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UNLV vs. Nevada game preview: Three Reasons why Rebels can beat the Wolf Pack

The Fremont Cannon is on the line for the Rebels and Coach Bobby Hauck as they prepare to meet their in-state rival from Reno.

Quarterback Blake Decker celebrates with his teammates after a touchdown against Air Force
Quarterback Blake Decker celebrates with his teammates after a touchdown against Air Force
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

When UNLV returned home from Hawaii after a loss under very difficult circumstances there was no time to lick their wounds. The Rebels had to get right to work preparing for their defense of the Fremont Cannon as they meet Nevada this Saturday in Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Here's what UNLV needs to be able to do to beat the Wolfpack on Saturday:

1)   The offensive line must protect whoever is playing the quarterback position. A large part of the reason why Blake Decker is so banged up is he has been running for his life all season. During the Hawaii game there were many instances of offensive linemen out of position and using poor footwork. For example on one play that forced backup QB Jared Lebowitz to scramble much of the offensive linemen's feet were perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. This is results in more space in the gaps and allowed blitzing linebackers to enter the backfield uncontested. The offensive line must go back to the basics and keep their feet square and heads-up. This will allow the quarterback to complete his reads and progression and perhaps even allow a bit of play-action to keep the UNR defense on their toes.

2)   The UNLV defensive backs must be ready to be challenged. Nevada's "pistol" style offense typically creates a lot of opportunities to throw the ball downfield after lulling the defensive backfield into a state of complacency after multiple run plays. UNR will use Cody Fajardo's arm frequently during the game but UNLV must be ready for him to run the ball as well. To beat the pistol the linebackers and defensive back must recognize the play quickly and get in the proper position. Much of UNLV's success will depend on the ability of the Rebel's defense to make those reads efficiently.

3)   UNR has much more to lose. The Wolfpack are coming off two bad losses to Air Force and Fresno State - both games they were expected to win. Additionally the university is using this game as a kickoff to convince the Reno area to support a $11.5 million renovation of Mackay Stadium as they prepare to present their plan to the Nevada Board of Regents. This with falling attendance numbers and less success than predicted in 2014. Conversely coach Bobby Hauck has probably already lost his job regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game.

At this point in UNLV's season they have nothing to lose except the Fremont Cannon. Holding onto that would give the Rebels some much-needed confidence as they move into spring practice in 2015.