Scouting the Rebels

After a week off, the games will begin again. The Wildcats conclude their non-conference schedule with a showdown against the UNLV Rebels. John Robinson's club may be the best 0-2 team in the country and also the hardest to peg. Their first game was a defensive struggle while their second was a shoot-out against a ranked Northwestern team.

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Against the Razorbacks all-everything quarterback Jason Thomas struggled, and Arkansas prevailed on a late touchdown 14-10. Against the Wildcats Thomas passed for 304 yards, but the defense yielded 411yards and the Rebels fell 37-28.

In both games the Rebels played sloppy football. Against the Wildcats UNLV had two second-half turnovers and a muffed punt. All three miscues led to Northwestern scores.

"We're just making little mistakes here and there," said running back Joe Haro. "We're letting things slip away, not coming together as a team."

The defense shut down the Razorbacks. The SEC foe only managed 114 yards and lost three fumbles, yet they picked up the win.

Thomas is the catalyst for this team. He is a mobile, athletic quarterback who can eat you in the air and on the ground. The lone knock on Thomas has been his penchant for throwing interceptions. In 2001 he already has four picks. Thomas is getting it done on the ground. He is the team's second leading rusher with 122 yards on 6.4 yards per carry.

With no proven running backs returning from last season Joe Haro has picked up the rushing slack in impressive fashion. Haro has been over 100 yards in both contest and has 235 yards for the year. His 4.8 yards per carry average is also impressive.

Michael Johnson and Troy Mason have been Thomas' favorite targets so far this season. Johnson has caught 2 touchdown passes and racked up 174 receiving yards.

Four starters return on the offensive line, but All-Mountain West selection John Greer is gone from the right tackle spot. Neither of the leading candidates to replace him played a down for UNLV last season. Junior college transfer Matt Williams and redshirt freshman Jimy Zollwill battle for the job.

The defense should be solid for the Rebels. UNLV has added a lot of team speed, which has helped the defense improve rapidly. Eight of nine lettermen return along the defensive front, including five defensive ends. The linebacking corps is also solid, but the defensive backfield has some big shoes to fill. Two of the Rebel's top db's, Amar Brisco and Randy Black are gone.

The defense had trouble against Northwesterns' Damien Anderson, but shut down Arkansas' running game. If Arizona can get Clarence Farmer going early, the Cats could cruise. However, if the Rebels contain the running game, Jason Johnson will have to try to win it himself and that's something he has not done in his college career.

Dominique Dorsey is a return threat. Against Northwestern he had an 84-yard kickoff return and is a threat to break a big one at any time.

OUTLOOK: Which Thomas will show up against Arizona? The one who was 4-of-16 for 40 yards against Arkansas, or the one who torched Northwestern? The one who throws three touchdowns in a game or the one who is picked off three times in a game?

Make no mistake; UNLV is a quality football team. The Rebels have been very inconsistent, but have loads of talent. If Thomas gets hot, then he and Haro can do some damage to the Wildcats. The defense had trouble against Northwestern's spread offense and Arizona's pro-style set could have similar success.

Originally the Cats had a bye before the game and the opportunity to watch UNLV square off against Colorado State. With last weekend's cancellation, both teams have two weeks to prepare.

Arizona had some difficulties late against Idaho, and you can bet that the Rebels have studied that game film in an attempt to find a chink in the defense's armor.

This will be the Wildcats' biggest test of the young season. The Rebels are 0-2, but have played a difficult schedule and have a lot of talent. Arizona will have to play better than they did against the Vandals.


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