UNLV’s home opener welcomes Carey and Wildcats
It’s on to the next one.
For any other team, that’s the general consensus every week. With UNLV, it’s become a lifestyle that the Rebels have been forced into.
Especially when they play the way they did at Minnesota on Aug. 29 — allowing 320 yards of total offense and trailing by only three points at halftime — the 51-23 final score are the only numbers that matter for UNLV.
“I think we’ve got a good team,” said head coach Bobby Hauck, somberly at Monday’s press conference. “We just approach each week the same.”
The approach is the same this week. The only difference on game day may be an extended use of oxygen tanks.
UNLV (0-1) plays its first home game of the year on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against a Wildcats team that won’t hand the Rebels as many opportunities as Minnesota did this past Thursday.
Arizona comes into this game after a 35-0 win over Northern Arizona, where the Lumberjacks were shut out despite holding the ball for 40 minutes on Friday.
“These guys are fast,” Hauck said. “Their style is such that there’s going to be plays in space. That’s the spread offense they run. You either make the plays or you don’t.”
Despite the blowout last week, Hauck didn’t shy away from mentioning the good things the Rebels did on the road. The front seven played well enough to contain Golden Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood to 30 yards on 11 carries.
Quarterback Nick Sherry played well until his two second-half interceptions, completing 35-of-50 passes and threw two touchdowns. Running back Tim Cornett ran for 80 yards and a touchdown.
But the special teams, coached by Hauck, let the game get away from the Rebels thanks to two miscues that led to touchdowns early in the third quarter.
Due to NCAA regulations, Hauck said, the Rebels only get a set time in how much they can practice.
“We spend our allotted time,” Hauck said. “You get x-amount of time. Depends on the day of the week. Five minutes a day on punt, 10 minutes on kick Tuesday and Thursday.”
The defense will get another test on Saturday in the form of the nation’s leading rusher from a year ago, Ka’Deem Carey.
The All-American running back sat out Arizona’s opener due to violating team policy. Carey ran for 1,939 yards and 23 touchdowns for the Wildcats, who went 8-5 a year ago and won the New Mexico Bowl over Nevada-Reno.
“Ka’Deem Carey’s the best running back in the country,” Hauck said. “I don’t know if we can tackle him. No one could tackle him last year. He’s just the real deal.”
Backup running back Daniel Jenkins started for Carey against NAU, running for 139 yards on 12 carries, including a 91-yard touchdown.
Between Jenkins and quarterbacks B.J. Denker and Javalle Allen, Arizona ran for 306 yards against the Lumberjacks in only 20 minutes of possession.
The good news for UNLV is that the Rebels face one of the worst defenses in the country. Arizona ranked 118th out of 120 possible teams in total defense a year ago, and UNLV put up 419 total yards last week.
“They’re a pretty fast team,” said defensive back Sidney Hodge. “We’re just going to have to match up and make plays in the open field.”
Being a fast team is what Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is most known for.
Hauck called Arizona’s spread-option offense the fastest he may ever face in his career, which Rodriguez made famous at West Virginia.
The Wildcats were seventh in the NCAA last year in total offense with 526 yards per game, and second in the Pac-12 behind Oregon.
But if the story is true like last week, one week won’t judge the outlook on a team. And after Saturday, it’ll be on to the next one yet again.
“It’s hard to gauge this time of year who’s going to be good and who’s going to struggle,” Hauck said. “It’s just in terms of offseason study.”
Danny Webster is the Sports Editor of The Rebel Yell, and also covers football. Contact him at [email protected]