Game 39: Utah State Aggies @ UNLV Rebels
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Utah State Aggies: 3-4
Vegas, baby. It was not an absurd wake up time on this Friday morning as the cross country flight to Vegas was a very reasonable 8:30am. However, I would be making this flight solo as Al had made his very own travel arrangements due to the conference he would be attending in Vegas the following week. A conference that would have him going directly from Vegas to Ball State for our Thursday stop next week. But I digress a bit and the antics of that travel will follow in the Ball State trip report. The important part for Vegas is to note that Al was in charge of accommodations and this had me wide awake on the flight, heavy with worry. We shall see how this goes. But I’m feeling much better now.
Of course, while we arrive at the same time into McCarran Airport, we are at different terminals and since Al has checked a bag, I venture over to his terminal. I do not care what Al says, there is no excuse to check a bag on The Quest. I do not care that he is away for a week and much of it is work related. Al is a guy who can pack for three days in twenty degrees with just a ziploc bag. #professionalpacker
We grab Al’s checked bag and head off to the rideshare pick up location. Vegas is not a rental car locale. And I decided that I would try Lyft this trip. Last time I was in Vegas (a stop on the way to Lee’s wedding in California last year) we used Uber everywhere. As both Uber and Lyft are very present in Vegas, I decided we would give Lyft a shot. In my opinion, Lyft has the easier app to use. We hopped into the Lyft which was driven by a very pleasant and borderline too chatty girl driving a manual automobile. Not sure I have seen one of those in awhile, but ok. BTW, I think the chatty thing is a Lyft norm, but it can go overboard sometimes. She deposited us at Bellagio, which is where Al has us staying for the extended weekend.
Now this is mid day (noonish) on a Friday. We enter Bellagio and its Disneyesque check in line. It is not even check in time, but the line is quite lengthy. It would have been nice if management, which was glad handing the line, would actually get behind the counter and help check people in, but they have their process. During our wait, Brett and Lee arrived (they are staying elsewhere) to keep us entertained. They did not succeed.
Brett (my wife’s cousin who we are very close to) is a sometimes Quester who you may remember from previous trip reports. He was going to attempt to be an official Quester, but he found our membership requirements of having to read our trip reports too burdensome. I will try not to take that personally. He also isn’t very good at directions or math, as he gets lost often and still thinks he is undefeated, which us counting folk know…..ahhhhh who gives a poop, we don’t care about his record. Anyway, he found the allure of Vegas to hard to resist. Plus, another cousin Lee lives in L.A. and is a regular in Vegas, or at least he was until he got married last year. So it did not take much for them to join on this trip, although I think Rachael was a bit jealous. Lee, Brett and Rachael are very close and my family is very close to this side of the family. Because of this, while it may not seem like it, I am much kinder to Brett, aka Target, than I otherwise would be. Or am I?
Anyway, after throwing the bags in the room, we all meet at Cafe Bellagio for lunch. The usual family updates were done, family trees drawn for Al’s benefit, too much talk about the Yankees, and so on. It was a pleasant time had by all, I think.
We then parted ways, as The Quest was headed to UNLV to see the school, something we like to do on these trips. Not sure where Brett was headed, as this will become exhibit A of his non Quest status. Lee is excused as this is a one off for him. Brett, not so much.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
We hopped a Lyft to the UNLV campus and went directly to the bookstore. After making the usual purchases in a somewhat sparse bookstore, we headed out to explore campus. I started taking some random pictures after noticing that we have been in Vegas for a few hours with not many pictures to show for it. Some random nothingness is better than nothing, although when I get home and get stressed about all the after trip things to do, including going through pictures, this will seem absurd.
The first thing that struck us on our self guided tour of the UNLV campus was the complete lack of other people. Without hyperbole, I can state with certainty, that we saw more tumbleweeds than people. The word desolate came to mind. It was so stark, that Al could not opine on the talent because there was none present. But, the school does have excellent views of the Las Vegas strip.
We did have plenty of time to come up with the standard UNLV jokes about:
We met up with our school representative, Mark, who was taking care of us. And I should point out that he is a Gator. Go Gators! I will tip my cap to Al as he has gotten quite good at this part of his job. Mark did inform us the lack of people comes from the fact that UNLV is a commuter school and classes are only Monday to Thursday. There are no Friday classes. This did explain a lot. We also learned that there is a high percentage of non traditional students as the average student age is 26. This also explains a lot and does lend some credence to some of the jokes mentioned above.
Mark took us on a tour of the UNLV facilities minus Sam Boyd Stadium as that is not located on campus. The Thomas & Mack Center is the home of UNLV basketball and an impressive arena. We also stopped by the Tark statue.
For some of our younger readers who may not be familiar with UNLV basketball, there is quite a storied history. This is a program that has been on top of the world, having been to four Final Four’s, and then came somewhat crashing down, led by a very outspoken coach, Jerry Tarkanian, who battled the NCAA almost his entire career. He was known for taking a chance on troubled players and this led to many battles with the NCAA and for many to look down on him and his program. Tark led UNLV to the national championship in 1990 and was destined for a repeat in 1991 as they went 34-0 before running into a Duke team that they beat to win the title the previous year. Duke pulled off a huge upset in the national semifinals winning 79-77 after UNLV missed a shot at the buzzer. Three players from these UNLV teams were drafted in the first round and one in the second of the NBA draft (see NY Knicks of the 90’s). They were a fun, fast break team that was exciting to watch and if you have an interest in college basketball, you should read into and watch these teams.
After the tour, we Lyfted (is that a word, well it is now) back to the Bellagio. Quick showers and then off to meet up with Brett and Lee who found themselves anchored in the Aria Sportsbook watching the Yankees and Astros ALCS game. It is curious that they were at Aria as they were not staying there and was in the opposite direction from dinner, but there was an explanation, as Lee had to check in one of his friends. Nothing fishy there. So we made ourselves comfortable and proceeded to watch the Astros win (yea).
Dinner – Carnevino
One of the key points about this Quest trip to Vegas was that we were going to eat well. You do not come to Vegas and eat poorly, there are just too many good options. I mean you can do it, but you have to really try. Dinner was at Carnevino, an Italian Steakhouse run by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. And after another Lyft ride, this time to The Palazzo, we were seated.
I am not going to do a full review, but I will make a few observations. The appetizers were off the charts good. We all split grilled octopus, truffle pasta, and another pasta dish. All were fantastic, but the grilled octopus was the star. The main course was disappointing. Al and I had the ribeye and I was not impressed. It was good, but not the star that was expected, certainly not after the amazing appetizers. However, I should note that I ate every bit and some of the bone too. Gator would have really enjoyed these bones, see the pictures. The sides were good if not noteworthy. Desserts were another shining star. I had the chocolate and peanut butter torte and it was superb. Add all this up with an excellent bottle of wine and it was a fantastic meal. I just wish the ribeye would have lived up to expectations. With that, this easily would have been a top 5 Quest meal, but with just a “good” ribeye, Carnevino will fall short of making the Top 5.
Over dinner, the picks would came in for the game tomorrow; Al picks UNLV and Jarrett picks Utah State.
Saturday Morning – Coffee and Football
Let the day of sports begin. In my youth, I was of the opinion that I could not live on the left coast because football/sports so early in the morning and early in the evening (4pm local) would be a problem. Now that I can’t sleep past 8:00am even when I can sleep in, I have done a 180. Thus waking up and heading to a sportsbook for breakfast and 9:00am college football is a fairly ideal scenario. The UNLV game was at 3pm local time, so we had about 4 hours of sitting in a Las Vegas casino watching college football. Nothing bad about that.
It did eventually come time to head out to Sam Boyd Stadium.
After Lyfting (yes, I am trying to get all verb tenses of Lyft into a single trip report even if they are not real words) to Sam Boyd Stadium, a question arose. Why is Sam Boyd Stadium so far away from the UNLV campus, Las Vegas strip, or any other civilization? Who knew Las Vegas was so big? My guess would be that knowing the history of Vegas, a payoff was involved, but it certainly does not make it convenient. There could be a correlation between distance and crowd size. Something for a UNLV stats major to look into besides the Martingale System.
A few Sam Boyd Stadium observations:
We began the game watching from down at field level, both the game and the two fools in the front row who decided to actually show up for the game. Just for clarification, there are two halves in a football game Lee. Actually, there are two halves in everything because that is the definition of a half. Just like there are always four quarters, not the eight quarters played in youth soccer.
I will do a quick recap of the game, so please skip ahead if that does not interest you. Yes, that is for you Beth.
On its second possession of the game, UNLV drove 80 yards on 7 plays to take a 7-0 lead. On its next possession, UNLV takes a 14-0 lead. Utah State answers with a 70 yard TD pass on the very next drive to cut into UNLV’s lead 14-7. UNLV answers right back to go up 21-7 and we have a defensive battle on our hands. USU scores next to make it 21-14 in a back and forth offensive clinic (or is it poor defense). We finally get a punt and then a USU turnover and UNLV rushes its way to a TD and a 28-14 lead. Spoiler alert…UNLV would not score again. The very next offensive play is a 75 yard USU TD pass and its 28-21. A UNLV three and out gives the ball back to USU who predictably ties it up at 28 at halftime. I will fast forward the second half and just let you know the final score is 52-28 USU. Not a good second half for UNLV. USU scored 38 unanswered points to go from 28-14 down to a 52-28 winner.
I do have one question for the USU coaching staff…The final USU drive began with USU up 45-28 and 7:10 on the clock. This drive would eventually consume 16 plays, 94 yards, and 6:11 in time of possession, ultimately resulting in a touchdown. But USU was snapping the ball with 30 seconds on the play clock. Do they not realize they could have ended the game by just taking the play clock to 5 seconds before snapping the ball. This made no sense to me and still doesn’t. I am not saying don’t try to score or move the ball, just be smart about it and run the play clock down to 5 or so before snapping it. I really do not know the thought process here. Is there a reason USU would be running it up on UNLV?
My last note on the game will be to take a CFQ poll…Does the fact that Lee and Brett left before halftime in order to watch the Astros/Yankees ALCS game negate this as a game Brett can claim? I believe that Brett used this Quest game as an excuse to go to Vegas and meet up with Lee. The Quest has only left one game before the final whistle and that was a blowout during a monsoon and even despite that, I feel bad about it. But we did have to find a dryer for our clothes after that one.
Vegas Golden Knights
After football it was time to Lyft it over to T-Mobile Arena for a Vegas Golden Knights hockey game. Vegas is the newest expansion team in the NHL and Al and I being big hockey fans could not resist going to a game. The timing could not have been more ideal to get from Sam Boyd to T-Mobile with a bit of room to spare. We had great seats in the lower corner and saw a good game. Shout out to Al’s friend Matt who provided us with the seats and the opportunity.
T-Mobile Arena is a raucous environment and we had a ton of fun at this game. Vegas played St. Louis and Vegas came in 5-1 while St. Louis was 6-1-1. Vegas won in OT setting the record for an expansion team winning 6 of its first 7 games. The story though was the environment at T-Mobile Arena, but I am a biased hockey fan. Truly an awesome environment and I hope that Vegas is successful in the NHL.
One aside, the fan sitting behind us does need to learn to be a bit less annoying (”Vegaaaas”). I will also say that adults do not belong riding the zamboni. That should be just for kids. You are going to look real dumb as a 50 year old sitting on that small zamboni seat waving to the crowd.
Post hockey game we made a pit stop for some Las Vegas strip pizza at a Blaze Pizza look alike and then it was onto Paris for some Asia Poker. This is an underrated game that I liken to Pai Gow Poker on steroids. It is not spread at many places and a quick google search found only three casinos in Vegas that had it, one of which was Paris, right across the street from Bellagio. How convenient and dangerous. Needless to say, I made a deposit to the Caesars Entertainment Corporation before heading off to bed.
So let us recap this Saturday…wake up, watching college football in a sportsbook, a UNLV football game, a Vegas NHL hockey game, and casino gambling. I think that is all of the food groups. The only thing missing was a gourmet dinner (Mendy’s doesn’t count), but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
Sunday – NFL
What to do on a Sunday in Vegas. There were plenty of options that included:
I had been pointing to the opportunity to drive exoctic cars very fast since discovering this option on my last trip to Vegas last September. It would be quite pricey but a fantastic opportunity to….”I wanna go fast”. I really can not explain why, but inertia won the day, and we opted for an NFL day. I think fantasy football may have played a role. I will admit, this was a very poor effort on our part. Very poor and only looks worse in hindsight.
I will not reiterate the earlier section from Saturday morning, but the same would apply to NFL football beginning at 10:00am. We found a nice seat within a lounge at the Bellagio that enabled us to control one TV and see many others. Of course this was not enough, so I headed back to the room to grab the iPad so that we could have Red Zone channel via Slingbox on the iPad right in the middle of the coffee table. The next seven hours consisted of us in the lounge eating bad food and drinking cocktails. I will spare you the inane details of these seven hours and fast forward a bit.
Dinner & Gambling
After football, we Lyfted back to The Palazzo for dinner. For very complicated reasons, we had dinner at Carnevino again. I stand by my earlier review as everything was reaffirmed during this second visit. After the ribeye last time, I opted for a veal chop this time around and I had the same opinion…good but not at all noteworthy. So after a second visit, I can state with confidence that the appetizers, pastas and desserts are fantastic but the meats while solid are not the special courses that they should be. I would opt for a pasta main course in the future.
After dinner, we headed to the blackjack tables. I can state with all the excitement in the world, I did not lose money at the blackjack tables at The Palazzo. I would be leaving with a whopping $10 extra in my pocket. Too bad this was the only table this would happen.
After that session, I wanted to go back to Paris for some more Asia Poker. This is a sentence one could only write when discussing Las Vegas, going to Paris for Asia Poker. Anyway, the one Asia Poker table was full so craps would have to suffice. Let’s just leave it at, it was not successful.
We headed back to Bellagio and Al headed up to the room as he had many more days of debauchery in Vegas. This being my last night, I ventured to the craps table for more punishment. This time I played from the don’t side, which I much prefer doing. Yes, I am that asshole and if you do not know the game of craps, this doesn’t make sense. If you do know the game of craps, you will recognize that this certainly generated much interest as I typically play don’ts with additional don’t come bets. This so intrigued a women across the table, who had just learned the game, that she cut across the pit to come over and have me explain what I was doing. It would be fair to say that cutting across the pit does not go well with the house. I lasted a tad longer at this table than at The Palazzo but with similar results.
I left the craps table with a single $25 chip. Since this is a chip and not real money, I could not simply cash it in. Typically, I would just put it on red or black and be done. This time I decided to be a bit more daring and put it onto the middle third numbers. This pays 2-1. I proceeded to hit this bet four times in a row with the original $25 chip. This was a $200 win which I did cash out. So, not a successful gambling trip, but it could have been $200 worse.
Now off to bed as I had only a few hours before I had to get up for my flight back to NY.
Monday Morning Travel
It was wake up and off to the airport. And…flight delays. I have recently received a membership to Priority Pass which is club access at certain airports. Las Vegas is one of those airports, so I headed off to The Club to kill time and wait out the delay. I am not liking the correlation that I am noticing. The past two times I have flown with club access via Priority Pass, I have run into significant flight delays. I will have to keep an eye on this as I do not like the early trend.
I made it back to NY without much further incident and did look up that the next trip to Indianapolis for Ball State does not have Priority Pass club access. So there’s that.
To be written after the season.
For our UNLV photo album, Please click here. You can view as a collage or run as a slideshow. There are comments to explain what is in the photo but most are self explanatory. Thanks to Google, I can no longer embed the slide show with comments.
|Video: UNLV takes the field, Kickoff, Touchdown (about 1 min.)
||Video: Vegas Golden Knights (about 45 sec.)