Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 | 7:54 a.m.
The UNLV football team’s season ends Saturday at Hawaii with the Rebels looking to win three games for the first time since 2009.
Here are five items to get you ready for Saturday’s game:
Rebs must stop Hawaii’s Mike Edwards: One-win Hawaii ranks 116th out of 124 Division I teams in points scored and 121st in points allowed, but when the ball gets in kick returner Mike Edwards’ hands, the Warriors are one of the nation’s most dangerous teams. Edwards, a junior who started his college career at Tennessee, has three times this year been named the national kick returner of the week. He has three kickoff returns for a score and can single-handedly take over a game. “He’s as good as there is in the country,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “He has big returns against everybody.” Do the Rebels roll this dice and kick it to Edwards, or do they limit his opportunities and give Hawaii’s offense a short field? “We have covered kicks pretty well. It is been something we have done for the most part pretty well,” Hauck said. “Those guys have a lot of pride in their abilities, especially our kickoff coverage guys. If you don’t kick it to him, then you give up some short fields, which is the other side of the coin. You don’t want to give up some short fields. We aren’t afraid to kick to people. Hopefully that isn’t bravado. Our guys would love do to their job.”
The streak stops here: Could this be the week? Struggling Hawaii is the perfect opponent for UNLV to snap its 21-game road losing streak. The Rebels haven’t won away from Las Vegas since beating New Mexico on Oct. 24, 2009. With the exception of two weeks ago at Colorado State and last year at New Mexico, UNLV has been the betting underdog in 19 of the 21 contests. Against Hawaii, the Rebels are favored by 3.5 points at Las Vegas sports books. “For us, it is about us going over and having a good performance and putting a complete game together,” Hauck said.
UNLV beats Hawaii in 2000 to become bowl eligible
Last win at Hawaii made UNLV bowl eligible: UNLV has just a 2-8 overall record in 10 appearances at Hawaii, but its most recent victory was a significant one. In 2000, three UNLV ballcarriers rushed for more than 100 yards and the Rebels held on for a 34-32 victory to become bowl eligible. The John Robinson-coached squad capped its 8-5 season with a victory against Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl, which was also the program’s last nonwinning season. Against Hawaii, Jeremi Rudolph rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Jason Thomas rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown and passed for an additional two scores. Hawaii’s attempt at a two-point conversion late in the game failed, giving the Rebels the win.
What could have been: UNLV’s 2-10 overall record is definitely an eyesore in a season where the expectations were higher than another two-win season (the Rebels have won two games in six seasons, starting in 2004). However, one quick look at the results reveals something several don’t release: The Rebels were closer to a .500 team than most would think. Just take a look at their home games. The Rebels posted a 2-5 record at home, and in the five defeats, each was decided by single digits. UNLV lost those five games by a combined 24 points, or 4.8 points per game. Just don’t expect Hauck to take comfort in close results. “Going into the last week of the season we’ve had a lot of close calls,” Hauck said. “Obviously, we would like to have a better record than we have. We are tired of being close. We want to go compete this Saturday and get a win. This team has carried itself well, it has played well. Hopefully we have a good performance Saturday.”
Several Rebels call Hawaii home: Seven UNLV players list Hawaii as their home state, including senior linebacker and tackle leader John Lotulelei and his brother, freshman Tau Lotulelei. The younger Lotulelei went to Maui High School and walked on at UNLV in August. “It feels good to go back home and play in my (home state),” said John Lotulelei, who is 30th nationally with 9.4 tackles per game and earlier this year became the first Rebel to clear the 100 tackle plateau since 2008. Other players from the islands include: Afi Grieg, Maika Mataele, Justice Sarcedo, Desmond Tautofi and Penia Vea. Also, Jimmy Morimoto, the team’s director of player personnel, is formerly a high school coach in Wailuku. Hawaii has one player from Las Vegas: freshman linebacker Jerrol Garcia Williams of Palo Verde High.