Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Sherry injured as Rebels drop forgettable 32-7 decision at Boise State
- Take 5: Looking through the Rebels’ remaining games for potential victories
- Boise State much more than the trick plays that put program on the map
- Mountain Best: There’s a new team deserving of the ranking’s top spot
- Rebels can either embrace challenge of Boise State or wither after UNR loss
- The Fremont Cannon returns to Reno after UNLV’s second-half collapse
- Brewer: This loss to UNR will be tougher for UNLV to stomach
- The Fremont Cannon visits Las Vegas this weekend and UNLV plans to keep it here
- Brewer: With the exception of football rivalry, UNLV is clearly superior to UNR
- All UNLV Football Coverage
The prospect of playing against a backup quarterback is generally a positive experience for teams or, at the very least, for their fans. It invites thoughts of attacking an inexperienced or underdeveloped guy who was second string for a reason.
That’s not the feeling this week in Las Vegas, where the Rebels (1-7, 1-2) are preparing to travel to San Diego State (5-3, 3-1) for Saturday’s game at 5 p.m. on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. That’s partly due to the fact there may be two backups starting the game, as there was no update Monday on UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry's health after he left last week’s loss in the fourth quarter with a back injury. The other reason that not even fans can get excited about facing the Aztecs’ Adam Dingwell is that he’s the fourth backup the Rebels will face this season, and they’re 0-3 in those games.
The obvious counter to that is UNLV isn’t much better (1-4) in its other games, so it doesn’t really matter who’s starting at quarterback. But that’s sort of the point.
UNLV coach Bobby Hauck joked that the other teams’ backups were more experienced than his starters, which has some truth when compared to Sherry but mostly just sounds good. All three of them — NAU’s Chase Cartwright, Washington State’s Connor Halliday and UNR’s Devin Combs — are sophomores, as is Dingwell. None had much time on the field except for Halliday, who may deserve an asterisk as he’s basically split time with Jeff Tuel this season depending on whom coach Mike Leach trusts more at that moment.
Dingwell entered last Saturday’s game at UNR when San Diego State starter Ryan Katz went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter. In the first real action of his career, Dingwell was superb, completing 14-of-23 passes for 177 yards, three touchdowns and one decisive two-point conversion.
The Aztecs scored 10 points in the final four minutes to force overtime, and then after UNR scored seven points on its first possession, Dingwell threw a 21-yard touchdown. Instead of kicking an extra point to tie the game, Aztecs coach Rocky Long went for broke and Dingwell made his coach look like a genius, completing a pass to Adam Roberts for a 39-38 victory.
Hauck watched the game live after returning to Las Vegas on Saturday night and queued it up again the next morning. The offense didn’t change with Dingwell, he said. Like Katz, Dingwell has the threat of tucking the ball and running at any time but will try to do most of his damage picking holes in the secondary.
That group for UNLV has probably faced more scrutiny than any others, and a lot of it has to do with a propensity for giving up big plays. All but one opposing quarterback has been able to carve up the Rebels for big chunks of yards. The exception was Air Force’s Connor Dietz, who attempted only 10 passes in the Falcons’ loss.
Fixing those issues is a seasonlong project that has yielded poor results. Inconsistency in the lineup hasn’t helped things, as performance and injury-related issues have caused Hauck to go with six secondary combinations in the first eight games.
Senior Kenny Brown has started two games at cornerback and the past three at safety this season. He had hoped for a better send-off to his college career, but at this point in the season that’s out of his mind. The new focus is salvaging something for the future classes to build on.
“It’s not about us as a senior class,” Brown said.
This group’s legacy is no longer on the line the same way it was at the beginning of the season. Now it’s more about trying to set things up for the future by accomplishing little goals, such as defeating a backup quarterback.