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On the final play of the game, UNLV lined up in field-goal formation. The Utah defense hunkered down.
It was a fake. Rebel kicker Nolan Kohorst dived forward looking for a score, but he found only linebacker Boo Andersen. With that final stop, Andersen capped a strong defensive effort that left the UNLV offense without a touchdown in its 38-10 loss to the Utes.
"We just didn't let them get into the end zone," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I think they [the defense] executed well."
UNLV's only touchdown of the day came in the third quarter, when it blocked a punt and returned it. The Rebels couldn't get one against the Ute defense, which stopped them from scoring a touchdown in all three of their red-zone attempts Saturday. Twice, they stopped UNLV on fourth down inside Utah's 5-yard line.
"We knew we had to stand up at the end of the game," safety Brian Blechen said. "We didn't want them to score."
Things didn't start auspiciously for Utah. In the first quarter, UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton marched his team down the field on a 79-yard drive in which the Rebels converted four third-down attempts. Utah cornerback Lamar Chapman managed to bat down a pass in the end zone, but Kohorst kicked a field goal to tie the game at 3.
The Utes had studied film but were surprised to see the Rebels switch up their offense in unanticipated ways, Chapman said. But the defense made adjustments and shut out UNLV for the rest of the game.
It started with the run. A week after holding Pitt Heisman candidate Dion Lewis in check, the Utes put the brakes on the Rebels' rushing game, holding them to a paltry 2.4 yard-per-carry average. Linebacker Chaz Walker led the defense with a career-high 16 tackles.
Utah did surrender 217 yards through the air, but Clayton made completed less than half his attempts. When he did get the ball out, the Utes usually got the tackle quickly. Blechen put one of the game's hardest hits on wideout Mark Barefield, which rattled a ball out of his hands and drew a loud reaction from the crowd.
The freshman's seven-tackle performance earned high praise from Whittingham.
"That guy keeps showing up. He can really lay down the wood," he said. "He reminds me of (San Diego Chargers safety) Eric Weddle. … They both have the same mentality, and they handle themselves with maturity and confidence."
Although the defensive line created some havoc, it had trouble taking Clayton down behind the line. Chapman, out of the secondary, made a solo sack and assisted on another. Also, UNLV's long possessions forced the defense to remain on the field.
Whittingham wasn't satisfied with the pass rush or third-down letdowns.
"We've got to do better," he said. "Those are physical guys, tough guys, but we have to get out of drives faster. We got hurries and scrambles, but we let [Clayton] out of the cage too many times."
Tale of the tape
• The Utes holds UNLV to a 2.4 yard-per-carry rushing average and didn't allow an offensive touchdown.
• Linebacker Chaz Walker records a career-high 16 tackles, and cornerback Lamar Chapman had 1.5 sacks.
• The team looks to improve its third-down defense: The Rebels convert nine of 20.