The Cougars Gear Up For UNLV

With UNLV beating the U of U 27-0, only to turn around and lose to Nevada and Air Force, it's just not certain which Rebel team will show up on game day. One thing is for sure, however: the Cougars aren't going to take anything for granted.

Coming off a bye week where the Cougars used the extra week to focus on developing four aspects of their team (health, position mastery, scheme execution and self-scout work), the Cougars are focusing on Mike Sanford's Running Rebels.

"Basically we just came in and had our lift at 2:10 P.M," said Kelly Poppinga. "Then we had our usual special teams meetings like we do every Monday. After we have our special team meetings, we have our individual positions meetings where we all gather with our position coaches in our rooms. Then we have a team meeting, and after that we come out here to the practice field to have practice."

Along with the activities Coach Mendenhall used to further develop his team, the efficiency of the coaching staff was such that they were able to squeeze in a typical Monday practice during Thursday of last week.

"Today we followed a regular Monday schedule to prepare for UNLV," said Markell Staffieri. "We had one of these last Thursday, which was pretty much the same thing as today."

One aspect of a typical Monday practice that the team goes through is focusing on executing the offensive or defensive schematics that the coaches feel will best work against opponents. The coaches then go back and take a look at the film to see what they want to keep or throw out prior to the game.

"The focus today was getting our new assignments down," said Poppinga. "Each week we have a new game plan, and so we'll come out on Monday and whatever Coach Mendenhall and his staff have planned in their staff meetings, we try out. So we go through what they've planned during a Monday's practice, and if they like it they keep it, and if they don't like it they'll throw it out or revise it as we go through the week of practice.

"So they'll add things they like or take out things they like or don't like as we run them against the scout team. For us it pretty much entails things like how we'll do blitzes, stunts and a bunch of different stuff that work against their offense."

For the players on the offensive side of the ball, the exact same formula is applied for Monday's practice. Matt Allen gave Total Blue Sports the rundown on how the offense begins preparing on Monday for their opponent in this audio segment.

You have to go back even further in the bye week to see how Coach Mendenhall was getting his team prepared and focused on UNLV despite not actually preparing the team's offensive and defensive game plans.

"We got our [UNLV] scouting DVDs last Monday and we watched them all," Staffieri said. "I think we're going to get another one from the Air Force [versus UNLV] game this week, so we can see if they're doing anything different."

However, Staffieri and many of his teammates decided to not wait until they were given DVDs of the UNLV vs. Air Force game to watch it.

"We watched [UNLV] play against Air Force and they have another big back [Frank Summers] much like New Mexico [does]," said Staffieri. "They're a pretty balanced team and they have a big quarterback [Travis Dixon] that will pretty much be the real first quarterback that can scramble with the ball as well as throw it. He's someone that we have to keep an eye on because he can hurt you with his legs if containment breaks down."

UNLV is currently 2-4 and 1-1 in the Mountain West Conference, with a current standing of fifth place. BYU is currently sitting on top of the Mountain West Conference with a 2-0 record.

"The thing that Coach Mendenhall shares with us is it doesn't matter who we are playing," said Staffieri. "We can beat anybody as long as we do what we are supposed to do, and you know that is so true. I actually had the thought today…[and] was actually surprised, because in the last two years I don't think I've ever heard Coach Mendenhall say the name of the other team. I've never heard him say ‘We're playing UNLV this week.' It's always ‘The team we're playing this week.' I think that just kind of proved to me that it really doesn't matter who we're playing, who we line up against, who the other team is or what they do; it's always about us doing what we're supposed to do to win the game."


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