Apparently, every game counts for the Rebels

Posted: September 4, 2013 in NCAAF
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By W.G. Ramirez

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Junior Brett Boyko, coach Bobby Hauck and senior Sidney Hodge spoke to the media Monday.

UNLV plays 12 football games, and they all count.

That was the message from UNLV coach Bobby Hauck at his weekly press conference this past Monday.

And one week after a disappointing start to the season in Minneapolis, where Minnesota handed the Rebels a 51-23 setback, UNLV opens the home portion of its schedule against the Arizona Wildcats and their dynamic running back, Ka’deem Carey.

“They’re really good, they’re a fast team,” Hauck said. “They’re certainly as good or better than anybody we’ll play. Ka’deem Carey is the best running back in the country; he led the nation in rushing last year. I don’t know if we can tackle him, no one tackled him very well last year. I think he’s the best running back in the country. The evidence to that would be he led the nation in rushing last year. He’s just the real deal. Had he not been a true sophomore I assume we wouldn’t be playing him. He’s a terrific player.”

If Hauck’s demeanor didn’t sound that encouraging, it’s probably cause it didn’t look too positive in person, either. Flanked by offensive lineman Brett Boyko and defensive back Sideny Hodge, the trio looked like they’d already been through a typical UNLV season, rather than just one game. Whether or not that’s the case, the Rebels will suit up for Saturday night’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Sam Boyd Stadium against a talented Pac 12 team that won 35-0 over Northern Arizona last week.

“I don’t think it matters who you play, you just gotta go play; we play 12 and they all count,” Hauck said. “We’re playing a Big Ten team on the road; we’re playing a Pac 12 team in our second week. We know what the schedule is going into it, we knew we’d have our hands full, that is what it is. I think we’ve got a good team, we just approach each week the same, try to get the win on that weekend and try to get the next one. That’s how it’ll be every week through the season.”

Hopefully, for Hauck and the Rebels, it won’t be exactly how it is every week, like it was this past one, mulling over a mistake-filled game at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers scored twice on special teams and turned a tight game into a rout without scoring on offense for the first 23-plus minutes after halftime. Minnesota also blocked a field goal that was returned for a 78-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun scored on an 89-yard interception return in the fourth.

Yeah, it was ugly.

Whether or not the Rebels can get themselves up in time for Arizona, after losing their 23rd-straight road game – 21 under Hauck’s watch – remains to be seen against Arizona’s spread offense that is much faster than what they saw in Minneapolis.

“Their style is such that there’s going to be plays in space, it’s the spread offense they’re running; either make the plays or you don’t,” Hauck said. “They do put good skill players in open space and you have to make plays on them. Minnesota … was gonna be a physical test – ‘see who was man enough to hold up’ – and I thought we did. In terms of getting pushed around by what I would consider to be a pretty good Big 10 offense and defensive line, that didn’t happen. That’s fairly encouraging.”

And to UNLV’s credit, the offense moved the ball and looked efficient, while the defense was the Rebels’ best unit on the field. For the record, UNLV’s offense outgained Minnesota’s 419-320. All stats and mistakes aside, Hauck was pleased with his team’s heart.

“First game there’s always things to correct, there’s lots and lots of things to correct,” Hauck said. “The thing that probably stuck out in my mind the most is after all the bad stuff that happened, with 10 minutes left in the game we were down about the 10-yard line, we were gonna make it a one-score game and after all the bad stuff, our former teams wouldn’t have held up. It would have been ‘ugh, here we go again’ and this group fought its way right back into that.

“This group is competitive, they like to play, they like each other, it’s important to them to win games and to play well for their team and I think that’s good progress.”

So there’s that.

And, of course, the fact they play 12 games – and they all count.

NOT-SO SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS – Shredded by the on-air commentators, and local media for what might have been the nation’s most inept special teams unit for Week 1, Hauck remained relatively cool during his press conference when asked, a couple times, about what needs to be done to fix the unit he oversees, and if there would be any extra time spent on special teams during this week’s practices.

As previously mentioned, it was the Gophers’ special teams that helped break the game open. Minnesota’s Marcus Jones returned the second half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, helping the Gophers seize momentum, Martez Shabazz’s 78-yard scamper off the blocked field goal pretty much sealed the deal.

“We’ll spend our allotted time,” Hauck said. “We get X amount. There’s always a push, pull on how much time you get. We get our allotted time and we have to make great improvement with the time we have. Pending the day of the week… (we spend) anywhere from 5 minutes daily on punt, 10 minutes twice a couple times a week with the return teams and 18 minutes once a week with all three things. Our time in any given week is mandated by the NCAA, we get what we get. We’ve gotta utilize the time we have.”

OFFENSE WITH A SHERRY ON TOP – Sophomore quarterback Nick Sherry the better sophomore quarterback last week in Minneapolis, as he outplayed Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson, who admitted after the game: “The defense and the special teams, they saved us tonight.”

While Nelson was inconsistent most of the night – he was 10 for 22 for 99 yards and an interception and also fumbled on second-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the second quarter – Sherry finished 35 for 50 for 226 yards and put the Rebels ahead, 13-10, with a 34-yard touchdown strike to Devante Davis with 5:04 left in the first half.

Sherry became the second Rebel quarterback to start back-to-back season openers in the past decade. Omar Clayton was the only other UNLV player to do it, when he opened the 2008 and 2009 campaigns in charge of the Rebels’ offense.

Nonetheless, Sherry’s 2,544 passing yards last season ranked as the fourth most in Mountain West Conference history by a freshman, and seventh overall in a UNLV single season.

SCOUTING ARIZONA – The Wildcats opened their season with a 35-0 win over Northern Arizona, and though it appears to be a solid win on paper – what shutout doesn’t – some are questioning the quarterback situation and how confident coach Rich Rodriguez is even after B.J. Denker seemed efficient in running the offense.

“We need to be able to throw a lot better than Friday night,” Rodriguez said at his weekly press conference. “I was really conservative in the play calling. We can get by with that because we were running the ball and NAU wasn’t scoring.”

Hauck knows the ‘Cats are talented team, though, and says his team needs to be prepared for what could be the fastest team his Rebels will face.

“Arizona presents enough problems,” Hauck said. “It’s a different style of team, specifically on both sides of the ball, that we’re going to play this week. … It’ll be more of a space game both for our defense and offensive lines. We’ll see how we play in space with Arizona.”

The ‘Cats racked up 306 yards on the ground against the Lumberjacks, versus a mere 87 in the air. And with Carey returning to the lineup for Arizona this week, that rushing game is sure to be tougher than it was against Northern Arizona.

“They’re a pretty fast team so we’re just gonna have to matchup and make plays in open field,” Hodge said. “We’re gonna have to make a few plays.”

GAME NOTES – Arizona is 1-0 all-time against UNLV … The Rebels is mired in a 6-26 slide against teams currently playing in the Pac 12 Conference … UNLV is now 4-10 in its season-openers since 2000, and comes into this Saturday’s battle having lost seven consecutive second games of the season. The Rebels are 3-10 in the second game of their season since 2000, but all three wins did follow season-opening losses … For entertainment purposes only, the Wildcats opened up as 13-point favorites over UNLV, while the total is 61 at various places. The line, however, has been bet down to 10 or 10.5 at most places. … Also for entertainment purposes only, the Rebels are an impressive 4-1 against the spread at home, while the Wildcats are mired in ATS slides of 3-9 after an ATS covers, 2-6 in September and 1-5 against the Mountain West.

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