rebels football:

UNLV’s rebuilding project nothing in comparison to Washington State’s

Cougars, which won just five games from 2008 to ‘10, opened this fall with a lopsided victory against Idaho State

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Andy Manis / AP

UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck, right, gives direction to Jordan Sparkman (85) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Madison, Wis.

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UNLV had plenty of positives and negatives in its opener at Wisconsin. After seeing the performance, how do you think they fare next Saturday at Washington State?

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The UNLV football team’s Saturday opponent is a perfect example that rebuilding a program takes time.

Washington State, which won just five games from 2008 to 2010 in fielding one of the worst teams on the West Coast, is starting to show signs of winning its way out of the bottom of the Pac-12 standings. It hosts the Rebels, which are going through their own rebuilding pains, at 2 p.m. in Pullman, Wash.

The Cougars closed last season by upsetting Oregon State 31-14 on the road and giving Washington everything it could handle in the Apple Cup rivalry game in a seven-point loss. Then, it opened 2011 last week by easily handling Idaho State, scoring 47 unanswered points to start the game in a 64-21 victory.

“They have improved dramatically,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “From the end of the ’09 season and start of last season until now, they are vastly improved.”

Washington State coach Paul Wulff and Hauck come from a similar background. They previously coached against each other at Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the Big Sky Conference, with Hauck’s Montana teams posting a 4-1 record against Wulff’s squads at Eastern Washington.

Wulff, who took the Washington State job after the 2007 season, has struggled in the rebuilding process with a 5-32 record in his initial three seasons. It’s the same drill for Hauck at UNLV.

UNLV, which is a 14-point betting underdog, is expected to start four freshmen and six sophomores in attempting to win its first road game in nine tries under Hauck. Since 2007, UNLV has just three road wins.

“We are tasked this week with going on the road again to face another BCS conference opponent. Certainly that is a tall order for us,” Hauck said.

But it’s not nearly as impossible as last week’s game against nationally ranked Wisconsin. The Rebels surrendered 499 yards of offense, including 241 rushing yards, and were physically overmatched at virtually every position in 51-17 loss.

Despite the lopsided defeat and defensive shortcomings, UNLV was able to move the ball efficiently at times with sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring completing 18-of-27 passes for two touchdowns and leading the Rebels on a pair of second half scoring drives.

“We did some things we can hang our hat on,” Hauck said. “There was certainly some bright spots when you dig into it. The scoreboard wasn’t one of those.”

The scoreboard won’t favor the Rebels until they shore up their problems defensively. Wisconsin moved the ball with relative ease in leading 51-3 late in the third quarter — a fact that will serve as motivation during practice this week for members of the Rebels defense.

“We worked real hard all fall camp on tackling and running to the ball,” defensive back Will Chandler said. “It just didn’t come together. We took it to heart and we are working hard to fix it.”

UNLV has a 3-23 record away from Sam Boyd Stadium since 2007, but playing at Washington State’s Martin Stadium should be a welcome change from last week. Martin Stadium has a capacity of 35,117, which is less than half of the 77,085 fans last week at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.

“Once you subtract all of the outside distractions, it is just playing football,” Herring said. “Wherever you are, it is 100 yards to get to the end zone.”

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  1. Call me a 'homer', but I think UNLV has a shot this weekend. If this game were at SBS I think they should be favored.

    Nonetheless, Washington State is not Wisconsin. Wazzu certainly does not have the size up-front of Wisconsin and that is where UNLV gets exposed. Plus, Caleb Herring was unfazed and fairly effective in Madison. Unless he has a major regression, he should be very fun to watch in Pullman.

    UNLV fans long for hope. Bobby Hauck provides that. Go Rebs! Win this game (or stay close) and we'll see the bandwagon gain some passengers.

  2. As for Wazzu not having size up front... you do know our offensive line average 6'5 and 300lbs, right? I think if our QB Jeff Tuel didn't get injured, the score would be similar to UNLV's opener, but with our backup QB playing, I think WSU wins 38-10.

  3. sorry Wazzu_LV but Wisconsin you are not. 42-38 Washington St wins, but we're still pulling for the Rebel upset.

  4. All we need to do is score 40 points guys.. We're 2-0 under Hauck when scoring 40 or more points. :)

    I honestly don't know much about WSU.. hopefully we can play with them a little better than we did against Wisconsin.

  5. I think if we played Wazzu last season, we win the game. This season they are vastly improved. I hope for an upset still, but I dont think it's going to happen looking at our last game and our absent defense. I was a little more hopeful before I saw the Wisconsin beatdown.

  6. Wade,

    Cut to the chase; what is your point prediction, my bookie is waiting.

    Just kidding.... it is amazing how well you did last week.

    I am not seeing it yet. Our offense will certainly be able to score but can they score enough to offset our defensive?

  7. If you want to see video on Wazzu's last game: http://youtu.be/CHQzDbXinYs

    As for some analysis on our team, Cougcenter.com does a pretty good job.

  8. My prediction as of now (something else might come up though, like players not making the trip, or academics, or injuries, etc):
    33-21 Wazzu. Please prove me wrong Rebels.

  9. So what Wazzu beat up on a bottom feeder FCS team. I think UNLV goes up to Pullman and squeaks one out in a fairly high scoring game. UNLV 45 WSU 38 Washington State would have a tough time with New Mexico. I got faith in the rebels on this one, take the spread, use some caution with the money line.

  10. Wazzu_LV... are you really posting highlights of the first game of the season and pointing us to a breakdown when Washington State (of the PAC 12 played THE WORST team in the Big Sky Conference in Idaho State? Give me a break.

    QB Jeff Tuel is 2-14 in games in which he was the primary quarterback/starter. Yet if he was in, WSU would beat us by 30+? Really!?!?

    Let's cut to the chase, you created your profile today because this is the first time in years you could actually talk mess about a "real" university during football season before a game. Nice. Beat up on the worst team in a bad conference and all of the sudden WSU is on the same level as Wisconsin?

    I'm not saying UNLV is going to go up there and pull off the upset. I really don't think they will, but they have a shot. I think we'll see a high scoring game and WSU will win by 7 - 10 points. In reality, UNLV is better than Idaho State and WSU is nowhere near as good as Wisconsin. Should be a pretty good game.

  11. haha well, they play the game for a reason.. we'll just have to wait and see :)

  12. Here is the issue. Washington State beats up on a very bad FCS level team in Idaho State, and probably has a somewhat puffed up image of itself as they prepare for the Rebels to come to town. Meanwhile, UNLV travels to Madison and gets bludgeoned by a very good Badger team that will contend for a BCS Bowl and a Big-10 championship; thus my guess is the Rebel team is in need of some confidence.

    The truth lies in the middle somewhere. Washington State is still a 4-6 win team, and after losing their starting QB they will probably squeak out no more than 2-5 wins. UNLV on the other hand got their paycheck from the Badgers and now face an opponent with a closer talent base. Looking at this game on paper, I see some advantages on some levels (primarily QB and Coaching) for UNLV but some serious disadvantages for the Rebels (chiefly UNLV's o-line vs. WSU's d-line).

    UNLV is not going to contend for the Mountain West or make a magical run at a BCS Bowl in year two in this regime. They can nonetheless, beat a quality BCS school (quality meaning Wazzu has showed marked improvement and that's generally accepted amongst college football pundits) and give this coaching staff another tool in it's arsenal while they're on the recruiting trail.

    A must win for the Rebels? No, certainly not. It would be HUGE in terms of picking this fan base up and a rallying cry to make a outside run at a postseason game.

    I'll keep saying it, UNLV is a sleeping giant. If this program can win a few recruiting battles, and with the right coaching staff, they can do what Boise State is doing and what Utah accomplished (not join a BCS conference necessarily but make plenty of noise nationally). UNLV fans should be optimistic and cheer on the Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium as this team and program will get better in due course.

  13. UNLV can not afford to take any matchup for granted! Loosing in the PAC....well 12 now is a bit different than loosing in the WAC. I'm sure WSU is looking at UNLV as a chance to get a W just the same. Hopefully the Rebs take one this week but if the Rebs win they will have to take it. WSU won't give us anything.