Rebels football:

UNLV must contain Washington State’s passing attack in chase for first victory

The Rebels hope some new defensive fronts, fewer mistakes and a stronger third quarter will be enough to upset the Cougars

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Sam Morris

Northern Arizona wide receiver Nick Cole is brought down by UNLV Peni Vea (42) and John Lolulelei during the first half of their game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

UNLV football try to remain winless, but positive

KSNV reports that the UNLV football team is trying to remain positive after 0-2 start, Sept. 11.

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.

The steam collected from the top of Jordan Sparkman's head and collided upwards in the center, creating the illusion of a pointed hat that disappeared as it rose higher.

If the vapor, which was the result of a hard practice in a surprisingly muggy Las Vegas night, had started a bit farther down, Sparkman, a sophomore defensive end, might have resembled a Looney Tunes character like Wile E. Coyote with smoke coming out of his ears. Both man and cartoon are getting exasperated after chasing a singular goal — whether it’s the Road Runner or a win — and to this point coming up short.

“It’s hard to invest so much into our bodies, into practice and working hard every day, and then not succeed in winning,” Sparkman said. “But we’ve got to keep investing. No one can pull back and say, ‘Oh, I don’t know anymore.’”

To this point, the players and UNLV coach Bobby Hauck say they haven’t pulled back. As the Rebels (0-2) prepare for their third straight home game, this one against Washington State (1-1) on Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN, Hauck said Monday’s practice was the best one of the fall.

“We were sharp, we were energetic, and we were locked in to what we needed to do,” Hauck said. “Obviously, we’ve got a Pac-12 team coming in here, and they looked like that’s what they were preparing for.”

Those preparations, Sparkman said, include putting in at least a couple of new defensive fronts to try to counter Washington State’s pass-first offense. An opponents’ passing numbers are often credited to or blamed on the secondary, but it takes all 11 guys to stop the pass, Hauck said. That’s especially true for the Rebels, whose secondary has left a lot of receivers open over the past two weeks and will be dependent on Sparkman and the defensive front to get some pressure to help them out.

No matter what UNLV rolls out, though, it’s unlikely it will surprise first-year Washington State coach Mike Leach, who has been honing and reinventing his passing attack for more than two decades. Hauck said this year’s version of Leach’s offense is much more mainstream than some of his radical attacks at Texas Tech.

Still, it’s mostly one-dimensional, and Hauck likened Leach-led squads to a triple-option team, which, coincidentally, UNLV will have to prepare for next week when Air Force comes to town.

“(Washington State is) good at what they do,” Hauck said. “They are not so diverse; they just really know what they’re doing within their system. … You can’t give them something (defensively) they haven’t seen.”

Keeping the Cougars’ passing under control also will depend greatly on the Rebels’ defense not making as many crucial mistakes as they did against Northern Arizona last Saturday. Penalties kept the Lumberjacks’ drives alive, during which they eventually found openings at the line of scrimmage and down the field.

There were plenty of mistakes from the offense and special teams, too, but penalties are often viewed as the easiest problems to avoid. UNLV needs to prove that theory correct to have a chance Friday.

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Northern Arizona wide receiver Ify Umodu has a pass broken up by UNLV defensive back Sidney Hodge during their game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Division I-AA Lumberjacks upset the Rebels 17-14.

“We’ve got to make the plays that we’re supposed to make,” said junior cornerback Sidney Hodge, who had two pass interference penalties against NAU. “Whether we get a (penalty) in the first quarter or the fourth quarter, we still should be able to put that behind us and move on to the next play and execute.”

Another key for UNLV will be coming out at halftime like it has at the start of games. Lackluster third quarters were a big problem in both games, and while they’ve tried to work on that this week in practice, it’s difficult to simulate the feeling of college football’s long halftime break mixed with the adrenaline of game night. Throw in the ESPN broadcast and it’s impossible to predict how the Rebels will respond.

“I don’t think that’s where their focus should be … but all our guys are aware it’s on national TV, I promise,” Hauck said.

Nobody wants to fail, especially in front of a national audience. With no TV, UNLV fell on its face against the Lumberjacks. That added bit of pressure could strengthen the Rebels or make them crumble. There’s no way to know for certain until they start playing.

After last Saturday’s game, Sparkman called senior defensive lineman Beau Brence to talk about the game. Obviously, Sparkman wasn’t happy, and he was depending on the team captain to help steel his resolve. With steam still rising into the night sky, Sparkman seemed satisfied with their conclusion.

“We’ve learned to pick up our heads,” Sparkman said.

The chase continues Friday.

UNLV Hall of Fame tickets on sale

Tickets are now on sale for the 2012 UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony, which takes place at the South Point on Friday, Oct. 12, the night before UNLV’s home game against UNR.

This year’s class includes All-America cornerback Kevin Thomas; the 1984 California Bowl champion football team; men’s basketball player Eddie Owens; women’s basketball player Linda Frohlich; women’s swimmer Lorena Diaconescu; men’s swimmer Jacint Simon; softball player Amie Stewart; men’s tennis coach and two-time interim athletics director Fred Albrecht; and Mike Miller, a graphic artist who created the UNLV mascot, Hey Reb. Former Rebel quarterback and current ESPN personality Kenny Mayne also will be in attendance to receive the Silver Rebel Award.

The event includes a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the ceremony starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $100 and may be purchased at UNLVtickets.com.

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

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  1. Washington State fans will be coming down in force to watch the Cougars play tonite. WAZZU fans went through hiring a Big Sky Coach and allowing him to bring along his staff. If not for being an Alum of Washington State he would have been shown the door much sooner than he was. Like Sanford and Hauck he never got Alums and the Community to fall in love with his program as he was not a very good person to have promoting his program. Leach has been the opposite, courting fans, students and Alums at every chance. The old Coach would never fire his BIG SKY staff, which is exactly where Hauck is at the same point in his career. Sorry in both cases the hires are the responsibility of the Coach, he is the programs CEO.

    Eastern Washington has the former starting QB at SMU and beat Idaho in game 1 and nearly beat Washington last year as well, not the same situation as Northern Arizona. Meanwhile SDSU went and recruited the former starting QB of Oregon State. How would UNLV do against BYU? Why dont we ask former UNLV Play by Play man Dave McCann to answer that question? His UNLV play checks went right back to help the BYU Athletic Program. Unlike how the late Bob Blum took his UNLV Announcer pay to help the Lady Rebels get their basketball games on the radio last year. That other Channel 8 BYU Announcer on the Coaches Show cant speak for him now.

    Good luck UNLV tonite, Rebel fans will finally get the chance to see a PAC 12 team at home, a fan base that went through the same problems with a Coach not ready for D1 football and now a team that has everyone excited to support. Sounds like UNLV Basketball this past season for a year where locals bought into the program and Coaches that were about UNLV first.

  2. I think we should have the firework show. Before the game begins, that way we won't have to suffer through another terrible football game.

  3. Two of the worst BCS teams in the country should be an ugly game.

  4. Hauck will fail, as usual. This experiment is a waste of time. SMH

  5. Articles like this always get me fired up for the game.

    Just do it.

  6. Too bad WSU is not one of the worst BCS team this season, not by a longshot. This is their third game with a new offense and a new staff. Last week they started to look good on both sides of the ball and I think BYU might be pretty dang good. EWU was should not have even been close with as we had 3 TD called back due to penalities, a fumble on the 1/2 yard line going in and a pick on the 5 and a missed chippy FG after the kid hit a 60 yard bomb to end the half They left 38 points off the board and EWU less one bogus 90 pass play on blow call by the refs it was not even close.

  7. Unless The real Rebel Team shows up it could be a long night at Sam Boyd

  8. how about after the embarrassment tonight we fiannly get rid of this clown? for 800k this year you cant find somebody who can go better than 4-23? i would rather have palo verde coach darwin rost as the head coach than Hauck.. o wait after the game TAYLOR WILL TELL US HOW MUCH THEY HAVE IMPROVED