Tables turned for Rebels, Utes

LAS VEGAS — Mike Sanford waited three years for last Saturday night. As a team, UNLV waited 28. Saturday night, the cessation of UNLV victories over the U football team was put to rest at 11 games with the Rebels’ 28-0 upset over the visiting Utes.

The win, however, created a new problem for Sanford.

“To come into a press conference after just gotten doused by Gatorade — that is a very good problem and a fun problem to have,” he said.

A Gatorade shower is just one of many new things Sanford is experiencing this season.

The former U offensive coordinator picked up the first road win of his head-coaching career against Utah State in August. Saturday’s win over Utah gave the third-year coach his first win over his former team and also gave UNLV its first 1-0 start to conference play since the Rebels were part of the Big West in 1995.

“This is obviously a tremendous win,” Sanford said. “I’m extremely proud of our players. I thought we just played with hunger and desperation — everything we asked them.”

If UNLV played hungry, Rebel running back Frank Summers played starving.

The junior tailback rushed for 190 yards and broke the touchdown plane twice on the ground and once through the air. But even more impressive than his yard or touchdown tally was the way Summers ate up the Ute defense with a steady diet of broken tackles and bruising hits.

“He’s a big physical back,” Whittingham said. “There was no surprise there. We knew he was going to be a load, and that’s what he proved to be. He did a nice job against us.”

Despite the dazzling performance, Summers’ game was not good enough to earn the game ball from his coach. That award was bestowed upon the UNLV defense, which managed to hand Utah its first shutout since 1993.

“This is the best win of my coaching career, my short coaching career,” Sanford said. “Everyone on this football team was not born when the last one happened. We beat them this year, and that is a big thing. That is a big step for this football program.”

As big as the step forward was for UNLV, the step in the opposite direction was even more drastic for Kyle Whittingham and his Utes.

Utah’s win over UCLA on Sept. 15 was one of the best and most complete wins in team history. To follow that week up with a loss to a team that hadn’t beat the Utes in nearly three decades was obviously frustrating for Utah. To not score a single point when the Utes have averaged more than 43 during the past 11 contests in the series is bewildering.

“We went to playing very well in all three phases last week to playing poorly in all three phases this week,” Whittingham said. “It’s perplexing, and it’s my job to figure it out — bottom line.”

For Sanford, the only two things he needs to figure out this week is how to help his team deal with success and possibly how to remove sports-drink stains from his Dockers.

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