Look, I'm ecstatic that the Beavers pulled out the win Saturday night over UNLV. If that game didn't feel like a trap game to you heading in, I'm sure it did in the second half as UNLV came charging back into the game behind the arms and legs of back-up quarterback Mike Clausen. And again, we saw a Mike Riley coached team struggle on the road in an early-season, non-conference games. What's with that?
That game, as many of you have expressed in some of the great comment threads we had here over the weekend, was chalked full of positives and negatives for the Beavers. It looked like a season opener. It kind of was. I'll definitely take this win, but there were a lot of things that happened in the game that I wouldn't mind staying in Sin City.
The glaring mistake is the missed field goal and PAT by Justin Kahut. Had Kahut made the field goal, I believe it would have been the second-longest of his career, behind the one he made last week against Portland State. He had the distance, but just barely pulled it to the left. I don't have as big of a problem with that as I do the missed extra point. Was it the wind? I'm not sure. But missing PAT's at the college level is almost inexcusable... and Kahut has done this to us twice now, earning himself the nickname "Cardiac Kahut". Still, I'm proud of the way he battled back to hit the game-winning field goal under a tremendous amount of pressure. But how disastrous would it have been if we had to talk about a 21-20 loss today?
The first half as a whole quite frankly was just sloppy. The defense made some big plays, most notably the interception by Mitchell and the fumble forced by Mitchell and recovered by Kristick. But the offense couldn't capitalize. James Rodgers even said it in a TV interview after the game... "the defense did great, the offense has a lot of work to do." I thought our run defense was great for most of the game. The secondary got worked a little bit by Clayton and Clausen, and it still worries me heading into the Cincinatti game, but they obviously made improvements from last week.
Although the offense was sluggish at times, they got things going when needed. I really liked how the team came out of the locker room and marched down the field... it set the tone for the second half, even though UNLV returned the ensuing kickoff a considerable difference and countered with a touchdown of their own. And how about the final drive? The Beavs caught a big break with the pass interference call on third and a mile, but the crossing route to Damola, the ball over the middle to Bishop, and Quizz's run to shorten the field goal distance (pictured, above) were all crucial.
Another quibble that I share with a large portion you is the play calling. I'm not offensive football mastermind, but some of the play-calls just seemed off in retrospect. I would have liked to see us look deep more, especially in the first half, but I realize that the wind conditions made staying conservative a more attractive option for Coach RIley. All-in-all, you could tell that the coaches were sticking to a game plan, and it payed off, which is all you can really ask for.
I whole-heartedly agree with what Connor had to say after the game: "five weeks from now, nobody will remember how the game ended, just the fact that we got W." It's true. This was one of those games that could have broken our season-- it couldn't have, or won't, "make" our season.
This almost certainly feels like a game the Beavers will get better because of. The team watched the game film yesterday, and you can guarantee that they will hit the practice field today and work on filling in the gaps for Cincinatti this week.
Chalk this one up, put it in the rear-view mirror, and move on.
Big game this week!