Rebels football:

UNLV needs better pickup lines as it enters difficult stretch of the schedule

The Rebels (0-3) haven’t been able to seal the deal yet this year, but it gets even tougher starting with Air Force on Saturday

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Hey Reb waves a flag in a sparsely attended Sam Boyd Stadium during UNLV’s game against Washington State Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Washington State won the game 35-27, dropping UNLV to 0-3 on the season.

UNLV football update

KSNV report on UNLV football as Rebels look to win first game of season.

UNLV vs. Washington State

A UNLV fan hangs his head late in the fourth quarter of their game against Washington State Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Washington State won the game 35-27, dropping UNLV to 0-3 on the season. Launch slideshow »

Imagine you’re at a local tavern, a dingy and foul-smelling joint far from the bright lights of the Strip. The years of smoke that have filled it can be wiped off the walls with a swipe of your finger. The bartenders don’t smile.

Right after you get there, you see a guy sidle up to the brunette sitting alone at the end of the bar. He starts out well, getting a laugh and then sitting down for a conversation. Things seem to be going pretty well, but near closing time he asks for a phone number and is rejected, left to wander into the night with a knot in his stomach until he can try again.

UNLV is that guy. For three straight weeks, the Rebels (0-3) haven’t been able to seal the deal, losing by a combined 14 points. Although getting over the hump is its biggest problem of late, in recent years UNLV couldn’t even take a seat at the bar.

“The biggest challenge was getting into close games,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “We were so outmatched in some of these games early on.”

That may be a problem once again as the Rebels enter their most difficult stretch of the season, starting with Saturday’s Mountain West home opener against Air Force (1-1) at 7 p.m. on Me-TV (channel 129 on Cox). If UNLV couldn’t get it done in that tavern, how will it fare when the venue changes to a more upscale establishment? The Rebels’ next six opponents all played in bowl games last year, and four of these upcoming games are on the road.

Coming out with a victory in any one of those is going to require seriously cutting down on the “laundry list” of problems and mistakes Hauck said the Rebels have to address each Monday.

From last week’s 35-27 loss to Washington State, that list includes familiar items such as blown plays in the secondary, missed opportunities (specifically dropped passes) and mistakes that included three straight penalties to open the game and a careless play by sophomore receiver Marcus Sullivan that could have cost UNLV a touchdown.

While streaking down the sideline for one of his two receiving scores, Sullivan appeared to drop the ball just before crossing the goal line. It was so close (and he was so far ahead of the defense) that the refs didn’t think anything of it and UNLV tacked on its extra point without a review.

That plus another flurry of drops by the Rebels’ leading receiver would seem to be cause for concern. Although he acknowledged the errors, Hauck said he didn’t see them as glaring signs of continuing problems.

“I think the lad’s excited about being healthy and playing well,” Hauck said.

Overly excited, sure, but Hauck’s point was that he doesn’t think the mistakes come from a bad place, such as a lack of preparation or effort.

These are the kind of inner battles you have to wage at 0-3. It’s not that mistakes occurred; that part is almost a foregone conclusion. It’s about where they come from, because that helps you answer the question of how to minimize them.

Or, you could think like junior defensive lineman Alex Klorman, a Del Sol product, and just forge them all into the same annoying rake you keep stepping on before it whacks you in the face.

“We’re nowhere close to where we want to be,” Klorman said. “Nobody wants to be 0-3.”

It would be worse to be 0-4, or 0-5, or 0-you get the idea. That’s what UNLV is facing with three of its most winnable games in the past as broken dreams left on a barroom floor. Working on the pickup lines to get better results the next time out takes practice and probably some patience. UNLV will continue to do the former, but the Rebels don’t plan to wait for the latter.

“ ‘Patience is a virtue’ is what my father used to say to me, and it drove me crazy,” Hauck said. “I didn’t have any then; I don’t have any now. Neither do these guys, I hope.”

They want it to work, and, realistic or not, they want it to work now. Maybe this year’s losses are better than the blowouts last year, but rejection still sucks, whether it’s at the beginning of the night or the end.

“It’s nice to be in these close games,” senior offensive lineman Yusef Rodgers said, “but the objective is to win.”

UNLV is getting desperate for that number at the end of the night. Anything that doesn’t start with 0 will do.

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

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  1. "Imagine you're at a local tavern, a dingy and foul-smelling joint...years of smoke that have filled it can be wiped off the walls with a swipe of your finger."

    You know how I know you've been hanging out at Dino's?

  2. This is a winnable game, UNLV plays Air Force every year and has familiarity with them. Also, Air Force defense is nothing special. Let's see If Unlv can chew up the clock and keep Air Force's offense off the field. Let's See if UNLV coaching will put their players in a position to win for once.

  3. The game with AF will tell us if we have gotten any better. AF is one of the most disciplined teams out there and they make very little, if no mistakes. IMO the Rebels have been close in the games they have played because their opponents are not very good. Washington State did their own part in making dumb penalties that more than likely made the game a lot closer than it should have been.

    The killer mistakes and penalties dumb down everything that we are trying to do to win. And what is driving me crazy is we DON'T get this fixed! I just don't see the urgency in the above article that focuses on this. The roughing call on the o-lineman during the first series of the second half all but killed what was momentum going our way. From then on we couldn't get anything going until late in the game.

    Being bigger is not going to help if these players don't think better and this is on the coaches!

  4. I want to get on board...I want to believe but I can't. It's sad actually.

  5. AF is extremely disciplined & they play hard for 60 minutes. I just dont see the rebels in this game very long. UNLV has a chance only if they can execute flawlessly on offense, move the ball, pick up 1st downs & score points in the red zone. (It will take a miracle to accomplish those keys). UNLV has never stopped the dive option attack for as long as I can remember, AF's whole offense is built on this & they still can't stop it because UNLV always breaks down in assignments, technique, & misses a gang of tackles. I could see this one getting very ugly for the rebels defense. Because AF is undersized they will chop block you all the way down the field so you have to stay focused, disciplined & put yourself in a position to make tackles & you cant miss them. When will the players get tired of getting smoked & start making plays for themselves?

  6. Really will be a difficult game for The Rebel's

    Air Force Speed is a killer

  7. This is a good barometer for where UNLV is at in week 4. All of AF's strengths are on the offensive side of the ball-sure AF will score their points. But how will UNLV offense do against a smallish,not very talented but disciplined defense. They should be able to have balance,run and play action pass against this defense in week 4,if not, rest of season is lost and my post's will disappear until next year.

  8. Here's another thought, how about making it a team rule that no one will no longer use the excuse that we're a young team so that's why we get our behinds handed to us every week. If you strap up in pads at the D1 level for any university you better get out there & play like you belong, period!

    I heard an interview last year with Mack Brown the Texas head coach & he said, "we will never use the excuse that we are a young football team for losing a game because we start freshman & sophomore's. If I put you in I expect you to compete at a high level. If you bite as a pup you are still biting as a dog so we expect you to bite".
    Rebels get out there & play like you belong!!!!

  9. AF- Gave University of Michigan a heck of a game and almost won it. Now Michigan front seven are most likely a lot better than UNLV.

    How does anyone think that UNLV can keep this thing close?

    The best thing for the Rebels is to keep AF off the field.

    If the Rebels cannot move the ball and keep drives going and score points it will be another long night and more reasons why need need to evaluate the coach and the AD. 0-4 is hard to swallow. And I cannot forget about NAU and Southern Utah and New Mexico.

  10. i really think hauck is one year behind. This team needed to show improvement like this last year. they are real close to being an avg team. We have to see some wins this season, more than 2. I just dont know where we get those wins at. Can you really keep him if they win a couple of games? HAUCK NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE D BACKS PUT CALEB BACK THERE FOR ALL I CARE TRY SOMETHING. BURNED ON LONG 3 DOWNS (3-18) ALL NIGHT

  11. Let's see...UNLV is 0-3 to start the season and plays Air Force tonight, a game they probably shouldn't win. They lost to Minnesota, a game they could have won. They lost to Northern Arizona, a game they were expected to win. They lost to Washington State, the worst team in the PAC-12. After this week they play 3 of 4 on the road against good teams. The only home game the next four weeks is against UNR, it's pretty sister up north who despite being in a considerably smaller market has dominated the Rebels throughout the years. The Rebels will probably be 0-8 to start the season.