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September 1, 2015

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

from the press box:

Ray Brewer: Starting to think this UNLV football season might be different

You have to like the confidence of the UNLV football team. I sure do.

Despite being picked by several to finish near the bottom of the Mountain West Conference, and despite winning just two games in each of the last two seasons, and despite not having a winning record since 2000, the Rebels’ players don’t seem to be fazed.

They truly believe this season will be different. Defining what different means when applying it to UNLV football is the tricky part. Is different three wins? Four? A bowl berth?

Whether it’s youth, high school, college or professional football, talk with any player or coach at this time of the year and they have a certain level of optimism for the upcoming season. My favorite saying, which I’m still waiting for a UNLV player to say, is how they plan to smack the other team in the mouth. Love that.

The optimism at Broadbent Park, where the Rebels on Wednesday will finish their 11-day training camp in Ely, seems more genuine than past seasons. It’s as if the players actually believe this year will be different.

Maybe it’s because, next week, UNLV has a legitimate chance to start the season with a victory when they host Minnesota. Sure, UNLV is about an 8-point betting underdog, but at least the players can finish up camp Wednesday knowing they have something for which to play.

Last year, after all, they opened at nationally ranked Wisconsin, which turned out to be the lopsided defeat everyone expected. Even when UNLV was in camp last year in Ely, they were essentially preparing to lose by five touchdowns to Wisconsin. It's tough to prepare for a season knowing the outcome likely won't be in your favor.

They proceeded to under-achieve by winning just two games and, more importantly, suffering two ugly defeats against the inferior teams of Southern Utah and New Mexico.

For some, it seems far-fetched that the team with so many ugly performances and rough defeats from last year can transform into a winner. Talk with the players, however, and they will tell you this is a different team. First, everyone has bought in — they care about each other and winning.

It’s refreshing to hear. Maybe I’m naive, but I’m sold on what the players have told me. Here’s a few quotes I found interesting. I'd love to get your feedback:

• Newly named starting quarterback Nick Sherry: “I feel like this team has gotten a lot better. Even coach Hauck says this team looks better than when he came two years ago.”

• Junior defensive lineman Parker Holloway, a mid-year transfer from Trinity Valley CC in Texas: “It is a totally different team from what I hear from last year — a totally different team with a totally different attitude. There are people on the team who want to play. I can’t wait to get out there with the team and shock the world. Nobody believes in us except us.”

• Senior running back and wide receiver Eric Johnson: “We are always fired up. We are always looking for a challenge to overcome. We are going to surprise some people. We are going to be ready.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or ray.brewer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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