Rebels football:

Take 5: UNLV trying to duplicate effort of 2002 Rebels against Colorado State

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UNLV running back Larry Croom is chased by Colorado State defensive back Ben Stratton on a 31 yard run during the first quarter of the Rams 24-23 Mountain West Conference come-from-behind win Saturday, November 22, 2003 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Croom picked up 89 yards rushing for the game.

Larry Croom

UNLV running back Larry Croom is chased by Colorado State defensive back Ben Stratton on a 31 yard run during the first quarter of the Rams 24-23 Mountain West Conference come-from-behind win Saturday, November 22, 2003 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Croom picked up 89 yards rushing for the game. Launch slideshow »

Records are established to be broken.

On Saturday, the UNLV football team could shatter two ugly streaks in Fort Collins, Colo., against host Colorado State.

The Rebels (2-8 overall, 2-3 Mountain West) are 2-point betting favorites to beat the Rams (2-7 overall, 1-4 league), which would snap a 20-game losing streak dating to the 2009 season. A victory also would give UNLV consecutive wins for the first time since 2008.

This is the last of three games on the 2012 schedule, all of which UNLV could win. After beating New Mexico 35-7 last week, that would give the Rebels a four-game winning streak to close the season in coach Bobby Hauck’s third year.

And, for the players, plenty of reasons to be excited.

“College football games are hard to win,” Hauck said. “Our guys put in a lot of time and effort. If they win, they should be excited. We never take anything for granted.”

Here are five notes to prepare you for Saturday’s game:

Remember the 2002 victory at Colorado State? That’s when UNLV upset then-13th-ranked Colorado State, 36-33. Colorado State won the Mountain West Conference title in 2002, but on Nov. 30, the Rams came up short against the Rebels. Larry Croom, who later played for the Arizona Cardinals, rushed for 222 yards and a touchdown for UNLV. Kurt Nantkes had three touchdown passes for the Rebels in relief of Jason Thomas, including a 29-yard scoring strike to DeJhown Mandley with 46 seconds remaining for the game-winning points. The day belonged to Croom, who rushed for 146 second-half yards and set up two more UNLV scores with runs of 50 yards or longer. Colorado State had clinched the league title the week prior and clearly overlooked UNLV, which snapped the Rams’ six-game winning streak.

Coaching staff connection: UNLV offensive coordinator Brent Myers’ roommate in college at Eastern Washington was Colorado State coach Jim McElwain. On the football team, McElwain was the quarterback and Myers was the center. After they finished playing, they spent six years together coaching on the Eastern Washington staff. The connection with McElwain and UNLV doesn’t stop there. The first-year Colorado State coach grew up in Montana and was the son of a coach — just like Hauck. “I know what a great coach Bobby is, and I know what he believes in, and his success at Montana is unbelievable as a head ball coach,” McElwain told the Coloradoan. “And he did that with toughness; he did that with discipline; he did that with getting the right guys in there. And you know? He’s doing that (at UNLV), and you can tell even from last year’s films, he has dramatically reshaped who they are. He’s playing some guys that they’ve redshirted and now are playing and getting the guys in that he wants.”

Tackle master: UNLV senior linebacker John Lotulelei needs four tackles Saturday for 100 takedowns on the season, trying to become the first Rebel defender to accomplish the feat since Jason Beachamp in 2008. The 6-foot, 235-pound Lotulelei is averaging 9.6 tackles per game, which ranks third in the Mountain West Conference and 28th nationally.

Rebs breaking more records: Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry ranks sixth in Mountain West league history for passing yards by a freshman with 2,290 yards. He needs 373 yards to surpass the league record of 2,662 yards by former Colorado State signal caller Pete Thomas. Earlier this year, Sherry passed for 378 yards at Louisiana Tech, so it’s possible. He’s averaging 229 yards per game with 14 touchdowns. With three games remaining, Sherry needs 1,488 yards to break Sam King’s school record for single-season passing yards at 3,778. Jon Denton’s freshman record of 3,591 yards — set in the 1990s when the Rebels were in the WAC — also is within reach.

UNLV to face another backup QB: When Conner Smith makes his third start at quarterback for Colorado State in place of the injured Garrett Grayson, it will be the sixth time in 11 games this year UNLV has faced a backup signal caller. Until beating New Mexico last week, UNLV failed to defeat the reserve quarterback. The Rebels also faced a backup against Northern Arizona, Washington State, UNR, San Diego State and New Mexico.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Playing in Fort Collin's won't be easy Weather could be a huge factor