Rebels lose another tough one, 42-35

PROVO – BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall was in an elevator at LaVell Edwards Stadium with a group of Las Vegas media members shortly after his team rallied late in the fourth quarter to pull out a 42-35 victory over UNLV on Saturday afternoon. "That's the most improved team in our conference, and it's not even close," Mendenhall volunteered.

Unfortunately, the results are still not quite there for Mike Sanford's squad.

For the third straight game, UNLV (3-5, 0-4) saw a fourth quarter lead evaporate on the opposing team's final offensive drive. This time the Rebels, who took a 35-34 lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Omar Clayton to Ryan Wolfe with just 6:49 remaining, watched No. 17 BYU (7-1, 3-1) come right back with a 74-yard, 11-play drive capped by a six-yard touchdown pass from Max Hall to tight end Dennis Pitta with 1:46. The Cougars then added a two-point conversion on a swing pass from Hall to running back Harvey Unga.

UNLV had a chance to at least force overtime after that, driving to the BYU 13 with 14 seconds remaining. But Clayton was sacked for an 11-yard loss by defensive end Matt Putnam on the next play. With just seven seconds remaining, Clayton then looked for talented freshman wide receiver Phillip Payne in the right corner of the end zone. However, the pass was under-thrown and BYU defensive back Andrew Rich intercepted as time ran out.

"We had the ball last and a chance to score to tie or win," Sanford said. "We just didn't get it done on offense."

"It's very frustrating," UNLV linebacker Jason Beauchamp said. "We're still waiting for that time when the defense really steps up. I guarantee everyone is tired of seeing us put it back on the offense and put it on their shoulders. … That's three or four games in a row where we've had the opportunity and chance to win and end the game and they put a good drive on us."

In their last three losses to Colorado State, Air Force and BYU, the opposing team has gone 80, 91 and now 74 yards late in the game to pull it out.

The Rebel defense actually played better this time around, holding the Cougars to field goals on back-to-back series in the second half, including one after BYU took over at the UNLV following an ill-fated fake punt try by Dack Ishii. But UNLV couldn't come up with the big stop at the end … again.

"I hate to lose," said Sanford in opening his post-game press conference. "This team hates to lose. We are never, ever satisfied with a loss. On the other side of the coin, I'm very proud of the team. I thought they played extremely hard. They played with a lot of heart and a lot of passion. We just didn't make enough plays."

It doesn't get any easier. The Rebels next host No. 15 TCU on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium followed by improving New Mexico.

"Nobody on our team is giving up and nobody is giving in," Sanford promised. "We're going to keep going. We're going to keep fighting and we're going to get this program built. .., It's an ongoing journey. We still have a lot of football to play."

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