Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Bradford again leaves UNLV football team; another player suspended one game
- Rebels stuck in different version of same bad movie in 35-27 loss to Washington St.
- Caleb Herring’s debut at receiver a bright spot in UNLV’s third straight loss
- UNLV must contain Washington State’s passing attack in chase for first victory
- Washington State’s Mike Leach returns to the national stage against UNLV
- Rebels searching for balance between self-belief and burden of letting others down
- ‘We’re hard to love’: Bobby Hauck and Rebels dealing with reality of starting 0-2
- Bobby Hauck struggles to explain UNLV’s 17-14 home loss to Northern Arizona
- Take 5: Plays that led to UNLV’s demise in stunning loss to Northern Arizona
- All UNLV Football Coverage
Imagine you’re at a local tavern, a dingy and foul-smelling joint far from the bright lights of the Strip. The years of smoke that have filled it can be wiped off the walls with a swipe of your finger. The bartenders don’t smile.
Right after you get there, you see a guy sidle up to the brunette sitting alone at the end of the bar. He starts out well, getting a laugh and then sitting down for a conversation. Things seem to be going pretty well, but near closing time he asks for a phone number and is rejected, left to wander into the night with a knot in his stomach until he can try again.
UNLV is that guy. For three straight weeks, the Rebels (0-3) haven’t been able to seal the deal, losing by a combined 14 points. Although getting over the hump is its biggest problem of late, in recent years UNLV couldn’t even take a seat at the bar.
“The biggest challenge was getting into close games,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “We were so outmatched in some of these games early on.”
That may be a problem once again as the Rebels enter their most difficult stretch of the season, starting with Saturday’s Mountain West home opener against Air Force (1-1) at 7 p.m. on Me-TV (channel 129 on Cox). If UNLV couldn’t get it done in that tavern, how will it fare when the venue changes to a more upscale establishment? The Rebels’ next six opponents all played in bowl games last year, and four of these upcoming games are on the road.
Coming out with a victory in any one of those is going to require seriously cutting down on the “laundry list” of problems and mistakes Hauck said the Rebels have to address each Monday.
From last week’s 35-27 loss to Washington State, that list includes familiar items such as blown plays in the secondary, missed opportunities (specifically dropped passes) and mistakes that included three straight penalties to open the game and a careless play by sophomore receiver Marcus Sullivan that could have cost UNLV a touchdown.
While streaking down the sideline for one of his two receiving scores, Sullivan appeared to drop the ball just before crossing the goal line. It was so close (and he was so far ahead of the defense) that the refs didn’t think anything of it and UNLV tacked on its extra point without a review.
That plus another flurry of drops by the Rebels’ leading receiver would seem to be cause for concern. Although he acknowledged the errors, Hauck said he didn’t see them as glaring signs of continuing problems.
“I think the lad’s excited about being healthy and playing well,” Hauck said.
Overly excited, sure, but Hauck’s point was that he doesn’t think the mistakes come from a bad place, such as a lack of preparation or effort.
These are the kind of inner battles you have to wage at 0-3. It’s not that mistakes occurred; that part is almost a foregone conclusion. It’s about where they come from, because that helps you answer the question of how to minimize them.
Or, you could think like junior defensive lineman Alex Klorman, a Del Sol product, and just forge them all into the same annoying rake you keep stepping on before it whacks you in the face.
“We’re nowhere close to where we want to be,” Klorman said. “Nobody wants to be 0-3.”
It would be worse to be 0-4, or 0-5, or 0-you get the idea. That’s what UNLV is facing with three of its most winnable games in the past as broken dreams left on a barroom floor. Working on the pickup lines to get better results the next time out takes practice and probably some patience. UNLV will continue to do the former, but the Rebels don’t plan to wait for the latter.
“ ‘Patience is a virtue’ is what my father used to say to me, and it drove me crazy,” Hauck said. “I didn’t have any then; I don’t have any now. Neither do these guys, I hope.”
They want it to work, and, realistic or not, they want it to work now. Maybe this year’s losses are better than the blowouts last year, but rejection still sucks, whether it’s at the beginning of the night or the end.
“It’s nice to be in these close games,” senior offensive lineman Yusef Rodgers said, “but the objective is to win.”
UNLV is getting desperate for that number at the end of the night. Anything that doesn’t start with 0 will do.