Beavers Escape Vegas Ambush

Zach ZarembaCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2009

It wasn’t pretty in the least, but the Beavers bucked the trend and won their first road game of the season since 2002.  It was also their first road win against a non-conference opponent since they knocked out Hawaii in 2006.  The Beavers escaped.  Let’s keep in mind though, that if they would have escaped against Stanford last season they would have made the Rose Bowl. 

Now that they have safely discarded the Rebels, they can look ahead to the upcoming Cincinnati game.  The 2-0 Bearcats are ranked 17th in the country and are currently the favorite to win the (Not so) Big East.  They feature a dynamic passing attack led by quarterback Tony Pike and receiver Marshwan “Mardy” Gilyard.  It will be the third consecutive spread offense the Beavs will face. 

But before we completely focus on the Bearcats, let’s review the performance that just took place:

·         First off, give credit to UNLV.  With the exception of USC and maybe Cincinnati, no team the Beavers will face this year will have a better receiving core than the Rebels.  Ryan Wolfe did not disappoint hauling in nine passes.  Rodelin Anthony and Phillip Payne, who each are above 6’ 4”, combined for ten catches and three touchdowns.  Holding this unit to only 229 yards passing and forcing an interception is a big victory. 

·         The Beavers are yet to turn the ball over.  This speaks volumes of how efficient Sean Canfield’s decision-making has been.

·         Actually, Canfield has been a little too cautious.  He has not forced anything, and that has been great, but today he sent at least twelve balls in Jacquizz Rodgers’ direction.  While Quizz caught eleven, these were incredibly short throws and the hits took a toll of him.  Using Quizz as a safety blanket is good, but he was clearly overused.  Overall Canfield has played very safe, but needs to throw down the field a little more and get more receivers involved.  He made some terrific passes on the last drive. 

·         So what exactly did Mike Riley have in mind when he let thirteen precious seconds tick of the clock in the final drive?  And then he allowed another eight to run off two plays later.  Yeah its great Kahut was clutch, but they should have scored a touchdown.

·         Jacquizz Rodgers is even better than last year.  He is not having any of the “sophomore slump,” and has added breakaway runs and being the team’s leading receiver to his repertoire.

·         Jordan Bishop is the real deal.  He made the best catch of the year so far and finished with five catches for 43 yards. 

·         Lance Mitchell is evolving into a terrific playmaker.  The athletic sophomore safety from Pasadena had a hand in both UNLV turnovers.  Mitchell also matched up as a corner on some occasions and had terrific coverage.

·         The defensive ling struggled for the most part recording only one sack.  Once in awhile Mark Banker brought blitzes which caused pressure but failed to actually bring the quarterback down.

·         When Mike Clausen replaced the Omar Clayton the UNLV offense took off.  What made them potent was the threat of Clausen running; it drew extra Beavers near the line of scrimmage.  Good thing Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike is as mobile as a square-shaped boulder.

·         In years past the Beavers have always had a gaping need for improvement in at least one area.  Run defense, pass defense, having a quarterback…This year is different.  The most noticeable issue is Sean Canfield becoming in love with Quizz and going to him too much, and throwing too many short passes in general.  One of the reasons why this is happening could be the inexperienced receivers (although Bishop and Damola Adeniji have looked good).  The run defense has looked, shall we say: “run-stoppable,” but has yet to face a team that prioritizes in that area.  The offensive line has a lot of room to improve as well.

·         Earlier I mentioned the Hawaii game, and I see a few parallels between Hawaii and UNLV:  Each team had a poised quarterback, a terrific receiving core, and was hungry for a victory.  They were both programs on the rise.

·         Last but not least, they have got to stop committing silly penalties.  They got caught with twelve men on the field three times.  If Mike Riley needs to spend a few minutes in practice reviewing how to count, it would be minutes well spent.

All in all, this was an above average performance that showed grit, determination, and heart.  They beat a good team on the road, but they have a lot of work to do.  The future is bright and this team is not going to fall victim to another 2-3 start.