Take Five: A closer look at UNLV vs. Southern Utah

Rebels hope to keep momentum building against Football Championship Subdivision foe


Sam Morris

UNLV wide receiver Phillip Payne celebrates his touchdown against Hawaii during the first half of UNLV’s home opener Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.

The Rebel Room

UNLV's season now back on track?

Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss UNLV's shocking 40-20 victory over Hawaii in last Saturday's home opener at Sam Boyd Stadium, take a look at this weekend's game against Southern Utah and hit on how the Hawaii victory could change the course of the 2011 season.

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Now that UNLV pulled off a stunning home victory over Hawaii, how likely are you to come out to Sam Boyd Stadium to watch the Rebels host Southern Utah next Saturday night?

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UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said at his Monday press conference that his program is in no position to overlook anyone.

It's a fitting statement for any coach to make when a Football Championship Subdivision foe is coming to town, but for UNLV, it's especially true.

After suffering blowout losses to both Wisconsin and Washington State on the road, the Rebels' season took a very positive turn a week ago when they upset Hawaii in their Sam Boyd Stadium opener. But any momentum created from the stunning 40-20 victory would be lost if UNLV doesn't find a way to get by Southern Utah.

Here, now, is a closer look at five things to watch Saturday night when the two kick off at 6 p.m.

1) They're going to air it out

A week ago, Hawaii's Bryant Moniz completed 20 of 36 pass attempts against UNLV, throwing for 233 yards in the process. UNLV excelled on defense by getting pressure on him and, when he did complete his throws, not allowing short pass plays to develop into big ones. They're going to get tested again this weekend by Southern Utah senior slinger Brad Sorensen, who through three games has completed 73 percent of his passes for 898 yards. The BYU transfer is averaging 37 attempts per game, and five different Thunderbird receivers have at least 10 receptions in the team's first three games.

2) Ground advantage

On paper, this has the look of a game UNLV should be able to control on the ground. While SUU figures to throw the ball around a ton, expect the Rebels to try and do most of their damage the old-fashioned way. Against three fellow FCS opponents so far, the Thunderbirds are allowing 164 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Against Hawaii, UNLV ran the ball 42 times while throwing it 30, which helped keep the Warriors' potent offense reined in a bit. Coming off of a performance where UNLV ran for 220 yards, they figure to have a chance to produce big numbers for sophomore running backs Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle.

3) No free possessions

A bit under the radar through three games has been UNLV sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring not giving away possessions to opposing defenses. To this point, in 76 pass attempts, he's thrown just one interception. He's managing games effectively and not making costly mistakes, which so far has kept Rebels coach Bobby Hauck happy. As of last week, it now looks like he'll be able to continue to improve vertically with senior receiver Phillip Payne breaking out of an early season slump. The two hooked up seven times for 98 yards and two scores last week, and this match-up should be favorable for both of them.

4) Golden opportunity

While many fans of Football Bowl Subdivision schools look at games against FCS foes as 'gimmes,' the Rebels can hardly afford to get caught up in that hype. A loss to Southern Utah would undo much of the progress the program made a week ago, and it would also deprive them of a golden opportunity to fully turn the 2011 season around. With a win, UNLV would be back even at 2-2 with a pair of bye weeks coming up in October, including the first of those next weekend. After that comes a trip to face rival Nevada-Reno, who the Rebels have not defeated since 2004. The Wolf Pack is down a bit this year, though, in the post-Colin Kaepernick Era, and could be ripe for the picking. But UNLV has to take care of business at home, first. That's not lost on anyone in the program, it appears.

5) SUU's X-factor

Expect to hear the name Deckar Alexander quite a bit. The 5-foot-7 senior will get plenty of chances to make plays out of the backfield. To this point, he's the Thunderbirds' leading rusher with 198 yards on 38 carries, but he's also caught 13 passes for 114 yards and scored three total touchdowns.

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