Rebels Needing a Cause

With another mobile quarterback on the horizon, Wisconsin will need to be on its toes again, although the team surrounding the quarterback is a little suspect.

MADISON - The bad news is, for the second week in a row, Wisconsin's secondary will have to deal with a mobile quarterback that could give them headaches if they perform like they did against Washington State's Alex Brink in week one.

The good news is, other than QB Travis Dixon, UNLV has yet to hit the jackpot.

In fact, the Running Rebels have been running card dead for over two decades.

Coming into the season, the Rebels have had 10 sub-.500 finishes in 12 seasons since 1994 and have had 16 losing seasons in the past two decades, a total record of 48-125. Under third-year head coach Mike Sanford, results haven't been much better, with the UNLV posting records of 2-9 and 2-10 in Sanford's first two seasons.

The rebuilding process continues, especially after Sanford revamped the Rebels entire offense when he came over from Utah – bringing a spread Power I offense, a 3-4 defense and a new attitude.

"We changed the expectation level," Sanford said. "We changed the discipline … We're still working on changing the mentality, the culture, the belief and the expectation level. [The change] is an ongoing process."

The change has boiled over to more than just the offensive and defensive philosophy. Players have quit, players have been removed and the number of UNLV scholarship players is in the low 70s on a team that has an 85-scholarship maximum.

"As a result of that, we don't have great depth right now," Sanford said. "Our quality of player is better. Our numbers are down a little bit. It's going to take us some time to get our numbers back up.

"The players even made a list in the locker room, guys that either quit or were removed from the program."

Even with the reduced numbers and lack of depth as certain positions, the Rebels did something for the first time last week in the Sanford era – they won a road game.

The Rebels rallied for a 23-16 victory over Utah State in the opener last week to give Sanford his first road victory in 13 tries. The Rebels also snapped a 15-game road losing streak in the process. It was a step in the right direction, even though Utah State was a team that 1-11 a season ago.

"Our deal in this game was to find a way to win no matter what it takes, and we did," Sanford said after the game. "It wasn't beautiful, it wasn't perfect, but it was a win."

Stepping in for injured projected starter Rocky Hinds, 6-foot-1, 190-pound redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Dixon generated 270 total yards, 141 passing and 129 rushing, in his first collegiate start. What made those numbers impressive was Dixon only had two passing and 26 rushing yards at halftime.

"We were trying to be a little bit careful with Travis in the first half," Sanford said after the game. "He's the kind of player that you've got to cut loose a little bit. You can see what happens to him when you cut him loose."

UNLV returns its three starting wide receivers and they all played a big part against Utah State; catching all of Dixon's 12 passes. Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Wolfe (6-65), junior Casey Flair (3-40) and senior Aaron Straiten (3-36) all will provide potent challenges for defenders.

Just like last week's quarterback, Dixon won't hesitate to run, something that WSU's Brink did to Wisconsin last weekend. To avoid a repeat first-half performance, the Wisconsin cornerbacks are going to have to be on their toes.

"He is fast and he can get between tackles quick," senior Allen Langford told the Journal Sentinel. "If you're not in your gap, where you are supposed to be, he can really take advantage of that.

"That is why we have to be on our guard and take this week of practice very seriously."

No. 5 Wisconsin at. UNLV

Date/Time - Saturday, Sept. 8 at 9:00 p.m CDT (7:00 p.m. local time)

Stadium – Sam Boyd Stadium (TurfTech / 36,800)

Television - Versus (Joe Beninati, Glenn Parker and Krista Blunk)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas)

Series - Wisconsin leads 5-2

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 18-3, in Madison on Sept. 11, 2004


Wisconsin is 21-1 in its last 22 regular-season non-conference games, including wins in the last 13 straight. UW's only loss during that span was a 23-5 setback at home against UNLV on Sept. 13, 2003 … UW's interim wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander was the wide receivers and quarterbacks coach at UNLV for three seasons (2000-02) … UW has won five of its last six road games, dating back to a 41-24 win at Hawaii on Nov. 25, 2005.

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