Rebels football:

UNLV quarterbacks taking open competition in stride

Caleb Herring is getting more reps with the first team than last week as he battles Nick Sherry for the starting job

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Steve Marcus

UNLV quarterbacks Caleb Herring, left, Nick Sherry, center, and Jared Lebowitz confer before UNLV’s home opener against the University of Arizona at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

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UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring (8) scrambles during UNLV's home opener against the University of Arizona at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

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Mayweather and a UNLV disaster

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Las Vegas Sun sports writers Case Keefer and Taylor Bern discuss this weekend's big events: the biggest boxing match in the last six years and a UNLV home football game.

If UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry’s upset about getting benched for the second half of Saturday’s 58-13 loss to Arizona he’s doing a good job hiding it. After Wednesday night’s practice, the last one with media availability before the Rebels (0-2) host Central Michigan (1-1) on Saturday at 7 p.m., Sherry toed the company line better than most executives.

“I think it was a great decision by the coaches; that’s why they’re the coaches,” Sherry said without a hint of irony.

Sherry, a sophomore, and senior Caleb Herring have always appeared to have a good relationship so it may be honesty from both guys when they say they’d be happy for the other guy if they’re the one sent to the bench at the start of Saturday’s game. After all, there’s a chance that no matter who starts it the other guy will come in at some point.

“We could definitely have that as part of the equation,” said UNLV coach Bobby Hauck, who added he may wait until Saturday to inform the players of the starter.

So after entering the year with a solid hierarchy the Rebels could go with a two-quarterback system against the Chippewas. Or perhaps Hauck simply wants his opponent to think that’s what they’ll do and prepare for both.

Central Michigan is in a similar situation although all indications are the Chippewas found their guy. After starter Cody Kater went down in the opener against Michigan sophomore Alex Niznak came in to finish that game and start the next one against New Hampshire.

Niznak struggled early against UNH so coach Dan Enos went one spot further down the depth chart to throw redshirt freshman Cooper Rush into the mix. Rush responded with 326 passing yards and three touchdowns, two of them in the fourth quarter of a comeback 24-21 victory.

“I wasn’t surprised at how well (Rush) did and he had a great week of practice, but you never know with freshmen or redshirt freshmen,” Enos said to the Morning Sun. “You just never know how they are going to respond.”

For the most part Hauck knows what his guys will do. Both Sherry and Herring have started double digit games at quarterback, and Herring has a few more as a receiver.

Sherry’s problem Saturday was that his mistakes were so bad they led directly to points for the Wildcats. His first turnover, a fumble, was returned within the 10-yard line and quickly converted into a touchdown. And the two interceptions required no offense whatsoever as both defenders jaunted into the end zone.

Sherry said he didn’t have good focus in practice last week, which could be revisionist history or it could be an indication that he’s recognized, and presumably fixed, a problem. Either way he couldn’t argue that UNLV wanted its best quarterback on the field Saturday and, “that wasn’t me,” he said. Sherry finished the day 6-of-22 for 111 yards with one touchdown and three turnovers.

Herring heard rumblings in the first half that his name would be called and got the official word at halftime. The outcome was already decided so there was little to accomplish but Herring looked competent in relief, finishing 3-of-5 for 14 yards.

“Any given game you’re one snap away, no matter how things are going out there,” Herring said.

Herring started last season when Sherry was injured and two years ago it was mostly Herring’s team. With only 10 games to play in his collegiate career it would makes sense that Herring would want to see the field as much as possible, but just like Sherry he’s playing it down the middle.

“No disappointment,” Herring said. “We’ll be out there encouraging each other.”

Whoever ends up getting the nod, both quarterbacks and Hauck agree that publicly acknowledging an open competition has been good. Herring’s getting more reps with the first team and both guys are practicing more inspired because they can feel that something’s on the line.

That’s why Sherry said he doesn’t feel slighted by the benching and sudden competition. It’s forced him to refocus on the task at hand and company line or not, he can take an objective view on the situation.

“This isn’t fun high school football,” Sherry said. “This is business. You’ve got to perform.”

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

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