickoff when John Mosure grabbed Nate Carter's errant lateral at the seven and ran untouched into the end zone for a touchdown as time ran out.
That was just the icing on the cake for the Rams, however.
"I'm very frustrated," Sanford said. "I think our team played hard. I think our team played with heart. I think we fought all the way to the end. … I think we played really hard and our team had character. We just didn't finish it off."
Or tackle very well. Again.
The Rebel defense, which struggled badly against Nevada's triple-option attack a week earlier in allowing 444 yards on the ground, this time simply was bulled over by the power running of the 6-foot, 225-pound Johnson.
"It basically came down to us wrapping up and tackling," senior tackle Jacob Hales said. "At times we play really, really well, and at times we just aren't concentrating. We are not focusing in at all. … We could be so good if we just dial in on our assignments and do the things we are supposed to do."
"We have a lot of younger guys on our team and it's just (missed) assignments," linebacker Jason Beauchamp, who had a game-high 12 tackles, said. "It's not so much that he just plowed through us or anything. He consistently ran the ball. He's an older guy and he understands exactly how the offense works. He had some nice runs."
The Rebel secondary also struggled badly at times in this one. CSU quarterback Billy Farris, yanked a week earlier in a loss at Cal and reportedly on the hot seat, completed 15 of 21 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown. Even more painful for UNLV fans was the fact his top target, junior Rashaun Greer, is a product of Mojave High in Las Vegas. Greer had eight catches for 211 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown in the third quarter that gave the Rams a 27-14 lead.
The Rebels rallied to take a 28-27 lead with 6:05 to go on a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Omar Clayton, who did a nice job of side-stepping blitzing linebacker Jeff Horinek to get the pass off, to wide receiver Jerriman Robinson.
But Colorado State answered with a patient 80-yard, 12-play drive capped by Johnson's third touchdown of the game, a 10-yard cutback off right tackle with nine seconds left.
"That was probably one of the best UNLV teams I've seen in a while," Johnson said. "They played tough against Arizona State. They played a Nevada team tough last week. These guys really were a good team. We just came out and had the mindset that we weren't gonna stop."
UNLV now has a bye week to try and get what two weeks ago looked like a promising season back on track.
"It's good thing (to have a bye)," Clayton said. "Some of our players are beat up. We need a week to where we just take care of each other in practice, get some more practice and get some work done and then get ready to play (Air Force)."
"There's not going to be a tailspin," senior wide receiver Casey Flair, who tied a school record with a reception in his 41st consecutive game, said. "This team is not like teams past. There's not going to be a tailspin. We are not going to start putting our heads down the drain. We are still halfway to a bowl game and that's where our mindset is. We have to get ready for Air Force."
A record road defeat for the Rebels, 41-28
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