Despite 0-2 start, Rebels remain upbeat

Posted: September 13, 2013 in NCAAF
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Junior Brett Boyko, coach Bobby Hauck and senior Tim Hasson were upbeat at this week’s press conference.

By  W. G. Ramirez

UNLV executed well and simply suffered some tough breaks to fall apart against Minnesota and lost 51-23 two weeks ago in the season opener. Coach Bobby Hauck showed up at his weekly press conference appearing a bit dismayed and simply drained mentally.

UNLV looked abysmal against Arizona in the Rebels’ home opener last Saturday, falling behind 45-6 at the half, getting outgained offensively 478-282 and eventually getting thumped, 58-13. Hauck, along with senior Tim Hasson and junior Brett Boyko, all walked into this past Monday’s press conference upbeat, jovial and joking with reporters.

Go figure.

“We gotta regroup and attack this week,” Hauck said. “Arizona beat us soundly; it’s time to move on from that one.”

Said Boyko: “We haven’t shown our full potential yet. We gotta strive for that. There are always positives you can take (out of losses).”

Well alrighty then. On to Central Michigan, which is 1-1 after rallying with 17 fourth-quarter points to get past New Hampshire last week for a 24-21 victory.

“We can’t let a 0-2 start just be the end of our season,” Hasson said. “There are plenty of teams in the past who even this year will lose their first two games and still go on to get a bowl game or get a winning season.”

The only thing missing was a LeBron James-like throne for Santa Claus and Christmas music; it was so positive and jolly.

And though oddsmakers just minutes up the street from Rebel Park have made the Rebels a double-digit favorite, the Chippewas are no slouch. Besides, who are the Rebels to take any team lightly and assume a team out of the Mid-American Conference is an easy win. After all, Northern Arizona came into Sam Boyd Stadium last year as a 13.5-underdog and won outright, 17-14.

“We’re aware they’re a good team, they have been,” said Hauck, about the Chippewas. “We just gotta get ready to go this week. We’re two weeks into the season (and) our opponents have scored six touchdowns (with) our defense on the bench.”

Hauck was talking about the many mistakes his team has made, including three interceptions returned for a touchdown, a fumble recovery taken to the house, a blocked field goal returned for six and a kickoff returned for a TD.

“No one is gonna win when you do those things,” said Hauck, who is now 6-34 in his fourth year as coach of the Rebels.

And while he is well aware CMU ranks No. 1 in the MAC in interceptions with four, Hauck is hoping his athletic secondary can create a few miscues in the Rebels’ favor this week, as CMU will hand the offense over to redshirt freshman quarterback Cooper Rush, who will be making his first career start. Rush saw his action last weekend against New Hampshire, and helped the Chippewas in their comeback win. The strong-armed QB finished the game completing 19-of-32 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.

And while the Chipps are confident in their young gun, Hauck remained firm on his confidence in Nick Sherry, who was benched last week during the Arizona debacle. Caleb Herring stepped in for Sherry, who was just 6 of 22 for 111 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions – both of which were returned for touchdowns.

“Our starting quarterback a week ago set a school record for completions in a game; and the next week we have a meltdown,” Hauck said. “My assessment of Nick is he is a tough kid. He’s the guy who has the ability to bounce back. Within a game, that’s probably an art that more veteran players have. Week in, week out I think he’s shown the ability to pull himself out of it.”

The bottom line is whether or not the entire team and coaching staff as a whole can pull themselves out of it, and produce a victory in the middle game of this crucial three-game homestand. Next week is no picnic, with Western Illinois visiting, and all the FCS schools that have already scored upsets.

“We’ve got the guys in the locker room who want to compete and want to play hard,” Boyko said. “We’ve got the guys who want to win. When you’ve got those types of guys in the locker room, it makes you want to head in the right direction.”

Added Hauck: “It’s about winning and losing and we aren’t (winning) right now. Winning is good, losing is horrible. There’s nothing good about it, there’s nothing to gain from it and winning is good.

“It’ll be alright; it’ll be alright. We played two good teams and we didn’t beat ’em. We’ll be alright.”

Well alrighty then. Bring on Central Michigan!

UNLV vs. CMU – Central Michigan has played UNLV three times, with all three meetings taking place in the span of two seasons (1993-94). CMU lost to the Rebels in Las Vegas on Sept. 18, 1993, 33-20, in the first-ever meeting. On Sept. 10, 1994, the Chippewas returned the favor in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., by earning a 35-23 victory. The most high-profile clash was a rematch of the second meeting, on Dec. 15 1994, when the two met in the Las Vegas Bowl. Led by all-purpose back Henry Bailey, UNLV stymied the Chippewas, 52-24.

QUARTERBACK COMPETITION – As much confidence as Hauck has for Sherry, the quarterback job is certainly there for the taking after the first two weeks. Although Herring didn’t dazzle anyone last Saturday in place of Sherry, as he completed just 3 of 5 pass attempts for a mere 14 yards, Hauck knows what he’s capable of and liked his ready-to-go attitude when called upon. And with the two battling all week at Rebel Park during practices, it’s no surprise Hauck said he may wait until gameday to name his starter.

“We’ve said all along we feel like we have two guys that have game experience, and that’s a real benefit to the team,” Hauck said. “Some guys get it going, or they don’t. Obviously we like our guy – we like our guys, plural. We feel like they’re capable.

“The quarterback is the most visible part, but for all of us, Saturday is the exam. You prepare all week, and you get to go out and perform.”

Whoever Hauck hands the rock to, Sherry or Herring, he better be ready to pass that exam.

KEY MATCHUP – Central Michigan Titus Davis is doing his best to build his brand, as one of the nation’s top receivers. Last week he torched New Hampshire’s secondary, for 184 yards on six receptions, including two touchdowns. Among his six catches was a 97-yard scoring play, the junior wideout’s second 90-plus yard touchdown catch of his career.

UNLV’s senior defensive back Tim Hasson knows how crucial a win is Saturday night, so don’t be surprised if he’s called upon to key in on and put the clamps on Davis.

“I feel like our best game has yet to be seen,” Hasson said. “And that’s where a lot of guys are still confident. Our guys are capable of making the plays that we didn’t make (in the first two games). I know we’re better than that. We didn’t play as good as we can, we didn’t execute our assignments.”

Against a receiver like Davis, who led CMU with 860 receiving yards, eight receiving touchdowns, and a 71.7 receiving yards per game average in 2012, executing assignments will be a must.

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