OPPONENT PREVIEW: UNLV Rebels

The coach (Hauck, left) and his best runningback (Cornett, right) are turning UNLV into a smashmouth ground-based team. Their successes to not yet include scoring and winning, but the foundation appears solid.

Mike Sanford couldn’t turn UNLV into a winner, despite managing a decent passing attack with the Rebels. Nobody’s erecting "Miss Me Yet?" billboards in Sin City with Sanford’s smiling face; but neither is second-year coach Bobby Hauck being whispered as a candidate for mayor.

Hauck’s team has undergone an almost-total metamorphosis, and the first positive results show most clearly on the ground. The Rebels, which never could mount a rush attack under Sanford, are decent toting the rock this season. They’re 47th nationally to date, averaging over 168 ground yards per game. Had UNLV managed this kind of output rushing in 2009, Bobby Hauck would still be coaching at Montana State.

Two Rebels have made hay out of Bobby Hauck’s emphasis on the run: Tim Cornett and Dionza Bradford. They each are in the top ten for the conference; Bradford managed 4.8 yards per carry, and he’s the less effective back in Vegas. Tim Cornett has a whopping 5.9 yard per carry, good for fourth best in the conference. Cornett also has seven touchdowns to his credit.

Both of these runners are young (Bradford is a freshman; Cornett is a sophomore) and appear to have very promising careers in the red and grey.

They run behind one of the youngest offensive lines in the country. Redshirt freshmen C Robert Waterman, LT Brett Boyco, and LG Cameron Jefferson all start. Brian Roth backs up at RG. (Jefferson took over for Sean Tesoro halfway through the season.) The starting five (Boyco, Jefferson, Waterman, Zismann, Rogers) have only 64 starts between them, almost all of them tallied this season.

So, again, the story isn’t as much about ineffective this season, but potential for next season.

The outlook is not so obviously rosy for other parts of the team. The quarterback situation has been messy all season. Caleb Herring, a sophomore and potentially the team’s quarterback of the future, has not been able to seize the starting role. He’s yielded at times to JUCO transfer Sean Reilly, and even Tyler Barnhill, who expected to redshirt this season. But neither of the three has been able to achieve any kind of consistency under center.

Other than Phillip Payne (43 catches for 507 yards and 7 TDs), the receiving has been mediocre.

And the defense? It’s been simply awful. But simply awful has been normal in Vegas for years.

Look for TCU to run and pass nearly with impunity against the Rebels. UNLV probably will rush half decently now and then against the Frogs; but the Rebels will be inconsistent against TCU, and will lose by a large margin in Fort Worth. Again.

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