Confident UNLV defense, led by Tim Hasson, making positive strides

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Steve Marcus

UNLV’s Tyler Gaston, bottom left, and Jordan Sparkman stop Minnesota’s Donnell Kirkwood during UNLV’s season opener against Minnesota at Sam Boyd Stadium Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.

UNLV vs. Minnesota

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry is taken down by Ra'Shede Hageman during UNLV's season opener against Minnesota at Sam Boyd Stadium Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.  Launch slideshow »

Finish the game. Review the film. Prepare for the next opponent.

It’s a routine the vast majority of college football coaches live by and preach to their players. Forget about last week or next week, they say. This week’s game is the only one that matters.

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck backs this philosophy, which is why he could have stunned junior linebacker Tim Hasson on Monday by reflecting on the events of four days ago. Before Hauck held his weekly press conference, he commended Hasson for his showing in the season-opening 30-27 loss to Minnesota.

“All he said was, ‘I’ve got to get better,’” Hauck said, “which shows me the right attitude and the right approach. We’ve got a whole locker room of guys like that.”

The collective attitude is the foremost reason Hauck believes the Rebels defense will improve tenfold from its dreadful season a year ago. He thought the defense showed positive signs against Minnesota by giving up only 13 points in regulation, the second-fewest of his 26-game tenure at UNLV.

Hauck expects further defensive improvement in UNLV’s game against Northern Arizona at 7 Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium. The days of giving up 40 points per game, the Rebels' average the past two seasons, are coming to an end.

“We’ve got to get better in our pass rush, and we’ve got to tackle better,” Hauck said. “We’ve got to get our eyes fixed on the backfield in terms of coverage. There are some things we’re getting started on.”

Even Hasson regretted missing a few tackles against Minnesota. He couldn’t have too much criticism of his opening night, though.

Hasson had seven tackles — including one for a loss and one sack — an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. It was a special performance, hence how it stuck in Hauck’s mind.

“I was just prepared,” Hasson said. “I went through my scouting report. The coaches scouted it pretty good. I just felt like I was in the right spot at the right time. My eyes were good. I just want to improve and make sure it continues.”

Hauck reported terrific energy in UNLV’s practices since the loss. That’s not something that would have happened last year, Hasson said.

He said the team, and the defense specifically, would dwell on the losses and let the poor play affect future preparation.

“People just started feeling sorry for themselves and want to blame other people,” Hasson said. “That’s just gone. We’ve got leaders in there.”

The Rebels were in the nation’s bottom 30 defensive teams in every major statistical category last year. The way they talk this year, they won’t rank that low in any of them.

The Minnesota loss showed that UNLV is capable of playing good defense, Hauck said.

“It’s something we build off of,” Hauck said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. Did the defense have a good night or was Minnesota just that bad?

    I saw an awful lot of missed tackles and bad angles being taken on defense. At first it did not look like things had changed from last year. Tackling is the most fundamental part of defensive football and for some reason we just do not do a good job on that. I cringe to think what Washington State will do to our secondary in a couple of weeks. Way too many open people. If Minnesota would have completed those passes, we would have lost by at least 14 points.

    To me, this weeks game is the most important of the season. How does this team react? Will they come out and do the fundamentals better? The good thing that I saw was the intensity. Kept us in the game.

  2. at the same time, if WE had completed those passes, we would have won by 14 points.

  3. Sorry Jerry, I watched the game on tape after I got home and Nick had very little time in the pocket to throw. There was one dropped pass on a screen that they may have scored on but even on that throw he was pressured. Their quarterback had plenty of time to throw. He just overthrew everybody.

    I appreciate you supporting the Rebels and believe me I do to, but you simply cannot win with the technique these guys have! If the coaches I had played under saw a game film of this they would have gone nuts on us! When I was coaching it was all technique and fundamentals. At times I saw a lot of confusion and what looked like a bunch of deer in the headlights. Yes, we are stronger and we are quicker. No, we are not better at tackling and pass protection.

    I waited 9 long months to get revenge on the Big 10 and this one bothers me a lot. Sure, it was an exciting game, but Minnesota is a horrible team. Last year they lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State (Div. 1AA) at home! I predicted 4 to 5 wins this season. Minnesota I had circled as a win. Unless we start doing the technique and fundamentals a lot better, we are in big trouble! And please don't tell me it was just the first game and they had to get the kinks out. What about Minnesota?