Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss UNLV's shocking 40-20 victory over Hawaii in last Saturday's home opener at Sam Boyd Stadium, take a look at this weekend's game against Southern Utah and hit on how the Hawaii victory could change the course of the 2011 season.
A week ago, UNLV was trying to forget an unsightly 59-7 blowout loss at Washington State.
Monday, the mission was to not get caught up in the positive feelings generated by a potentially season-saving 40-20 upset of Hawaii that unfolded Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The Rebels' (1-2) next opponent is Football Championship Subdivision foe Southern Utah (2-1), which entering this season, in the eyes of many, looked like UNLV's lone gimme on the 2011 slate.
UNLV may have a wave of momentum heading into this Saturday's 6 p.m. tilt, but is in no position to take the Thunderbirds lightly.
"I can't imagine us taking anybody lightly," Rebels coach Bobby Hauck said Monday at his weekly press conference. "We'll be tested this weekend and we better come to play again."
If UNLV plays even close to the way it did against Hawaii, the Rebels will likely head into the first of two bye weeks in October at 2-2 with extra time to prepare for an Oct. 8 showdown on the road with rival Nevada-Reno.
Fortunately for Hauck, he has plenty of tangible evidence from Southern Utah's first three games to show his players in proving that the Thunderbirds are far from slouches.
They opened the season with a narrow 29-28 loss at South Dakota State before returning home to defeat Sacramento State — which was fresh off an upset of Oregon State — 35-14.
Last weekend, they cruised to a 45-22 victory over Texas-San Antonio.
Keying everything for SUU is senior quarterback Brad Sorensen — a BYU transfer who has thrown for 4,061 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 14 starts at his new post.
On paper, he appears to be every bit as potent as Hawaii gunslinger Bryant Moniz, who put up decent numbers against UNLV on Saturday night, but could never get comfortable enough — or consistent enough — to dig the Warriors out of their early hole.
The key again for UNLV will be getting regular pressure on Sorensen off the edges and being just as sticky in the secondary on his targets.
"We did some good things in our secondary and our pass rush, that was apparent," Hauck said. "It goes back to when we had opportunities to make plays, we made plays. We tackled well. When guys caught the ball, we knocked them down. It was just a good effort by our guys and a good effort by our assistant coaches getting our guys ready to go."
Hoping for more support
Saturday's announced attendance was 21,248, with roughly half of them sporting Rebel red.
Hauck hopes his team made enough of an impression that many of them will come back and bring some friends along.
"I don't get to control those things," he said. "I hope people come watch us, and I know our marketing people are trying to make it affordable for people to come out and see it.
"I think, if we replicate what we did last week, it'll be a fun night."
One method of trying to draw more fans is a two-for-one ticket deal UNLV is offering for the game.
Following Saturday's game, the Rebels won't have another home game until Oct. 29 against Colorado State.
Support from within abound
Hauck said one of the first people who had a chance to congratulate him on the field after Saturday's game was UNLV men's basketball coach Dave Rice. He also exchanged hugs and handshakes with Rebels athletic director Jim Livengood and several other members of the administration before celebrating with his team in the locker room.
Later on, though, Rice's predecessor was one of the first to call Hauck.
"One of the first calls I got was from Lon Kruger," he said.
Pistol is here to stay
UNLV worked some on the pistol offense during fall camp, then caught Wisconsin somewhat off-guard by busting it out in the season opener.
The hybrid of the traditional shotgun and single-back offenses helps set up a more effective run game, and for the most part, that's what UNLV has gained from it so far.
"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."
UNLV operated plenty out of the pistol on Saturday night, and the result was a combined 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns off 30 carries by sophomore running backs Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle.
Welcome back, Phil
Hauck, sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring and, well, the rest of the Rebels are hoping that the Phillip Payne who broke out against Hawaii is the Phillip Payne they'll have the rest of the way this season.
The preseason All-Mountain West selection who got off to a slow start in UNLV's first two games had seven catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns against the Warriors.
The second of his two scores was a 33-yard strike from Herring, in which Hauck let his QB take a risky shot downfield early in the second half with a chance to put Hawaii in a major hole. Payne made the type of catch UNLV fans have become accustomed to seeing over the past three seasons, hauling the ball in over two defenders.
"It's a big deal for myself and the offense to have that kind of threat on the field offensively," Herring said. "Phil made some great plays and, with the help of the o-line and the run game, obviously, he was able to capitalize on the situations he had."