Welcome to UNLV Week: Preview

Our "UNLV Week" coverage begins with a preview of the 2003 Rebels by Jon Linder.

How the Rebels fared in 2002: 5-7 overall, 3-4 Mountain West

2002 Results:

Wisconsin 27, UNLV 7
UNLV 31, Kansas 20
Oregon State 47, UNLV 17
Toledo 38, UNLV 21
UNLV 21, Nevada 17
New Mexico 25, UNLV 16
UNLV 24, Brigham Young 3
San Diego State 31, UNLV 21
UNLV 49, Wyoming 48
Utah 28, UNLV 17
Air Force 49, UNLV 32
UNLV 36, Colorado State 33

2003 Schedule:

Aug. 30 v. Toledo
Sept. 6 at Kansas
Sept. 13 at Wisconsin
Sept. 19 v. Hawaii
Oct. 4 at Nevada-Reno
Oct. 11 at Air Force
Oct. 18 v. Utah
Oct. 25 v. Brigham Young
Nov. 1 at New Mexico
Nov. 8 v. San Diego State
Nov. 22 v. Colorado State
Nov. 29 at Wyoming

Starters returning:
5 offense, 6 defense, both kickers

Coach John Robinson: In his fifth season at UNLV (20-27), and 16th season as a collegiate head coach (USC) Robinson is 124-62-4. In nine seasons as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, Robinson was 79-74.

Versus Wisconsin:
The Badgers lead the all-time series 4-1, including a 27-3 victory last season. In that game, Jonathon Orr set a freshman school receiving record with 150 yards on seven catches. His touchdown early in the second quarter kicked off a 24-point outburst. The game was shortened by a power outage midway through the fourth quarter at Las Vegas's Sam Boyd Stadium.

USA Today Game Story

UWBadgers.com Game Story

Rebels 2002 in brief:

Quarterback Jason Thomas finished his tenure at UNLV ranked second in total offense with 6,525 yards but he missed the final game of the 2002 season against Colorado State. In that game, the Rebels salvaged some pride with a 36-33 victory over the then-13th ranked Rams. The game marked UNLV's second victory in school history over a ranked a opponent and the first such win since 1981.

The Rebels thrived offensively, but struggled to stop opponents. The team led the MWC in total offense at 409.5 yards per game but allowed 393.8 yards per game. Departing senior running back Joe Haro led a rushing attack that average 215 yards per game. Haro totaled 1,948 yards the past two seasons, the second highest total in school history. For the first time since 1997 the Rebels had three receivers with at least 20 catches and all three return in 2003. Wide receiver Earvin Johnson had 51, receiver Michael Johnson 42 and running back Larry Croom tallied 20.

The team struggled defensively as a whole, but a pair of sophomores shined. Strong safety Jamaal Brimmer emerged as a super star, earning MWC defensive player of the year honors with 100 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and a team-leading 5.5 sacks. Middle linebacker Adam Seward had the third-highest tackle total in team history (133).

Looking ahead to 2003:

Despite losing Thomas and Haro, two of the most prolific offensive players in team history, the Rebels offense should thrive. The team will certainly point to the Colorado State victory as the springboard to 2003. With Thomas injured, quarterback Kurt Nantkes threw for three touchdowns. Croom came off the bench and rushed for 222 yards on 20 carries.

The departures of Haro (884 rushing yards) and Thomas (448) would appear to be a large dent against one of the most prolific rushing attacks in college football, but the Rebels have a stable of backs ready to lead the way. Croom had 605 yards last season after transferring from Arizona. Mighty mite Dominique Dorsey average 7.3 yards per carry (568 yards on 78 carries). Senior receivers Earvin Johnson and Michael Johnson should help bring Nantkes up to speed.

UNLV will likely light up the scoreboard again in 2003, unfortunately for the Rebels, they will likely give up plenty of points as well. Brimmer and Seward are standouts, but the defense is lacking in many respects.

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