Rebels face unique situation with December road trip to Hawaii

Hauck bemoans missing the beginning of winter recruiting period

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Sam Morris

UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck puts his hand on his head during the second half of their game against Saturday, October 30, 2010. Fourth-ranked TCU won the game 48-6.

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San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman gets drilled out of bounds by UNLV's Alec DeGiacomo after gaining 15 yards in the first quarter of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010, in San Diego. Launch slideshow »

Hawaii in December would sound like the perfect destination for most people, but not UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck. Not this week, at least.

Hauck and UNLV (2-10) finish off their season with a rare December regular season game at No. 25 Hawaii (9-3) at 7:30 Saturday night.

Hauck gave a blunt response when asked what the positives were of playing in Hawaii at the end of the season.

“I can’t come up with one,” Hauck said. “We’ve got to come back right after the game, it’s finals week, our guys aren’t going to be prepared for finals, we’ve got to get into recruiting. There’s just not a lot of positives to playing them on Dec. 4.”

The Rebels practice schedule will also take a hit. Because of the six-hour commercial flight, UNLV will leave Thursday after only three days of preparation in Las Vegas.

The team will hold a walkthrough practice in Hawaii Friday afternoon.

“Going over there is really a difficult trip,” Hauck said.

That’s why the Warriors hold one of the most notable home field advantages in the country. Hawaii, which leads the nation in passing offense, has gone 5-1 at home this season with the only loss coming to USC in its opening game of the year.

“They’re bowl bound and they look every bit a bowl-caliber team,” Hauck said. “They’ve done a really nice job this year. They’ve won at home by big scores.”

Predictably, the players are more enthusiastic about the trip. The seniors are looking at the game as a chance to go out on a high note.

Senior safety Alex De Giacomo said he would treat the experience like going to a bowl game.

“Getting to play in Hawaii in an extra game in the season means another opportunity to go out there and give it your all,” De Giacomo said.

If there’s anything UNLV could gain from the experience, it’s an extra week of practice with its young players. Hauck said he planned to hold extended practices for the Rebels underclassmen during the week.

UNLV will once again be relying on them against the Warriors. The Rebels will start as many as nine underclassmen and six freshmen at Aloha Stadium.

But Hauck stopped short of comparing this week’s practices to those of a bowl week. He noted that teams in bowl games have multiple weeks to work with.

“Bowl practices are really good in terms of building a team,” Hauck said. “It’s a great advantage to those who are in them.”

While an extra game could benefit the current youngsters on the team, it hurts the prospects of landing of future players. This is the first of three weeks of college football’s open Winter recruitment period.

Hauck said he would normally host 10 to 12 recruits on the UNLV campus this weekend and travel the country during the week for in-home visits. Another game makes that impossible.

“A lot of people are making their decisions,” Hauck said. “Certainly, losing 33 percent of the contact time doesn’t help. Next week, we’ll have to hit the ground running.”

The only other time UNLV traveled to Hawaii in December came in 2000, when the Rebels won 34-32. The Rebels will become more used to the trip after this year, as they will face the Warriors every season upon their arrival in the Mountain West in 2012.

By then, this year’s senior class hopes Hauck has the Rebels in shape to be a contender. They could start by setting the tone this weekend.

“It’s important to send this team into the next year with a win and get this thing on the right foot,” said senior offensive lineman John Gianninoto. “Hopefully, the guys below me can build on it and become a great team.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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