Sept. 27, 2015
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By W.G. Ramirez
Special to UNLVRebels.com
LAS VEGAS - In monumental fashion, during a night that several records were either tied or broken, UNLV earned its first win of the season, an 80-8 rout of Idaho State.
The victory was the first during the Tony Sanchez-era.
"Our players are starting to understand and I think that was evident tonight," Sanchez said. "When you look at the body of work over the first four weeks: not a lot of silly penalties, not a lot of personnel problems, not a lot of big plays given up. We've played good football, we've gotten beat by some good football teams.
"We went out tonight, and we had superior players and we played well and they made some miscues and we did what we were supposed to do."
The 80 points scored broke the old mark of 72 points, set against New Mexico in 1980. It was also the most points scored by a Mountain West team since the leagues started in 1999, and the most scored through week four of the 2015 season by an FBS team. The 72-point margin of victory also set a new record, breaking a 47-year-old mark of when the Rebels beat Cal Tech, 69-0.
"I think we played three really tough teams in a row, and I think we had our moments in all of those games and obviously we didn't come away with victories, but it helped us grow. We played a really good game tonight and it feels good to get the win, but tomorrow we go right back to work."
The Rebels outgained Idaho State, 626-292, as they rumbled for 517 yards on the ground. The final rushing tally fell six yards short of the school's all-time record (523). UNLV's six rushing touchdowns were the second most in program history, tying four other occasions.
Xzaviar Campbell led UNLV's rushing game, with 140 yards on nine attempts, two of them for touchdowns.
"It was unbelievable, everything was just going (our way)," Campbell said. "It was one of those nights when everything was going right."
UNLV wasted no time in getting on the board, scoring just 51 seconds into the game, when quarterback Blake Decker connected with Keith Whitely on a 24-yard touchdown strike.
After trading possessions the next eight minutes, the Rebels closed the first quarter by scoring four more touchdowns over the final 5:54, taking a 35-0 lead while setting a new record for most points scored in one quarter, besting a 47-year record of 33 points.
Running back Lexington Thomas' touchdown at the 5:33 of the first quarter was UNLV's first rushing TD by a running back of the season.
"That kind of irks you a little bit; we challenged our O-line and our backs this week," Sanchez said. "They went out and executed, so it was good."
Idaho State opened the second quarter with a touchdown at the 14:13 mark, when CJ Hatchett caught a 25-yard pass from Michael Sanders. The duo hooked up moments later on a 2-point conversion, to make it 35-8.
It was all the Bengals would get the rest of the game, as UNLV scored the game's next 45 points.
UNLV's 52 first-half points were the most ever by a Rebel team in a half, topping the 38 scored at New Mexico in the second half in 1980 and the 38 scored against Western Illinois in the first half in 1977.
UNLV held Idaho State to 134 yards in the second half, while limiting the Bengals to an average gain of 3.8 yards per play the entire game. The defense also got six turnovers - four interceptions and two recovered fumbles. It was the first time the Rebels had four interceptions in a game since 1993.
"We've been talking about the defense all year and how well they've played," Sanchez said. "Some of the games we struggled, the defense kept us in the game. We're creating turnovers, we're playing better in the red zone, we're not giving up big plays. When you do those things, you're going to have an opportunity to win games."
Redshirt freshman Tim Hough tied the team record for most interceptions in a game by a freshman, when he picked off Idaho State quarterback Michael Sanders twice. UNLV now has eight interceptions on the season, one more than it had last season.
UNLV's defense also held the Bengals to just 1 of 17 third-down conversion.
"We're going to win a lot of games and we knew that was going to happen, but it was important to get a win early for our seniors," Sanchez said. "They've worked extremely hard, they've been through a lot and they've done a great job of buying in.
"It was a good night, but we have a long season ahead of us and we focus ahead toward Reno."