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Notebook: Rebels facing new challenges in preparation for West Virginia

Travel, emotions make for interesting week as UNLV gets yet another stiff opponent

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Sam Morris

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck congratulates UNR coach Chris Ault after their game on Oct. 3, 2010. UNR won the game, 44-26, to run its win streak over UNLV to six.

UNLV vs. UNR Football

UNLV fan Alex Salvo reacts to a penalty late in Saturday's game against UNR. UNR won the game 44-26 to run their win streak over UNLV to six. Launch slideshow »

No. 25 UNR vs. UNLV

UNR ran its win streak against UNLV to six with a 44-26 victory on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.

The Rebel Room

UNR POSTGAME: Make it six for the Pack

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Ryan Greene, Case Keefer and Ray Brewer discuss everything that was UNR's sixth consecutive victory over UNLV in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon, including Chris Ault's random postgame tirade. Will things get better anytime soon for the Rebels? The guys discuss, starting with what to expect next week when the Rebels travel east to face West Virginia.

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The 2010 UNLV football team is no stranger to taking on national powers at this point.

Between Utah, Wisconsin and — arguably — Nevada-Reno, the Rebels (1-4) are battle-tested to say the least.

Preparing for a Saturday matinee at West Virginia (3-1), though, will present a whole new set of challenges.

Coming off its most emotional week to date under first-year coach Bobby Hauck, which culminated in Saturday's 44-26 loss at home to No. 21 UNR, there's no such thing as a soft landing.

"Obviously, coming off of a rivalry game, win or lose, it's always hard to come back and get back to work and play well," Hauck said at his Monday press conference. "That's just typical. It's one of the pitfalls of playing a rivalry game in the middle of the year."

Hauck was then asked if, with UNR joining the Mountain West in either 2011 or 2012, he'd rather play the Wolf Pack at the end of the season, which was always the case for him at Montana when facing Montana State.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "Whether I get to choose or not I don't know, but I would."

But that's another argument for another time, as 2010 is 2010, and the Rebels have to make do with a trip three time zones away for their first day game of the season.

"West Virginia will be the fastest team we've seen, but we're excited to go back there," he added. "It's a loud, boisterous, good venue."

Not only are the Mountaineers fast, but they'll be rested, too, having not played since a 20-14 loss at LSU on Sept. 25.

Then there's the challenge of the trip itself, which will throw the team off its regular routine.

Instead of leaving town Friday, which is usually the case for road games, the Rebels will practice on campus Thursday morning, then leave that afternoon and take the five-hour flight east.

"We'll try to keep it as consistent as we can," Hauck said. "As I said, traveling west to east, you lose so much time, the flights are long, plus crossing three time zones, the travel's hard."

West Virginia is listed as nearly a four-touchdown favorite, which seems fair when going against a team that could exploit the Rebels' biggest weakness — the run defense, which is allowing 203.8 yards per game — and ranks eighth out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in total defense.

Still, the Rebels will be paid handsomely for any potential troubles, receiving $750,000 for the game, which was scheduled by former athletic director Mike Hamrick.

"Sometimes, you don't get that choice," Hauck said when asked if he preferred to schedule more 'payday games' in the future. "You've got to keep the budget balanced. In terms of finances, these are difficult times, so there's some merit to going and making a paycheck, too."

A banged-up group

UNLV's weekly injury report, which was longer than normal entering the UNR game and is released each Tuesday, will grow even more this week.

Playing such a loaded schedule is starting to take even more of a toll on the Rebels, who are depth-challenged at several positions even at full-strength.

"Playing this schedule is physically hard on our team," he said. "I go back to it all the time: There's winning and losing, and when you're trying to build things, it's difficult to play the type of schedule that we've played."

Devine expected to go

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart on a Monday teleconference said he expects star senior running back Noel Devine to be a full go for Saturday's game.

Devine, who is arguably the fastest of the fast in the Mountaineers' locker room, was held to just 37 yards on 14 carries at LSU while suffering a bone bruise on the bottom of his foot.

It was the only game this season in which the 5-foot-8 Fort Myers, Fla., native was held under 100 yards rushing, and he's approaching the 4,000-yard mark for his illustrious collegiate career.

Stewart said that, on Monday, Devine was doing much better after receiving three separate treatments on the injury, but has yet to take on a full workload in practice.

"We want to win the game as convincingly as we can, and Noel needs work," Stewart said. "It's not like he's arrived yet. We'll get him out (of the game) when I think time permits us to, but he's going to carry the ball, get in and go with it."

If Devine suffers setbacks, it's likely sophomores Tavon Austin and Ryan Clarke would see more carries, as well as freshman Trey Johnson. Also, standout senior receiver Jock Sanders could get some work out of the backfield.

Stewart offers high praise

As of Monday afternoon, Stewart had only had a chance to review UNLV's offense and special teams on tape, but was more than willing to offer some high praise for the unit and Hauck.

He referenced Hauck's record at Montana, then offered some predictions for the future.

"I see him, I see Bobby being a lot like Chris Petersen at Boise State, Dan Hawkins at Boise State before him," he said. "He's in that same mold. He's gonna be a great coach ... he is a great coach. That being said, he's got a lot of young players, a lot of freshmen, a lot of redshirt freshmen in his two-deep, but he's got players."

Three youngsters he started by praising were UNLV's trio of exciting-yet-raw kick returners — freshmen Bradley Randle, Tim Cornett and Marcus Sullivan.

In a film session with his team, Stewart made a point of highlighting UNLV's blocked punt returned for a touchdown against Utah in the season's second game, repeating that without attention to detail on special teams, the Rebels could cause some trouble.

He then continued.

"Omar Clayton is a heck of a quarterback, Channing Trotter, we'd like to have — he's a good, balanced senior running back. I like their receivers. (Phillip) Payne, (Michael) Johnson, both make plays.

"This isn't some fly-by-night operation coming in. They've already played three ranked teams."

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  1. "UNLV is listed as nearly a four-touchdown favorite"

    ....Awesome!!!! I'm about to make some money.

  2. haha, typo, Jeff. You caught that quick!

  3. I tell you one thing with this scudule unlv has they have some real heart on that team! I wonder how tcu would do with the rebs scudule allmost every team they played so far has been ranked so far or allmost ready to be ranked.I wonder if sanford really thought he had enough talent to play these teams?hauk dosent think so...lol

  4. well Ty, the schedule was put together by Hamrick. Who basically added the West Virginia game and then bolted for his alma mater.

  5. @ tysuave, it's not that sanford probably saw the schedule as wondering how well they would do, and when they make these schedules up, they do so well into the future not knowing exactly even if a team will be ranked well.

    You get better by playing better teams. Plain and simple. This schedule is nothing but good for the university and I'd rather take ranked teams any day over someone not ranked simply for exposure and experience.

    Are you guys angry about the WV game? That's one of the biggest games on the schedule and rakes in 3/4 of $1m for UNLV, not to mention national exposure to the entire east coast watching the game.

  6. "Channing Trotter, we'd like to have"

    Stewart is certainly polite ;-)

  7. There is 1 winning team who plays at Sam Boyd Stadium. It's the Locos!!
    I'm not suggesting people stop supporting this horrible mid-major that is UNLV. But get out to SB and watch the Locomotives. NFL calibre football for $15. And our team kicks butt. Very refreshing to have a winner at football for a long time LV resident. Tim Rattay, Ed Hartwell (NFL leader in tackles 2 seasons)and the gang are going to take down Jeff Garcia, Ahman Green(GB all time leading rusher) and their Omaha Nighthawks this Friday. Wooohooo! Gonna be a good one.

  8. Watch a very good West Virginia team execute it's offense and defense.

  9. I will be at the locos game friday,then the next day I will be watching the rebels play on sat.I want to see alot more of calab at qb, he looks like he has a nice touch on his passes!

  10. SNYDERM...That is insider info!Just add him to the list, opposing players, coach of Utah! We run our mouths. But the people that matter, know the truth. He is not kidding! That is not polite!

  11. Film