Las Vegas Sun

December 7, 2021

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Mondays with Mike: It’s a familiar position for 3-6 Rebels

UNLV needs three wins in three games — just like in 2008 — starting with Colorado State

Colorada State over UNLV

AP Photo/The Fort Collins Coloradoan, Rich Abrahamson

Colorado State receiver Rashaun Greer, a Mojave High grad, catches a deep ball against UNLV on Oct. 4, 2008.

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Next game

  • Opponent: Colorado State
  • Date: Nov. 7, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
  • TV: The Mtn. (Cox Ch. 334)
  • Radio: ESPN 1100 AM
  • All-time series:CSU leads, 4-12-1
  • The line: CSU by 1.5

Editor's note: Each Monday, UNLV football coach Mike Sanford meets with the media to discuss last weekend's action and next weekend's matchup. So each week the Sun will bring you notes and quotes discussing both.

If you were to grade the UNLV football team on its showing last season in the schedule's final three games, a D+ would be pretty fair.

Facing a situation where they needed three wins in three games to attain bowl eligibility, the Rebels ultimately blew their opportunity with a heartbreaking 42-28 loss at San Diego State in the finale.

The only saving grace that awarded Mike Sanford's club a passing grade was the fact that it won the first two, getting as close as humanly possible to the program's first bowl appearance since 2000.

It's now a different year, a different team, but the Rebels now are staring at a similar goal: Three games, three wins needed.

On the heels of a brutal 41-0 beating at the hands of No. 6 TCU, UNLV hosts 3-6 Colorado State this Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

"On the one hand, there's a lot of hope," Sanford said when asked to draw on his 2008 experience heading into the season's final quarter. "We have hope, but I think the other part of it is not to get caught up in all three games. Our job is about Colorado State and beating Colorado State.

"That's all we can think about right now."

The Rams, oddly enough, were one of the teams that helped put the Rebels in that do-or-die situation.

In arguably the 2008 season's most draining defeat, UNLV led CSU in Fort Collins, 28-27, with just minutes to play.

Then the Rams marched down the field, fueled by the hard running of the now-departed Gartrell Johnson, scored a touchdown, nailed down the two-point conversion and then ran in a meaningless touchdown off a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.

That victory for Colorado State under first-year coach Steve Fairchild proved to be a springboard for the Rams toward a 6-6 regular season finish and a triumph over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl.

Now, the script is flipped, as CSU is in just as dire a spot as UNLV. Following a 3-0 start, the Rams are 3-6, with Air Force handing Fairchild's squad its sixth consecutive setback last Saturday.

A different kind of pass rush

One of UNLV's handful of major accomplishments in Fort Worth over the weekend was that its offensive line allowed no quarterback sacks to the nation's No. 1 defense.

CSU, on the other hand, is 94th out of 120 FBS programs in total defense, and has just 16 quarterback takedowns in nine games.

Meanwhile, UNLV's offensive line is tied with Boston College for 27th in sacks allowed, with only 11 surrendered in nine games.

But the Rams' style is an entirely different animal compared to that of the Horned Frogs.

"TCU did blitz us some, but their sacks up to that game had come through their defensive ends getting pressure and beating tackles, combined with them doing a great job with coverage so the quarterback was holding the ball too long," Sanford said. "Colorado State is more of a blitzing, zone-blitzing defense. Their deal is numbers. TCU is a little more one-on-one. Colorado State is trying to out-number you and get somebody free."

So far this season, no one's done a better job of getting free than sophomore end Mychal Sisson.

His unique versatility shows, as he leads the Rams' defense in tackles (65), tackles for loss (10.5), sacks (4) and pass break-ups (5).

One other positive from TCU

UNLV can also hang its hat on the fact that it came away healthy after playing one of the nation's most physically punishing teams.

The only minor bump to come out of Saturday's loss in terms of health was junior linebacker Starr Fuimaono aggravating his previously sprained left ankle.

However, he is expected to be a go this Saturday night.

In other news in that arena, Sanford also expects senior receiver Rodelin Anthony to be back at full strength. Anthony's final season as a Rebel has been marred by injury. After sustaining a concussion early, he came back from a sprained ankle last Saturday in Fort Worth, but didn't register a catch.

One of UNLV's top red zone threats, Anthony has 12 catches for 194 yards and four scores.

Also adding depth to the defensive end spot will be junior Daniel Mareko, who returns from a five-week absence after breaking his left forearm.

A local to look out for

The UNLV coaching staff doesn't just know much about CSU senior receiver Rashaun Greer because he's from its backyard.

The Mojave High product torched the Rebels a year ago, registering a career-high 211 yards on only eight catches, including a 62-yard haul and a 46-yarder that produced his only touchdown of the afternoon.

Greer leads the Rams this season with 31 catches and 580 yards, but has yet to score.

"He's fast, he stretches the field and makes plays down the field," Sanford said. "The thing that's so fresh in our mind is what he did to us last year."

An uneven series

UNLV is just 4-12-1 all-time against Colorado State.

Making that record look worse is that the Rebels have never defeated the Rams in Sam Boyd Stadium.

In Sanford's tenure, one moment that sticks out at home against CSU was the vicious winds in the 2007 contest — a 48-23 Rams victory.

On one Colorado State kickoff, the wind actually stopped the ball mid-flight, pushed it backward and allowed the Rams to get the recovery.

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