Those things happen with a young team (UNLV has started 15 freshmen this season) but it is especially puzzling with the Rebel football team. They lost to Washington State 59-7, then turned around the next week and thrashed Hawai'i, which was a 20-point favorite, 40-20. In that game, UNLV forced four fumbles and sophomore Tim Cornett scored an 80-yard touchdown. UNLV also defeated Colorado State last week 38-35. A win Saturday over Boise State will leave the two teams tied in the Mountain West with 2-1 marks.
To do that, UNLV will have to stop the Bronco ground game. The Rebels fare better against the run than the pass (they are #111 in the country in that department). If the forecast for possible rain and 18 mile an hour winds holds true, it may be difficult to get a consistent passing game going anyway. In that case, both teams will stack the box and the team with the strongest line will likely prevail.
Freshman tailback Dionza Bradford recorded his second consecutive 100-yard game with 122 yards rushing against Colorado State. Cornett finished with 106 yards against the Rams; he also had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Washington State. Cornett was named to the Paul Hornung Watch List at the beginning of the season. That award is given annually to the most versatile collegiate football player.
Freshman lineman Brett Boyko (6-7, 295) helped the Rebels churn out 244 yards on the ground against Colorado State. Boyko is one of those guys who likely excel at everything he does—he played quarterback in high school. Junior college transfer Sean Reilly has moved into the quarterback slot with his first start against Wyoming. Reilly is 15-26 in two starts this season.
Boise State's defense will have to keep Phillip Payne under wraps—Payne broke the UNLV school record with his 25th career receiving touchdown last Saturday and ranks seventh among active players with that total. Payne has 29 catches for 385 yards and six scores this fall.
Las Vegas features a ball-hawking defense that, in addition to constantly stripping the ball away, has picked off six passes in the last four games. Senior defensive lineman James Dunlap (6-1, 260) already has nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Sophomore defensive back Sidney Hodge (6-1, 175) leads the Mountain West with three fumble recoveries.
Chase Lansford, son of Mike Lansford of the NFL, kicked a 50-yarder against the wind against Hawai'i and is on the Ray Guy Watch List with a 42.9-yard punting average so the Rebels definitely have the advantage there.
UNLV is led by head coach Bobby Hauck, formerly with the University of Montana. All Hauck did in Missoula was compile an 80-17 record with seven Big Sky Conference titles in seven years and three trips to the FCS national championship game. Hauck has already taken steps to mold his young team into winners establishing discipline and a system that rewards players that work hard in practice and listen to their coaches. Anyone who ignores a team led by a former Montana coach will do so at their peril.
The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network Saturday night at 8:30 Mountain Time.