UNLV football:

Rebels searching for balance between self-belief and burden of letting others down

Beyond its own disappointment, UNLV is trying to live up to the expectations of people around the university and the city

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Northern Arizona wide receivers Nick Cole, left, and Ify Umodu celebrate their play that set up a game-winning field goal during their game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Division I-AA Lumberjacks upset the Rebels 17-14.

LasVegasSun.com Sports Talk

The latest UNLV football debacle

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The Las Vegas Sun sports staff reflects on UNLV's 17-14 loss to Northern Arizona. How much more time does coach Bobby Hauck deserve? Could a win this week against Washington State make up for the second loss to a Football Championship Series subdivision in less than a year? Ray Brewer, Case Keefer and Taylor discuss this and more on their weekly radio show.

Sidney Hodge still hears words of encouragement from friends and fans telling him to keep fighting and that they’ll get them the next time. Bobby Hauck says he hears that, too, though as UNLV’s coach, there’s at least an equal, and right now probably a much greater, collection of fans spitting venom his way.

It’s an ugly time for the Rebels (0-2), who would love to fast forward to Friday night at 6 when they host Washington State (1-1) in front of a national audience on ESPN. It’s a good thing the game will be on TV because there may not be too many people to witness the event in person.

UNLV’s opening-game attendance against Minnesota was 16,013, which was somewhat expected considering it was an 8 p.m. start on a school night. Saturday’s debacle against Northern Arizona, a 17-14 loss to a Division I-AA team, brought out just 15,257 despite UNLV offering a 2-for-1 ticket special. And with the Rebels suffering heartbreaking losses in both games, there’s not much incentive to return for the few fans who did make the trek to Sam Boyd Stadium.

“When you lose a game like we did last weekend, everybody has a tendency to say they’re never going to get it going,” Hauck said.

Despite those few encouraging words and pats on the back, Hodge, a junior cornerback, also can sense the disappointment that exists outside the locker room.

“You see it everywhere,” Hodge said. “At school, after the game.”

Obviously, the players, especially those like Hodge who were a part of Hauck’s two previous two-win seasons, are upset with the start to the season. But they weren’t the only ones who believed and expected this season to be different. That’s not to say the year is already over, but the Rebels have already dropped two of their most winnable games on the schedule.

And while they say they expect to win every game, it hits a little harder when it’s a giveaway loss to a double-digit underdog.

“We as a group, starting with me, feel like we let everybody in our department down,” Hauck said. “Anybody who’s associated with our university, we feel like we let those people down. … That’s a heavy burden.”

Hauck talks a lot about balance, mostly in reference to his desired offensive scheme of equal rushing and passing. It also applies to that burden and how UNLV must try to move forward with a year a lot of fans have already written off as over.

The Rebels feel pressure not only from the expectations they place on themselves but also from the university and the community. The city is desperate for a winning football team to support, and this year’s team desperately wants to be the squad that starts moving the program in that direction.

UNLV vs. Northern Arizona

Northern Arizona lineman Trey Gilleo rushes to greet running back Zach Bauman after Bauman's touchdown during their game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Division I-AA Lumberjacks upset the Rebels 17-14. Launch slideshow »

Outsiders would have to agree that three-point losses on last-minute field goals, though against weaker competition, are better than the nonconference blowouts of recent years. The most recent recruiting class, too, was a step in the right direction for Hauck and a staff built largely of men with whom he worked and had great success at Montana.

No one would argue that Hauck needed time to change the culture at UNLV. At question for a lot of people right now is just how much time that should be. Hauck’s answer to that this week has been, simply: The Rebels will either get it done or they won’t. He hasn’t been hostile, although maybe a bit uncomfortable, discussing his job status, and on Tuesday’s Mountain West teleconference, he acknowledged the results-based bottom line of his job.

“We’re kind of doing things our way,” Hauck said. “We need that at some point to show up on our scoreboard.”

LVH currently lists UNLV as a 10.5-point underdog to Washington State, a team that hasn’t announced its starting quarterback, will play the first half without starting safety Deone Bucannon and has won just two road games in the past four seasons. If the scoreboard doesn’t light up in the Rebels’ favor Friday, it’s going to have to fight for its first victory in much more difficult situations until UNLV hosts New Mexico on Nov. 3.

At least that’s the outsiders’ view. Inside the locker room, senior offensive lineman Doug Zismann said, there’s still optimism about every game. After all, if that didn’t exist, what would be the point of even suiting up?

“To believe it before you can see it is the real test of what a team is made of,” Zismann said.

Hauck and the Rebels really did seem to believe before the season. Now that their faith has been tested, how will they respond?

Hauck said he doesn’t worry about what the average fan thinks, but he also said he doesn’t want to let people down. Those aren’t mutually exclusive ideas, though they could certainly be tied together. That burden weighs down on one side, and the belief that what they’re doing will eventually work pulls on the other.

Finding the balance between those can only start with a victory.

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

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  1. I just wish that the UNLV football team (coaches, players, staff...everyone associated with the program) cared as much about UNLV football as I do.

    Were that the case, losses to FCS schools would NEVER happen.

  2. I see an absolute embarrasement coming on Friday with the televised game. NOT with how the team may play or its result but with the near empty stadium and 6 to 7 thousand Washington State fans!

    This should be a game where UNLV fans show up in the school colors, cardboard signs saying UNLV and just being rowdy and having a great college football game experience!

    A lot of you may say that we have the worst team in all of Division 1 football but I declare that we have the worst fan support in all of Divison 1 football!

    There have been approx. 750,000 students who have graduated from UNLV since I graduated. The university alumni association estimates that 70% of those graduates live in Las Vegas. So that puts the number at 525,000 alumni here in the metro area. And we get 15K for a home game? And almost half are fans from the other team? What is wrong with this place! Forget the transients and travelers who have shown up and have no desire to take in UNLV and support it. Where are the alumni?

    Forget about the status of the football team for once and think about the exposure that we are going to get on national TV. This is FREE advertising for the university! You can't put a dollar figure on this but it would absolutely destroy any kind of impression on our university and the city to see the stadium half empty. You have seen games where ESPN brings out the crazies at other universities and the fans put on a great showcase showing the mascots, the chearleaders and the fans.

    Think for a moment about recruits at home watching tv and seeing what kind of fan support we give the program. And you don't understand why we don't get the top recruits! Think about a possible new head coach prospect tuning in to see the game. He will be thinking "No way in hell am I going to go through that lack of support".

    This is college football!! Not some pro team where fans can influence the owners by not showing up. UNLV needs the ticket sales and booster support to build up the program.

    I am asking the alumni to show up and support the school. This is so much more important than just showing up for a football game. And guess what? The football team will actually play better if they have an actual "Home Field Advanatage".

    I know that there are those that don't give a damn,(and why they waste time to post this crap is beyond me!) but I would think there surely is enough alumni to care enough to show the country that we do care about our university!!

  3. Wow Hauck every week like the rest of your team you seem to sink to new lows. I hope when UNLV fires you, that you NEVER find another coaching job. You are pathetic! Go loose a national televised game with only 8,000 people in the stands. That should move the process along faster.

    I would take over your program in a heart beat. I would even offer to do it at a lower salary. I bet you anything I could turn this around in 2 years. Even a blind monkey could do a better job then your pampas self.

  4. I can see the ESPN commentators making comments about the "strong contingent coming from Washington State".

    I would rather they say, "this university has to build a much larger stadium to accomodate these crazy fans'!

    Just wishful thinking*

  5. Hauck should take full responsibility and his leadership and coaching has failed. UNLV should try to spark some life and hope in the players and Fans I see no solution but to release Hauck and the AD immediately we deserve more exciting football and effective leadership. We demand accountability.

    WSU will score at least 40 pts this Friday. UNLV will struggle to score 20pts, Another disapointment and embarassement. The President must take action...

    We need to hire NOW! All Four of these coaches would most likely take the UNLV Job!Gus Malzahn UCLA, Mike Norvell AZ State, Mark Helfrich, Oregon Paul Petrino Arkansas all these coaches are proven Offensive Coordinators that will put major points on the score board. Move Forward NOW! TODAY and get a replacement NAME Give the Future PLAYERS and FANS some HOPE!!!!! All of these coaches mentioned above would come to UNLV for Hauck Salary and the passion to win immediately. NAU is a middle of the pack in the Big Sky Conference. Eastern WA, MT Griz, MT Bobcats would beat UNLV by at least 2 touchdowns. Sad to say but we're considered the worst FBS team in country....

    If we wait then the $$$ Price goes up. Since our AD is unable to make tough decisions we need to demand the President to take immediate action.. Gus Malzahn UCLA, Mike Norvell AZ State, Mark Helfrich, Oregon Paul Petrino Arkansas all these coaches are proven Offensive Coordinators who understand how to create excitement to Today's College Football. We need to inspire some hope in this Football Team. With Hauck it's not going to happen. Hauck has failed to get it done.

  6. What is amazing is if he finishes the year he stands to make a $450,000 bonus. What for emptying the seats at the stadium, boring the fans to death, running off players year after year so he can always use the excuse of a young team. I don't ever in my life think that I have heard so much total crap. Does Livengood, Hauck, Smatresk all think that the average fan is stupid?

    Here let me make it simple. You can't play musical chairs with your buddy assistant coaches and expect one to become an offensive guru overnight. You might have fooled the AD, but the average fan sees you running the same failing play 9 times in a game for zero yards. Oh wait, now you say you're setting up for a big play downfield. News flash you never throw downfield. In the last 3 years since you have been the coach I have seen the absolutely most horrific play calling imaginable.

    Maybe if Hauck had actually played college football he would know that FBS football is a little more complicated than the high school football his teams play. No FCS coach has ever gone on to be a great coach at the FBS level.

    We have a history of hiring head coaches that have no FBS head coaching proven experience or recruiting ability. Now after 3 losing seasons of which UNLV might not win one game this year we're about ready to pay a guy $800,000 ($350,000 + $450.000 bonus) for the complete destruction of the program.

    Hauck man up and quit! Your team already has. Talk is cheap! Livinood should be fired for signing such a stupid non performance contract!

  7. Since Hauck will continue to drive UNLV football into the ground and lose by at least 22 points Friday night. May I suggest to "Couch" Hauck to DVR the Bergen Catholic VS Bishop Gorman Game. To see what coaching, discipline, and heart can do for 2 of the top 10 teams in High School Football. Not D1 football, which you have buried UNLV to a ranking of 102 out of 120 D1 schools. "Couch" Hauck, out of the 14,500 high schools football teams in the Country. You have 2 of the top ten playing here Friday night too. Don't be suprised if your ESPN numbers are competitive with the FOX numbers. Here are some buzz words you might start using at practice "Couch"Hauck. "Alignment" "Assignment" "Discipline" "Execution". If you need help with it, call Coach Sanchez. Its on Page one of their playbook. By the way, I have been using the word Couch instead of Coach in describing you because you have been "Couching" it during your prep time, not Coaching. To both sets of boys representing the State of Nevada on national television, I wish you luck and pray for your safety.

    For those who want to see a "Good" football game. Its being played at Gorman Stadium. Kick-off is at 7p.m. FOX Sports Channel 50.

  8. Just a terrible football team! A terrible coach with absolutely no imagination! But what's new?

  9. Hey Rebelheart. WINNING is what makes a good impression on recruits! An imaginative offense that can move the ball downfield, that makes a good impression on recruits!

  10. They don't make it easy to go as an average "fan" as they continually raise the prices for everything when the team has gotten worse. We used to tailgate and have fun in the grass area when it was $5 a car while Robinson was the Coach and they beat Reno every year, and won about 5-6 games per year. Now it is $40 per car and they win 2 per year and lose to inferior level opponents. So to tailgate at a reasonable price we have to resort to dusty food! Prices also go up on the day of games by $5 dollars discouraging any walkup crowds of coming the day of. Wouldn't you want to encourage more people to come out by keeping it the same price? They no longer sell tickets at Station casinos and malls where it was convient to buy tickets so the easiest way is to buy them on game day at the stadium but they cost more.

  11. This will be WSU's largest travel group since 5000 went to Auburn in 2006. WSU despite being awful the last 4 years has one of the most loyal fan bases in America. You have to be to ship a WSU flag every week to Collge Gameday for 120 stright games.

    WSU will be starting their back up QB as Jeff Tuel is out with an undeisclosed injury, but for most of us that is music to our ears as Sophmore Conno will start. Leach calls him, "The ultimate gunslinger." He played in 2 games last season in relief at the end of the year and in is first start a RS Freshman torched ASU and Utah for over 800 yards and 7 TDS. he set the all time PAC 10/12 Freshman record with 494 yards 4 TDS and no picks aginast ASU in his first college game. This kid is scary good

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti55nsCd1...

  12. @lcr, typical comment from a typical Las Vegan. It is awful hard to recruit when you have half-empty seats at the home stadium. It is difficult to recruit when you have to pay basically minimum wage to hire a football coach. It is difficult to recruit when the entire Las Vegas community does not support the program. It is difficult to recruit when hardly any of the 500,000 plus alumni living in Las Vegas don't go to the games or donate to the football program. You want to win? It is all about the bucks. Don't make such an asinine remark about "having to win" when you don't know what is involved to make a winning program!

  13. go_rebels....I think you hit it correctly. I still believe this team can play well...It looks like Sherry can throw well & scramble OK.Running game is fine, defense did well 1st game, bad 2nd game..Special teams good just 1 bad kick.But now huge lack of confidence, plus with own LV fans trashing own team.Perspective---these players are just young men trying to find their place in the world & you make it difficult to even play.Got to remember it is just a game...with lack of money Hauch needs to stay to finish his term.No way out. LOVE UNLV FOOTBALL EVEN IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIR!!!!!! WHAT A GREAT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT YOU CAN TEACH YOUR KIDS & GRANDKIDS!!!!!!!!!

  14. Why is President of UNLV so scared to come out and at least stated his thoughts regarding the Performance of the AD and Hauck. As public tax payers and Alumni we deserve a better performance. In the real world if you cannot perform you don't get paid. I am starting to think the UNLV President lacks the leadership to come forward and address the community, the Alumni and Fans and Players. The clock should be ticking on the President as well and his lack of communication respect to the community, Alumni and tax payers are extremely upset mad and disappointed. Where are his ethical and moral standards in regards to doing the right thing to speak up and at least state some direction. Common sense business rules Mr. President of UNLV develop some leadership character and understand you work for us as taxpayers and we provide your salary therefore you owe us an explaination.. I encourage the editor of the news media to interview the UNLV President since he lacks the ability be a leader and step up when the people of this community are extremely upset disappointed in the lact of respect you are exhibiting to the public. Mr. President you're in charge of this problem and you need to address it.

    You're the only one in a position to really take action. It's time to come forward and stop hiding behind the desk that if you even CARE or even come to work. You have a problem and a situation and everyone is looking at YOU to do something about this AD and Hauck. Step up and informed the taxpayers of this community.

  15. @heretic-I suggest you open YOUR eyes! Go back to the first article after the NAU game and see what I said about the current coaching staff and the teams performance. I have played the game at this level and I have coached so I know a little about this game. I have been extremely critical of the playing so far this year AND I have blamed the coaching staff entirely! I wanted at least for the offensive coordinator to be fired after the SUU game last year!

    Do you see anything in my last post that isn't true?

    We are going to be embarrased on national TV, not so much by the game but the lack of people in the seats. You don't seem to understand or care about what that can do the schools image. I am not saying anything else about the current coaching staff. I have already stated that I want them gone and that I am done with them. I can't change anything else about that. What good does it do to keep bringing up the same thing all over again this week? It is in the hands of the AD, period, end of story. So with that said, all I can try to do is something positive that will help with the image of the school and the program and try to get some people out to the stadium to support the team and the university.

    You see, it is still possible to go out and cheer for the team and support the school. Of course I want them to win, but I am still there regardless of what happens. I may not like the current coach but the University is way above him. That's just me! Some may call that being a homer, fine!

  16. heretic, didn't mean to hurt your feelings about the "typcical remark from a typical Las Vegan" However, I do stand by that remark.

  17. Heretic, if you think I am wrong that it is an embarrasement to this university and the city of Las Vegas to be on the national stage, to have more fans from WSU at the game than our own fans, and more than likely we will hear the ESPN announcers mention that, and the cameras will show more WSU fans before the game in the parking lot and during the game cheering for their team then that is, of course, your opinion. I can't change that. But facts are facts, we have no support and we have one of, if not the lowest attendance in all of D-1 football! Can't think of anything more humiliating and embarrasing than that on a personal level. And I can't understand the mentality of trying to punish a public university in this way. How about if the regents just decide that football just isn't getting enough support and they just drop the program. How would you feel about your stance then?

    Regardless, I am glad you go to the games. Go REBELS!

  18. When is the President going to have the ethical professional character to step up and issue a press release regarding this War that is brewing. Everyone that I talk to wants change NOW! TODAY!! The AD and Hauck needs FIRED Immediately. I urge the Press to step up and get some action or some direction from the President on this issue.

    It's all about Performance and Hauck has failed! Nothing personal just the records speaks for itself. Bobby has lost all the respect and love of this community and UNLV football. Change is needed.

  19. I'm looking forward to attending my first UNLV game. Outdoor stadium, under the lights, nice weather...I hope they serve beer as I'll be thirsty.

    All the way back to 2009 when I was saying UNLV should hire Leach makes it an easy decision who to root for on Friday night.

    That link by wazzufan was awesome! I hope we see the guns a blazin', lighting up the scoreboard!

  20. Another typical Las Vegan remark from PooPooDolls!

    Doesn't get what he wants so he throws the whole town and university under the bus.

    Where would we have gotten 2 mill. from Mr. Soothsayer?

  21. What is amazing to me is that so many people believe changing the culture and building a program can come overnight. When Hauck was hired it was under the assumption that he would build a program, not simply put a bandaid on the wound and bring in a bunch of JCs that would be gone in no time. Things are turning around, this takes some time fellas. The defense has yielded only 23 points in regulation this season, what a major improvement from last year. There are positives to look at, stop viewing the UNLV football glass as half empty all the time.

    As for firing our AD, are you serious? There is more to UNLV athletics than the football program. UNLV basketball had a top 10 recruiting class this offseason and ranked as high as 11 in the polls last season due to his hiring of Dave Rice. He too is building something special but that too takes a little time. His cupboards were not bare like Hauck's.

  22. Agree with Big John. I have seen 22 years of bad football in this town, guess the older I get the more I laugh at the notion that we must fire Hauck right now. Seen Strong,Horton,Robinson Sanford come and go. I also see some improvement with the team (not cool to say this right now)from last year and agree that quick fix wont work with JUCO's and transfers (limited numbers ok). Sherry has bright future if he can stay healthy(o-line?) and we have some good running backs. What we need to watch week to week is if the effort is there.