Rebels face obstacles

Short week, injuries create difficult season opening act

By the time the UNLV football team returns to Las Vegas from Wisconsin at the end of the weekend, they will have spent a significant portion of the week on airplanes, flying from Las Vegas to Knoxville to Las Vegas to Madison to Las Vegas.

That's what happens when the Running Rebels face two Top 25 teams east of the Mississippi within six days of each other.

UNLV got trounced by Tennessee, 42-17, Sunday night in Knoxville and had to quickly turn around and prepare for this Saturday's outing in Madison.

"We haven't had much time off," head coach John Robinson said Tuesday. "We just have to get right back on the practice field and go. Four trips across the country in [eight] days can take something out of you, but maybe it just takes it out of the coaches and not the players."

For the coaches, there is less preparation time and less time to make adjustments on and off the field as the Rebels lost a day of practice for Saturday's game. But there is a silver lining: because Wisconsin's early game time against Central Florida gave the Rebels a chance to review the Badger game and potentially plan a scouting report on Saturday afternoon and much of Sunday prior to kickoff against Tennessee.

"They had the scouting report, tentative scouting report, that they've seen on us," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "They know what we're going to do. They watched us play Saturday. I'm sure they had all day Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon to game-plan, to implement what they saw us do into their scouting report."

Traveling from across the country is not easy on any coach or player.

"You have (short weeks) when you travel like to the West Coast and you get back at five in the morning," Wisconsin offensive line coach Jim Hueber said. "Your Sundays, everybody's in a fog. So your Sundays, as far as preparation as a coach or anything is not good. Physically we make it up by not just giving the players off and just adjusting."

"Thank God we don't have a short week," Hueber added.

UNLV is attempting to maintain a normal schedule this week and is trying to minimize the psychological impact an abnormal week can have on players.

"I think you try to tell them, ‘Hey, this is, you're normal, everything is fine, don't worry about it.' It probably is. In the NFL we used to lie to them and say they were rested and say this and that. They're not all that smart so they say, ‘Yeah, this is good. We'll be sharp,'" Robinson said in jest. "There are so many things that in sports that you just take as they come. The worst thing you can do is make a lot out of them. ‘Gee, it's cold outside,' or, ‘We're playing at altitude,' or, ‘It's humid,' or anything. Those things become psychologically damaging to you if you acknowledge them, so we're well-rested and looking forward."

Not everyone in Las Vegas is well-rested and a handful of players will probably not see the newly renovated Camp Randall Stadium this weekend. UNLV added to the players already on the injured list when right guard Brandon Gray and outside linebacker Ryan Welter—who is out for the year with a knee injury—got hurt during the Tennessee game.

"So, we have something like seven or eight really front-line players that are out," Robinson said. "Four or five of them will come back at some point in the year but it's leaving us a little short. There are a few extra seats on the airplane going on the trip."

In addition to Gray and Welter, UNLV will play Saturday without starters tight end Greg Estandia (partially torn MCL), punt returner Tremayne Kirkland (separate shoulder), offensive tackle Tyler Randal (back surgery) and defensive end Pete Dunbar (torn ACL).

Perhaps most significantly, star wide receiver Earvin Johnson likely will not practice until Thursday and is questionable for Saturday's game after suffering a minor knee injury Sunday night.

"I think every team has adversity and we seem to be in it right now both with the schedule circumstances and with a fairly large injury list," Robinson said. "But both of those things will change and I think we'll come out strong."

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