LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Western Illinois could not find the momentum after missing on two redzone opportunities in the first half, losing at UNLV 38-7 on Saturday night (Sept. 21). It was the final non-conference game of regular season for Western, dropping to 2-2 overall.
Both teams had a 3-and-out to open the game. UNLV forced a Western punt and with Nathan Knuffman punting into the wind, took over on WIU’s 46. A 28-yard pass play highlighted the five-play drive capped by Tim Cornett’s 3-yard run.
Western used big pass plays, including a 29-yarder to Fredson Salomon, to set up in the redzone. However, two sacks and Western was forced to go for it on fourth down. The Leathernecks came away empty on the drive. The Rebels used the remainder of the first quarter to march down the field and go ahead 10-0 on a 43-yard field goal.
The Leathernecks again drove into UNLV territory and the redzone, but the Rebels defense stopped Western short on third and fourth down. After another Western punt, UNLV marched 66 yards on eight plays to take a 17-0 lead. Caleb Herring found Jake Phillips down the middle for the 27-yard scoring strike.
UNLV took the ball to start the second half. After the defense held on a second and short, Cornett took the handoff and broke through the left side for a 42-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 24-0 following the eight play drive.
On the ensuing Leatherneck drive, Trenton Norvell threw his first interception of the year setting up the Rebels on the 27. UNLV needed two plays to cover those 27 yards, capped by Adonis Smith’s 4-yard run.
Keyed by a 40-yard run by J.C. Baker to put Western in the redzone again, Western was able to get on the board. Norvell hit Joey Borsellino in the endzone for an 11-yard score with just over two minutes in the third.
The Rebels needed less than two minutes to score after Western turned the ball over on downs. Adonis Smith scored his second TD of the game, a 16-yard run, making it 38-7.
Baker tallied 108 yards on 15 attempts, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt. Nikko Watson tallied 68 yards on 13 tries. Norvell finished 13-of-33 for 141 yards with his TD pass and two interceptions.
Borsellino finished with a season-high 60 yards on five catches.
Dallas Nichols recorded a game- and career-high 11 tackles while J.J. Raffelson and Chip Holtschlag added nine each. It was a career-high for Holtschlag, who had just 17 total tackles in his three-year career heading into the game.
Herring was 14-of-20 passing for 140 yards while adding 57 rushing yards. Cornett had 83 yards on the ground.
Western returns to Hanson Field next Saturday (Sept. 28), opening Missouri Valley Football Conference play versus South Dakota. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.
GAME NOTES: When UNLV scored in the first quarter, it was the first points allowed in the opening 15 minutes by the Leathernecks this year… It took the third quarter of game four this season but Western finally committed a turnover… Borsellino’s touchdown catch was the first of his career… UNLV did not commit a penalty in the game while Western had six for 40 yards… The Leathernecks were 5-of-16 on third down while UNLV was 6-of-15 and perfect on both fourth down attempts… UNLV held a 23-19 edge in first downs, and 424-338 in total yards.
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