Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
- Mountain Best: League has a few tricks and treats left heading into November
- Rebels trying to ignore poor record and finish strong, starting with New Mexico
- Sherry expected to start, though UNLV’s offensive line still in flux
- UNLV quarterback improving but still not cleared to start on Saturday
- Mountain Best: Teams around the league doing their best to avoid a meltdown
- Sherry injured as Rebels drop forgettable 32-7 decision at Boise State
- All UNLV Football Coverage
This is the one game the UNLV football team was expected to win.
When the Rebels’ schedule was finalized last spring, a home game with New Mexico at the beginning of November appeared to be a sure-thing notch in the win column.
Sure, the Rebels entered the season with two wins in each of the past two seasons, but New Mexico was even worse. It posted 1-11 records in the past two years, and last year it scored 10 or fewer points in eight games.
Enter first-year New Mexico coach Bob Davie and the 1 p.m. contest Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium might not go according to plan for UNLV.
Davie, a former Notre Dame coach and television commentator, has turned around the program in a few months, grabbing wins in four of the initial seven games to open the season — a mark that equals UNLV’s win total for the past two years. Also, New Mexico’s 32-29 loss last month at home to league power Boise State might be its most impressive result of the season.
“I look at some of the things these kids have been able to accomplish and it’s pretty exciting,” Davie said.
Here are five notes to get you ready for Saturday’s game:
1. The Rebels are favored: UNLV is a 4-point betting favorite against New Mexico. And, judging by the Rebels’ past results against the point spread, that might not be a good thing. UNLV has been favored three other times in the past two years — last year against Southern Utah and New Mexico, and this year against Northern Arizona — and has lost each contest straight up. The line opened with UNLV laying 3.5 points and has been bet up to 4.5 at some sports books, meaning gamblers are siding with the Rebels.
2. Davie gives credit to UNLV: New Mexico’s rebuilding process with Davie calling the shots could be considered ahead of UNLV’s in Bobby Hauck’s third year at the helm, but Davie told reporters earlier in the week that UNLV isn’t far behind. “They’ve done it the right way,” he said. “You look at their roster and (Marcus Sullivan) and (Devante Davis), their two sophomore receivers, are very talented. They have a redshirt freshman quarterback who’s really good. They have two running backs who are very good. They have built that program; they really have. They’ve played a lot of close games and are really talented.”
3. Most important game of the year for the Rebs: It’s easy to argue this is UNLV’s most important game of the year. At 1-8 overall and 1-3 in the Mountain West Conference, the Rebels won’t have a winning season or play in a bowl game for another season. But with five winnable games on the schedule to close the year, UNLV can gain much-needed momentum for next season by winning out. Yes, that sounds crazy considering two games — Nov. 10 at Colorado State and Nov. 24 to close the season at Hawaii — are road contests, and the Rebels haven’t won on the road in more than 20 games. Simply put, Saturday against New Mexico is a game they should win. Beat New Mexico and the players will start to gain confidence. Lose this game and it could be hard to keep them focused the rest of the way.
4. New Mexico playing for a bowl: At 4-5 overall, New Mexico has to win three of its remaining four games to become eligible for a bowl game. After UNLV, the Lobos host Wyoming and UNR in consecutive weeks before closing the season Nov. 24 at Colorado. Posting a 3-1 mark in November is an attainable goal.
5. New Mexico’s QB situation: New Mexico completed just four passes in last week’s loss to Fresno State, finishing the game with third-stringer Quinton McCown after injuries forced B.R. Holbrook and Cole Gautsche out of the lineup. Gautsche and McCown, two first-year signal callers, are New Mexico’s only available quarterbacks on scholarship. Barring a setback, Davie said Gautsche will be the starting quarterback. Regardless, New Mexico also will run several plays out of the wildcat formation with receiver Lamaar Thomas or running back Kasey Carrier. “That problem is not going away, so we need to have a contingency plan at quarterback over these next four games,” Davie said.