Bring out your favorite cliché when it comes to describing the start for the 2012 UNLV football team.
Like a broken record? Déjà vu all over again? History repeats itself?
Three games. Three one-score finishes. Three times the Rebels can’t get over the hump in the final seconds.
This time it wasn’t a last-second field goal that did in Bobby Hauck’s 0-3 squad like the triple-overtime loss to Minnesota in the season opener or last week’s stunning 17-14 setback to Northern Arizona. Instead, the Rebels, who fell behind early, 28-10, found themselves driving in Washington State territory as time ran out in a 35-27 loss to the Cougars.
“We came down to the last drive again and came up short,” Hauck said. We are at 0-3, so obviously we are bitterly disappointed about that.”
(STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
“It’s really hard to lose a game, especially three in a row in the fourth quarter,” freshman quarterback Nick Sherry said. “It’s really difficult.
“We’ve still got 10 games left. That’s a whole season still.”
There were some positives to come out of the latest loss, the eighth in a row for the Rebels dating back to last season.
Washington State (2-1), behind four first-half touchdown passes by sophomore backup quarterback Connor Halliday, looked like it was going to turn this one into a blowout, using an 81-yard touchdown pass from Halliday to wide receiver Marquess Wilson to make it 28-10 with 5:27 still left in the second quarter.
But UNLV came right back with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Sherry to Marcus Sullivan just 13 seconds later to make it 28-17. And the Rebels looked like they would make an even bigger dent as the half ended, driving 64 yards in 11 plays to the Cougar one-yard line. But with just three seconds left, Hauck elected to settle for a 18-yard Nolan Kohurst field goal on 2nd-and-goal rather than gamble for seven points. Kohurst made the easy kick to cut Washington State’s lead to 28-20 at halftime.
Sherry, who tied Jon Denton’s freshman school record with 33 completions in 49 attempts for 351 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, completed 10 passes in a row during one stretch and looked like the kind of game-changing quarterback the school hasn’t had since Jason Thomas.
Another pleasant surprise was the play of wide receiver Caleb Herring.
Yep, you read that right. Wide receiver Caleb Herring.
The 6-foot-3 former starting quarterback made his debut catching passes and was impressive, finishing with five receptions for 68 yards.
“Never,” Herring said when asked the last time he played wide receiver in a game. “Just trying to do something to help the team. It looks like it’s working so far, and I’m going to just try and do what I can to make the team better.”
“That gave us a little juice,” Hauck said. “He had a nice game out there when he got in.”
Washington State looked like it was going to cruise home when Leon Brooks capped a 13-play, 88-yard drive early in the fourth quarter with a three-yard touchdown run to make it 35-20.
But the Rebels rallied to cut it to 35-27 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Sherry to tight end Jake Phillips with 1:44 left.
Washington State recovered the ensuing onside kick but the Rebels got the ball back one more time on their own 36 with 40 seconds left and no timeouts remaining.
Sherry completed a pair of passes to drive UNLV to the Washington State 42 but his final throw for Herring fell to the ground to end the game.
“I love our guys,” Hauck said. “I think we have a lot of character and investment in our locker room. … I think we have a chance to be a decent football team.”
The Rebels will open Mountain West Conference play on Saturday night against visiting Air Force (1-1).