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Take Five: Getting to know Hawaii

Warriors’ always-prolific offense looks to feast on struggling UNLV defense in Rebels’ home opener

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AP FILE PHOTO

Hawaii senior quarterback Bryant Moniz, who threw for 5,040 yards and 39 touchdowns as a junior in 2010, has proven to be just as dangerous with his legs as he is with his accurate right arm so far in 2011. He’ll lead the Warriors into Sam Boyd Stadium for a 7 p.m. clash with UNLV Saturday night.

The Rebel Room

Here come's Hawaii

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer take a closer look at this weekend's UNLV home opener at Sam Boyd Stadium, as the struggling Rebels defense will hardly have a soft landing from its two tough road trips, welcoming in the always prolific Hawaii Warriors for a Saturday night showdown. Does UNLV have a chance? What type of result would be considered a success?

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UNLV and Hawaii will square off at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday night in the Rebels’ 2011 home opener, and if you’re looking for recent trends to help determine the outcome, there are a couple of options.

If you look back over the last few seasons, UNLV has had decent success at home against Hawaii, taking three of the last four meetings in Las Vegas. The most recent was a 34-33 thriller in 2009, when Phillip Payne caught a game-winning touchdown pass over Warriors corner Tank Hopkins in the final minute.

But maybe a bit more realistic is basing a prediction off of UNLV’s performances — specifically on the defensive side of the ball — over its last two games, when the Rebels allowed a total of 1,109 yards of offense and 110 points.

Before that, in the Rebels’ 2010 season finale, they were stomped by the Warriors in Honolulu, 59-21, giving up 606 yards of total offense to a 10-win Hawaii team who had scored big on pretty much everyone it faced to that point.

This game could go in either direction: It could be another rough outing against a pass-happy offense reminiscent of last Saturday’s 59-7 throttling at Washington State, or UNLV’s offense could find its rhythm again and turn it into an entertaining shootout.

Either way, here’s what you need to know about UNLV’s upcoming visitors, who the Rebels will tussle with a 7 p.m. The game can be seen on The Mtn.

    • Bryant Moniz
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      1. Moniz is money

      Over the years, Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense has made stars out of several prolific passers. Senior Bryant Moniz is the latest to join that line.

      Moniz erupted as a junior in 2010, throwing for 5,040 yards and 39 touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes. Though several of his key weapons graduated and moved on after last season, he's still putting up strong numbers to this point.

      In Hawaii's first two games, he's completed 65.4 percent of his throws for 511 yards and two touchdowns, but it's clear that the new guys around him are still getting comfortable. A year ago, he averaged 360 passing yards and 2.8 touchdown tosses a game. So far this year, those averages are at 255.5 and one, respectively.

      Where he appears to be more dangerous, though, is with his legs. He ran for 102 yards and four touchdowns all of last season. But so far in 2011, he has 123 yards on 23 attempts and four scores.

    • Sterling Jackson
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      2. Struggling on the run

      Last season, part of what made Moniz so dangerous was the lingering threat of a strong running attack, keeping opposing defenses honest.

      Hawaii has never been known for its standout running backs, but Alex Green certainly is being missed so far this season. He carried the ball just over 10 times a game last season for the Warriors, but rushed for 1,163 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging eight yards per carry.

      He also caught 27 passes for 368 yards before going on to be a third-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers.

      Hawaii starts four seniors on the offensive line, but its young running backs are still getting settled. Freshman Joey Iosefa and junior Sterling Jackson so far have combined for only 102 yards on 29 carries.

      The UNLV run defense is allowing an average of 190 rushing yards per game so far this season, so Hawaii’s offense might be able to strike a little bit better balance come Saturday night.

    • Corey Paredes
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      3. Stingy front

      Hawaii’s experienced defensive front has definitely delivered so far against the run. Of the Warriors’ front seven, five are seniors. They rank 27th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in run defense.

      That ranking is largely aided by their opening night performance against Colorado, when they held the Buffs to just 28 rushing yards. That number was chopped down thanks to seven quarterback sacks, but they still held Colorado starting tailback Rodney Stewart to 52 yards on 18 carries.

      Washington’s Chris Polk found more success than Stewart did a week ago, racking up 107 yards on 22 totes, but still, Hawaii’s defensive front won’t break easily. They’ve recorded nine sacks in two games, and UNLV’s young offensive line will have to perform much better than it did a week ago at Washington State.

      The guy to watch for is senior linebacker Corey Paredes, a preseason All-WAC selection who had four tackles, a stop for loss and an interception last year against the Rebels.

    • UNLV vs. Hawaii
      Photo by Sam Morris

      4. Neutral site advantage?

      The makeup of the Sam Boyd Stadium crowd Saturday night could be intriguing. Las Vegas is typically referred to as Hawaii’s ninth island, and last time the Warriors played in town, it showed.

      They’ll likely again have plenty of support in the stands this time around, while UNLV’s might be fleeting. Even though the Rebels have yet to play a home game in 2011, last weekend’s rout at Washington State in a game many expected them to be competitive in may have killed off a good amount of the buzz the program had coming into this season, and some fans may opt to stay home.

      Either way, Hawaii won’t be suffering from any form of jet lag. They flew straight to Vegas following their game at Washington a week ago and have been living out of suitcases here in town since then while training and practicing at Bishop Gorman High School.

    • Royce Pollard
      Photo by AP FILE PHOTO

      5. The X-factor

      If the skill position guys are going to rally around Moniz and become as fluid a group as last year’s was, it’s going to start with senior receiver Royce Pollard. He’s Hawaii’s top returning receiver from a year ago, when he caught 64 passes for 901 yards and seven touchdowns.

      So far this year, he has 12 catches for 157 yards and no scores but could have his first monster outing against a UNLV secondary that ranks 118th in the FBS against the pass. He had seven catches for 95 yards and a touchdown a year ago against the Rebels.

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    1. 5 of the past 7 years have been 2-win seasons for UNLV. 2 wins! This year we've been outscored 110 to 24 points. I love UNLV but seasons and seasons of garbage football have taken a toll. It's embarrassing. The difference between UNR and UNLV is they have an on-campus stadium they can build tradition around each year and Vegas is stuck with a piece of crap dump in no-mans land that symbolizes loserville. Hawaii will kill us. Southern Utah might kill us. All we do is lose and lose and lose and lose in football. And then other times we lose ugly. The situation has become serious and it's time to change. An opportunity to build a real stadium for UNLV is here and I really hope Nevada officials don't miss the boat on it. There's no reason why every single town in America has to have a much better football team than Las Vegas. And there's a TON of reasons why Las Vegas SHOULD produce an elite football team. Build the new stadium on UNLV's campus and watch it transform the school, and the city... because after 30 years of the same inexcusable nonsense, it's time to create something. My question is how can the public get involved and help support the new stadium? We're WAY overdue on this.

    2. A new stadium is key

    3. This won't be much of a game, but at least it's going to be televised. Hawaii is going to score at will with this offense, but I think UNLV will score as well. Going to be a blowout.

    4. With a -20.5 spread feel free to picks the pockets of Wynn or Adelson....

    5. UNLV has to either put up or shut up. Well, Las Vegas, too. Time for serious questions: Why is UNLV in the Mountain West Conference? Maybe it should be in the WAC. Maybe even in class I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision). Step down, start winning & generate enthusiasm & then come back to the MWC. Maybe winning in a lower league will generate the enthusiasm for a new stadium.

      Consider Boise State. It started small & grew big. UNLV is in the other position: It started big when maybe it should have started in the FCS. It will be interesting to see how UNLV competes w/ Southern Utah, an FCS school. Winning, whether in the FCS or the WAC, will generate enthusiasm. Montana is already considering a move to the WAC from the FCS. I doubt Las Vegans would be saddened by the Rebels winning national football championships in the FCS.

      Another point: Going to the WAC or even the FCS (Big Sky Conference?), will certainly free up a lot of money now paid to coaches. That $400K for Hauck could, say, free up at least $200K for hiring/keeping UNLV academic faculty.

      It boils down to what Las Vegas, UNLV, and Nevada want & are willing to pay for. DocRebel is right: The present course of putting band-aids on a gaping wound is nonsense.

    6. We have gone 4-24 on 3rd down conversions on offense and have only forced a total of 3 punts and 1 turnover on defense.

      Another interesting statistic.. We have a higher total time of possession than our 2 opponents, and only 1 turnover, yet we were out-scored 110-24 in those 2 games.

      We may be "heading in the right direction" but right now our team is terrible.. I'll still be there Saturday night though, hoping the players at least try hard the whole game..

    7. You don't get it. There's discussions now about an on-campus stadium. By substantially enhancing the UNLV profile with a new on-campus stadium you enable yourself to hire better coaches who win more. You really think we're just hiring bad coaches over and over and over because we're dumb? Please. No real coach wants to come here. That's all UNLV can lure in. Sorry but that approach has failed over 30 years now, looking for the right coach to fix everything. The current state of UNLV football is a beginner point for any coach, a stepping stone.

      Capitalize on the new on-campus stadium and you instantly change the program base, the school, and tradition in major ways.

      Sorry but "eventually" doesn't work anymore.

    8. I agree with both jahreb & DocRebel. Both have valid points that are legitimate. I agree that a standard of games needs to set on any coaching staff especially going into the 3rd year of being on campus. If you cannot produce in your 3rd year something promising it is not going to happen for you. As much as I hate to say it Sanford's team showed promise in his 3rd year. Where Sanford failed was he refused to hire a defensive coordinator & it cost him his job but at least his teams could move the ball & score points.

      I also believe that you do whatever you can to help build your program & become relevant, even if that means building a 60,000 seat on campus stadium. That would add so much life to the university & put them in a position to begin some kind of tradition. That would definately be a selling point for a proven coach who might be looking for a new gig. Something needs to happen soon because this train wreck of a football team is a mockery. Its like who cares anymore? UNLV really!!!

    9. Patience is needed. I believe hauch can turn this team for good but myself have to get rid of some assistant coaches