UNLV football:

Hauck thinks more experienced Rebels team could be in for ‘fun’ season

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Sam Morris

UNLV head football coach Bobby Hauck takes part in the Mountain West Conference football media day Tuesday, July 24, 2012.

With 19 returning starters and a manageable schedule, Bobby Hauck is interested in having fun and winning some games, preferably as many as the six he’s won over the past three seasons. What he’s not interested in is the weekly discussion about his job security that will only increase once UNLV announces a new full-time athletic director.

So he’s not going to do it. UNLV’s season could be a lot of fun, Hauck said at Tuesday’s Mountain West media day at the Cosmopolitan, and he seems to genuinely believe it. Conversations about his stability as the Rebels’ coach are decidedly not fun, and it’s also an unknown he doesn’t want to make time for.

“I don’t know if the plane’s going to go down tomorrow when I get on it,” Hauck said, “so I’m not going to worry about it until December.”

Entering his fourth year in Las Vegas, Hauck has unquestionably his best roster. He returns nine offensive starters, including all of the skill positions, plus the team expects some junior college transfers to contribute.

There are nine defensive returners, too, though for a unit consistently among the league’s worst, that may not be such a good thing. They’re not young anymore, though, and to Hauck that’s a small victory. The experiences they do have, as unsuccessful as they may have been, make them more equipped to handle UNLV’s schedule than any of Hauck’s previous teams.

“The first two years I wanted to walk in the door (at media day) and say, ‘Have you guys looked at our schedule? We’ve got no chance,’” Hauck said. “But you don’t get to say that at these things, so I didn’t.

“For the first time, I feel comfortable with our team. I like where we’re at.”

Keeping those positive feelings around will require several changes, because the recent past still weighs on this team. There’s the 22-game road losing streak, the five one-possession losses last year and a season-ending 38-point beating at Hawaii, which most people had pegged as the worst team in the league before kickoff.

The Rebels were worn down and tired at the end of last season, Hauck said. He blamed himself.

In some cases, there’s nothing he could have done, like starting running back Tim Cornett tearing the labrum in his left shoulder in the first game. With surgery as the only real fix, Cornett fought the injury all year and finished with 1,232 yards and seven touchdowns.

But there were smaller injuries throughout the team, and guys just needed a break before they all broke. Hauck said he didn’t want to pull off the gas for fear his young team wouldn’t know how to turn it back on, and after battling in a close loss at Wyoming, the wheels fell off at Hawaii.

“We simply didn’t play,” Hauck said of that game. “It’s intolerable.”

The Rebels can avenge that loss at home on Oct. 12. That game is at the end of a four-game stretch that on paper looks like a possible four-game winning streak.

After opening the year Aug. 29 at Minnesota and hosting Arizona on Sept. 7, the Rebels host Central Michigan (Sept. 14) and Western Illinois (Sept. 21) before going to New Mexico. Those are games that last year could have been victories had UNLV made a few more plays. Coming up short in a few of them again won’t be good enough.

Hauck thinks the Rebels will get it done. He doesn’t toss out bowl game predictions or even put a target win total out there. Not his style, though he does see victories on this schedule.

“I don’t know if my gauge or comfort is accurate,” Hauck conceded.

There are plenty who would argue it’s way off. And like those conversations about his job security, Hauck isn’t interested in engaging them. This year is going to be fun, he said, whether you believe him or not.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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