UNLV football:

Rebels can either embrace challenge of Boise State or wither after UNR loss

UNLV blew a great chance to defeat its rival last Saturday, but thinking about that game will only make this weekend on the Smurf Turf more difficult

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck and UNR coach Chris Ault shake hands after their game Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNR came from behind and won the game, for the eighth consecutive time, 42-37.

Updated Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 | 5:43 p.m.

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Where does UNLV go after its cannon misfire?

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer, Case Keefer and Taylor Bern diagnose UNLV football's heartbreak against that team to the north while giving Rebels fans some life with info on the newest basketball recruit.

For now, at least, the battle cry inside UNLV’s locker room seems to have fallen silent. The Rebels belted it so loudly in the first half of Saturday’s 42-37 loss to UNR that they’re still catching their breath after getting punched in the stomach.

It’s hard to get back up after getting knocked down like that, after leading by as much as 21 against the team you most want to beat and then watching as they end up winning for the eighth straight year. Scuffles broke out in the Sam Boyd Stadium stands as the game got closer and closer, with UNLV fans seemingly trying to put up a fight for their team.

That feeling in the pit of the Rebels’ stomachs doesn’t just go away like the disappointment after other losses this season. This is different, and UNLV coach Bobby Hauck is treating it as such.

“We can’t let Reno beat us again,” Hauck said Monday from the Lied Athletic Complex. “My biggest concern this week is getting our players back off that game.”

Depending on your view, No. 24 Boise State (5-1, 2-0) is either the perfect next opponent for UNLV (1-6, 1-1) or the absolute worst.

Those who think this game in Boise is well-placed in the schedule may simply point to the Broncos’ recent success and the number in front of their name. It’s easier to get up for a game, the theory goes, when the opponent is as good as Boise State. UNLV senior offensive lineman Doug Zismann acknowledged that getting lost in the Broncos’ game tape likely would put the Wolf Pack further out of the Rebels’ minds.

Of course, the more you watch that tape, the more you realize just how good Boise State is, especially at home. Since the 1999 season, the Broncos are 85-3 at Bronco Stadium, home of the Smurf Turf. Another daunting factoid for opponents: Boise State hasn’t lost in October since 2001, a streak it continued with last week’s 20-10 victory against Fresno State (4-3, 2-1).

In the past few years, former quarterback Kellen Moore got almost all of the national headlines for Boise State. It’s not that he didn’t deserve them, Hauck said, but the program is much bigger than that one guy.

“He was so good that it overshadowed some things they were doing,” Hauck said. “They were pretty spectacular on defense the past couple of years, and they are again this year.”

The Broncos lead the Mountain West in the holy trinity of team defensive stats: total defense (334.7 ypg), scoring defense (14.7 ppg) and turnover margin (1.83 tpg). Their offense isn’t nearly as consistent as it was last year with Moore and running back Doug Martin, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it’s coming along.

All of this is to say it would be easy for any team, let alone one coming off such an emotional loss, to buckle under the pressure. This is UNLV’s first game at Boise State since 1977, so aside from some of the coaches, it will be a new experience for the team. They’ve heard about the blue field and seen it on film. Some teams think it’s an unfair advantage, though UNLV suggests the home team’s leg up is more about the roster than the turf.

“I don’t think it will come down to their field,” junior linebacker Tim Hasson said.

The Broncos, who were 28-point favorites as of Monday evening, are marching toward a possible spot in a BCS bowl game as the top-ranked nonpower conference member in the initial computer rankings. This is just another game on their journey.

For UNLV, it could be a turning point. A bounce-back game in Boise — basically a close loss — could be huge mentally as UNLV gets into an easier part of its schedule. But a blowout, which is entirely possible both because of the opponent and the team’s emotional state, could sink the Rebels for weeks to come.

Unlike most other weeks, there wasn’t really any talk of winning at Monday’s press conference. Anything is possible, of course, but Hauck seemed to sense the reality of the situation. The Rebels have bigger problems than pulling off one improbable victory.

“They just don’t lose at home,” Hauck said. “For us, licking our wounds, we just need to have a good week of practice and go up and try to play our best game.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. Almost as big a snafu as the Rebs' second half play was Cox Cable not being ready to broadcast the game on Channel 96 at noon as advertised. They showed a game from the SEC until just before the end of Q1 at Sam Boyd. DirectTV probably gained a few subscribers over Cox' gaffe. Of all the times in the Las Vegas market not to be ready with the telecast of the game of the year! Thankfully, radio 1100 AM did a nice job with their broadcast and I kept them on for the balance of the game. The video lagged the audio by about 10 seconds, enabling me to watch the blocking away from the ball since I already knew the result of the play. Not bad!

  2. How about just going to the game and not worrying about local broadcasts.

  3. I hope The Rebel's got over their game last week Cox Cable here and Charter Cable in Reno blew the broadcast I followed the game on Twitter

  4. I'm sure game won't be blowout loss. Mentaly, don't see why offense won't put out the effort. Just because they are losing they can still play for personal glory. Cornett is getting his yards,So is Sherry and even Sullivan is getting his td's,sure they look forward to every week. It's the D that must have a hard time getting motivated. Just hope they have been playing enough 2nd team guys to stay fresh. This team better win at SDSU,no excuses if they lose to them even on the road.

  5. UNLV players have been putting on a great show.Sorry but that ball bounces in funny ways & like in life we just can't control situations.An absolute terrible call, an interception,a UNR fumble that increased their yardage hurt.But UNLV players never gave up.They are playing their hearts out.These games are fun games to watch. Coaches are doing fine& these kids come out week after week having to fight off losses in close games.We are asking players to rise up again & continue to fight & keep giving it all. I work with the defeated suffering from addictions & who want to give up on life & die.I use UNLV as an example of a team falling but keep rising up each week to meet the challenge & not quitting though feeling defeated.They are an inspiration to my defeated-in-life clients.Rise up UNLV you're doing more than you know.You're an inspiration.

  6. UNLV's chances to beat Boise State: 0. The only thing in question is the final score. Please, UNLV, get rid of this hideous excuse for a football program as soon as possible. We are a basketball school; no shame there. Football: laughing stock of the NCAA.