Last weekend was quite an eventful one for UNLV. The Rebels pulled off a huge upset by thoroughly dominating the Hawaii Warriors, 40-20. Emotions are still running quite high from that win, which might possibly have turned the season around for a Rebel team that was looking terrible until that victory. The big question is whether that was a flash in the pan of what UNLV can do when they are focused and not looking ahead or if that is the UNLV team we can come to expect during the rest of the season.
That question should be answered in some manner with Saturday's home game against Southern Utah, which kicks off at 6:00 Pacific Time. If this UNLV team has the ability to sustain the kind of performance that it showed against Hawaii, then it will show against the Thunderbirds. Southern Utah is an FCS team who, before last week's victory, some thought UNLV would have a tough time putting away, and it would be easy for the Rebels to overlook them this week.
UNLV has their annual rivalry game, known as the Battle for Nevada, up in Reno against the Nevada Wolfpack in a couple of weeks (They have a bye week following the Southern Utah game) and with emotions at a high level and the excitement finally flowing through the UNLV program, it wouldn't be hard for the Rebels to overlook Southern Utah.
The Thunderbirds are led by BYU transfer Brad Sorensen, who threw for 4,061 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions last season as the starting quarterback for Southern Utah. If the Rebels are able to get the kind of pressure on Sorensen as they were able to get on Bryant Moniz, then this game just might get out of hand pretty early.
The UNLV offense could shine even more, which would be exciting to watch. Phillip Payne had a breakout game last week, with 7 receptions for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns, Tim Cornett had his first career 100 yard rushing game, and Caleb Herring just might breakout in this game for some big numbers. Who knows how the offense will do? What we do know is that UNLV is officially adopting the offense formulated by the rival Nevada Wolfpack. That's right, most of what UNLV will be running will be out of the pistol formation.
"It's good - our backs like it," Hauck said. "It's a little harder in protection at times for the running backs, but the backs really like it."
It's a good thing that the backs like it, because the running game has been most effective out of the pistol for UNLV. Last season, UNLV barely averaged over 100 yards rushing per game and were ranked below 100 among FBS schools. So far this season, the Rebels are averaging 143 rushing yards per game and are 68th in the nation. It certainly doesn't make UNLV's running attack unstoppable, but it is effective and somewhat useful, whereas that was not the case last season.
The main focus of UNLV needs to be on Southern Utah this week so that they can head into the bye week with a lot of confidence and momentum to prepare for the Nevada game. If their mindset is not set in stone that this Southern Utah team has a decent passing attack, then the Rebels could be in some trouble.