UNLV coach Mike Sanford and running back Frank Summers caused an uproar among the Utes and their followers after the Rebels whipped Utah by 27 points last season.
Both made statements that questioned the Utes' desire to tackle Summers, a 230-pound battering ram who rushed for 190 yards against Utah in that game.
This time? A lot more humility came from the Rebels' locker room.
Summers was held to 87 yards on 23 carries Saturday night, and his longest rush went for 24 yards in the Rebels' 42-21 loss to the Utes.
"I could tell they've been doing some tackling drills this year," Summers said. "The big 15-20 yard runs I was getting last year were more like 5 this time. Their defense did a good job."
Summers actually picked up where he left off last year early in Saturday's game. He rushed six times for 40 yards on UNLV's opening drive and capped it with a touchdown run. He gained 82 yards on 18 carries in the first half, and he expected to get the chance to wear Utah's defense down after halftime.
But just the opposite happened. The Utes finally got the better of Summers by holding him to just 5 yards on five carries after halftime.
"It was night and day between the first and second halves," Summers said.
Utah's offense also played a role in limiting Summers in the second half. Because the Utes were on fire on offense, scoring on their first four possessions after halftime, they forced the Rebels to get away from their running game and try and play catch-up. UNLV showed it has a much better offense when it can play ball control and keep Summers on the field, which is what it did in the first half.
"I think we played good enough to win in the first half," Sanford said. "The bottom line was we didn't play good enough to win in the second half."
Sanford didn't apologize for the comments he made last year when he said the Utes were avoiding trying to tackle Summers. He also stopped short of saying the situation was overblown. He said the comments were in the past and that the two coaching staffs have moved past them.
"I have great respect for Kyle (Whittingham) and their coaching staff," Sanford said. "That's not an issue at all. Not at all. And to me, that (last year's comments) was not an issue in the game. It may have been (an issue) then (when the remarks were made) but they were not an issue in the game."
The Rebels got almost nothing going offensively in the second half until their final drive of the game. UNLV drove 77 yards on 16 plays, and scored when quarterback Omar Clayton threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Payne. Sanford said the drive and the score showed his team has some character.
But it wasn't enough to let the Rebels leave Rice-Eccles Stadium feeling as great as they did after playing the Utes in 2007.
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