Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- UNLV quarterback improving but still not cleared to start on Saturday
- Mountain Best: Teams around the league doing their best to avoid a meltdown
- Another backup quarterback will take aim at UNLV’s secondary this Saturday
- Sherry injured as Rebels drop forgettable 32-7 decision at Boise State
- Take 5: Looking through the Rebels’ remaining games for potential victories
- Mountain Best: There’s a new team deserving of the ranking’s top spot
- The Fremont Cannon returns to Reno after UNLV’s second-half collapse
- All UNLV Football Coverage
When there are more opening-day starters from the offensive line listed on an injury report than there are left off, it’s hard to hide on game day. That’s one of many things UNLV must deal with Saturday at San Diego State, though the week hasn’t been without its good news, too.
UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said Thursday he expects freshman quarterback Nick Sherry to play when the Rebels (1-7, 1-2) take on the Aztecs (5-3, 3-1) at 5 p.m. The game will air locally on 8 News NOW Plus, a sister station of KLAS-TV that you can find on Cox Communications channel 128.
The game is actually being produced by Time Warner Cable SportsNet, but that channel still is unavailable in Southern Nevada as cable providers continue to negotiate with the station that holds the rights to more than half of this year’s Los Angeles Lakers games.
Right now that television battle probably has as much of some UNLV fans’ attention as does Saturday’s game. That’s because TWCSN also holds the rights to several UNLV men’s basketball games while football interest continues to dwindle after a pair of road blowouts bookending that home heartbreaker against UNR.
The only sure way to win some of those people back this year is to win, a goal helped by Sherry’s health. Now that he’s going to start, barring any setbacks, the focus shifts to the guys tasked with keeping him upright: the aforementioned banged-up offensive line.
Sherry was sacked only twice last week against Boise State, but much like the season opener against Minnesota, he was hit much more often than that. And when the Broncos defenders got to him, they brought him down hard, like the play that knocked him out in the fourth quarter when he got twisted up after throwing an interception.
Sherry bears plenty of responsibility for protecting himself — he occasionally holds the ball far too long — but it starts with the guys in front of him who are trying to keep themselves, and their quarterback, healthy.
“Every week it seems like somebody’s dealing with something,” said senior tackle Yusef Rodgers, who this week is listed as doubtful with a leg injury.
When everyone is healthy, the lineup looks like this (from left to right): Brett Boyko, Cameron Jefferson, Robert Waterman, Doug Zismann and Rodgers. Last week, Boyko missed his fourth game of the year, and he since has spent practice time watching drills in a blue jersey, so he’s unlikely to go this week.
In his absence, Jefferson has moved to left tackle, but he’s dealing with a leg injury of his own and could be limited against the Aztecs. On the other side, Rodgers has missed only one start (against Louisiana Tech), but at Boise State he couldn’t go the whole game and Hauck had to look to his bench. Only Waterman and Zismann have started every game; freshman Ron Scoggins, a Bishop Gorman grad, has made five starts at left guard, which allows Jefferson to move around.
Rodgers and Jefferson have been practicing this week. Despite an injury list that goes 19 players deep — by far the most this season — there were only a handful of guys on both sides of the ball watching practice in blue.
“They’re trying to go as best they can,” Hauck said. "They don’t want to be in blue, which is a culture change around here.”
The attitude in the locker room, Hauck and the players say, still is positive. They understand that despite their record, the upcoming schedule gives them something to play for. For starters, UNLV has 35 Californians on the roster — Rodgers went to Aztecs football camps growing up — and playing against old friends and teammates is good motivation. Beyond that, the remaining four games are all winnable because they’re against the other four teams in the bottom half of the league.
UNLV has failed to execute in its home games and didn’t have the talent to compete on the road. This week, that talent disparity isn’t quite so severe, though that ultimately depends on whom the Rebels are actually able to put on the field.
“It is kind of discouraging because we had high hopes,” Rodgers said of the offensive line. “We feel like with what we’ve got, we’re still doing all right.”
There isn’t a bye week coming to help UNLV get healthy. This is it. Five more weeks and five more chances to finish the year upright.