It was a play that kind of summed up UNLV’s frustrating 2-9 season in a nutshell.
Late in the third quarter trailing Wyoming, 28-17, the Rebels lined up for a 43-yard field goal attempt by Nolan Kohorst on 4th-and-7 at the Cowboys’ 25.
But UNLV coach Bobby Hauck called for a fake, and it worked perfectly … almost.
Holder Caleb Herring picked up the snap, sprinted toward the right corner of end zone but started to pull up slightly near the goal line.
Big mistake. Hustling Wyoming defensive back Marqueston Huff was behind Herring and tomahawked the ball out of his grasp, forcing a fumble.
Although the play was initially ruled a touchdown, TV replays showed Herring fumbled before crossing the goal line, and that the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
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Instead of cutting the Wyoming lead to 28-24, the Rebels came away empty-handed in an eventual 28-23 loss before a Senior Day crowd of just 10,717 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“I relaxed a little bit at the end,” Herring, who completed 22-of-36 passes for 268 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions starting in place of the injured Nick Sherry at quarterback, said. “I thought I was in. You can’t let that happen.”
“Yeah,” a dejected Hauck said when asked if the play kind of summed up a 2-9 season of near-misses for the Rebels. “We run the option play out of the field goal formation for a touchdown. Our guys were looking at (the replay) upstairs and they couldn’t tell on their shot. It comes down to Caleb putting the ball away, even if we have to go down on the one. That’s pretty much a shame.”
You can’t blame the latest close loss all on Herring, though.
UNLV’s pass defense was embarrassing bad in the first half when Wyoming rolled up 347 of its 412 yards passing. Quarterback Brett Smith, who repeatedly scrambled out of harm’s way, threw three touchdown passes, including a pair to wide receiver Chris McNeill.
Wyoming (4-7, 3-4 Mountain West) finished with 507 total yards and had an astonishing seven plays of 30 yards or more.
“We are tired of being almost there,” Hauck, who dropped to 6-31 at UNLV, said. “We probably made enough plays in the second half to win the game, but we didn’t play well enough on either side of the ball in the first half. We have to do a little bit better job.
“Like I said, everyone is tired of us being almost good enough to win.”
The Rebels conclude their season next Saturday at Hawaii where they will try and snap a 21-game road losing streak.