UNLV football:

Notebook: Rebels preparing to be without Marcus Sullivan for near future

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Minnesota Marcus Jones (15) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown on the second half kick-off in the third quarter against UNLV during an NCAA college football game in Minneapolis, Thursday Aug. 29, 2013. Minnesota defeated UNLV 51-23. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Rebels vs. Gophers

UNLV players Jake Phillips (46) and Tim Cornett are dejected during the fourth quarter against Minnesota during an NCAA college football game in Minneapolis, Thursday Aug. 29, 2013. Minnesota defeated UNLV 51-23. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King) Launch slideshow »

If junior receiver Marcus Sullivan was with the Rebels in Minnesota they don’t suddenly win this game. A 51-23 loss is far too lopsided for a player such as Sullivan to make up the difference.

It did matter, though. Just how much may become apparent in the coming weeks because it doesn’t sound like UNLV will have its speedy veteran back in the near future.

“Marcus is dealing with a private issue that he’s asked me not to speak on,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said after Thursday’s loss at TCF Bank Stadium. “… I will tell you it’s not a legal issue.”

Hauck expects Sullivan to rejoin the team. He just doesn’t know when.

So what did Sullivan’s absence do to the Rebels against the Gophers? It created a domino effect that required more guys with less experience to take snaps for UNLV.

That includes senior Jerry Rice Jr. and junior Jack Killian. Both of those guys made their Rebel debuts Thursday after transferring into the program.

Rice Jr. finished with six catches for 35 yards but also dropped a would-be touchdown and didn’t block well on the outside. Killian dropped a first-down conversion in the first half that UNLV really needed and then tipped a second-half pass that ended up in the Gophers’ hands.

It’s possible those things still happen even if Sullivan is with the team. He has a history of drops and may not be the best blocker, either. But there’s still a reason he was at the top of the depth chart and taking a guy off the top forces you to dig deeper on the bench. That didn’t go well for UNLV.

The punt

The special teams deservedly took a beating after UNLV’s defeat, but UNR transfer Logan Yunker deserves some credit for his performance in his collegiate debut.

Yunker shanked his first punt for 21 yards because it was either that or get it blocked. That could have gotten in his head but Yunker came back with a 63-yarder inside the 5-yard line on his second attempt.

Once again punter could be a crucial position for the Rebels, so at least they have a promising one.

No easy fix

The calculated risk Hauck discussed in regards to forgoing live reps in hopes of staying healthy was a likely cause to the big mistakes that sank UNLV against Minnesota.

So will the Rebels practice things like kickoff coverage at full speed in practice this week? No.

Teams rarely go live during the season on plays like that. The Rebels have the experience of going through it against the Gophers but they won’t try to fix it at full speed on the practice field.

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

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