Rebels football:

Points aplenty expected in UNLV football’s homecoming matchup vs. SJSU

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The UNLV players celebrate with their fans after defeating UNR 27-22 Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 at Mackay Stadium in Reno.

The Fremont Cannon is red. Now the Rebels (5-3, 3-1) turn their focus to another goal, a bowl game that they could qualify for with a homecoming victory Saturday against San Jose State (4-3, 3-1) at Sam Boyd Stadium.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and will stream online via the Mountain West Network and Campus Insiders.

The men’s basketball team’s first exhibition game is tonight, which usually signifies the changing of the seasons. Traditionally, football is effectively over as soon as Las Vegans can go watch basketball. Not this year.

Because of several factors — last week’s victory, homecoming week, an early kickoff time — this should be one of the most-attended November games in recent years. The last time the official attendance was at least 20,000 for a home November game against an unranked opponent was 2005. In 2011, Boise State fans packed the stands to see their No. 5 team wallop the Rebels.

This time, it should be mostly red in the crowd, and it would be a disappointment if UNLV doesn't get at least 20,000, maybe even 25,000.

After all, people are running out of excuses. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day and the team is winning. This ticket could be the one that stamps the Rebels bowl eligible for the first time since 2000. That possibility plus these prolific offenses are worth the price of admission.

THREE STORYLINES

1. Another air show

The preseason talk around the Mountain West focused on its prodigious quarterbacks. Injuries and surprises — like Caleb Herring in for Nick Sherry — have taken a bite out of that group, but despite injuries to his surrounding pieces, San Jose State’s David Fales can straight sling it.

Last week, he tossed five touchdowns and 482 yards in a comeback victory against Wyoming. Fales also scored the decisive points on a rushing touchdown.

He’s tied for the Mountain West record with five consecutive games of 300 or more passing yards. Over that stretch, he’s averaging 396.8 yards per game.

Herring and receiver Devante Davis have their own thing going, but this Fales-led attack is the closest thing to Fresno State that UNLV will see the rest of the year.

2. Comeback kids

In addition to their 3-1 league records, the Rebels and Spartans have another important factor in common: No matter who trails in the second half, don’t count them out.

As previously discussed, four of UNLV’s five victories have come when the Rebels either trailed or were tied at halftime. San Jose State is similar, having to come back each time during this current three-game winning streak.

One of those was a first-half 11-point deficit, but the others found the Spartans trailing late in the game. Last week, they were down 16 to Wyoming early in the second half.

What this means is we could be in for a wild finish, with one team trying to rally and the other trying to delay the inevitable.

3. Different type of bounce back

Last week, UNLV did a good job of putting away the Fresno State defeat and focusing on the one game it wanted to win more than any other in the regular season. Now that that one’s in the rearview mirror, the Rebels’ challenge is to get up again despite an emotionally draining week.

Yes, even being happy can be tiring, especially when UNLV had put so much importance into finally winning back the Fremont Cannon. It’s natural to expect the Rebels to drop off a bit coming off that game, which is exactly what they’ll try to avoid. The major factor that should help is that UNLV could end the day bowl eligible for the first time since 2000.

Key Matchup

UNLV’s linebackers vs. San Jose State’s backfield

The most important thing for UNLV’s defense is trying to contain Fales, and this is a battle within that larger war to keep an eye on. The Rebels have done a good job, especially in second halves, of switching up their blitz packages. There will be times UNLV linebackers get through the line and it will be on the running backs to pick them up or Fales to make good decisions before the Rebels get home.

Over/Under: 600 offensive yards for San Jose State

Sound far-fetched? Well, the Spartans broke 600 in each of their last two games. Keeping them under that number would be a good place for UNLV to start.

That’s what he said: “We can say, ‘Hey, been there, bought the T-shirt, now it’s time to go on to the next one.’ ” — Bobby Hauck on moving past the Battle for the Fremont Cannon

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

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