Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 | 2 a.m.
As previously mentioned, UNLV’s record after two games isn’t surprising. The Rebels were double-digit underdogs in both games against teams from power conferences.
What optimists wanted to see in those two games were some signs that UNLV (0-2) wouldn’t be winless for long as it begins a crucial four-game stretch. The Rebels stay home the next two weeks against Central Michigan and Western Illinois, then travel to equally woeful New Mexico before hosting Hawaii after a bye week.
Coach Bobby Hauck’s team needs to win some of these because the schedule only gets tougher in the back half. Before we start looking at the Chippewas and what chances UNLV has this weekend, we need to take a moment to observe some of the crazy figures from these first two defeats:
1 — Passing touchdown surrendered by UNLV. The Rebels have allowed 14 total touchdowns through two games, yet only one of those was through the air.
This is mostly due to the opponents. Quarterbacks Philip Nelson (Minnesota) and B.J. Denker (Arizona) are both far better rushers than passers. Against UNLV, they combined for four rushing touchdowns while completing 18-of-43 passes.
Still, considering all the questions surrounding the Rebels’ secondary, it could be seen as a positive were it not for the fact their opponents have scored in almost every other way imaginable. Arizona got close to checking off a fumble return touchdown before getting pushed out inside the 10, and the only obvious ones other than that are a punt and a blocked punt return.
The Wildcats and Gophers combined to rush for eight touchdowns.
35 — Points scored on return touchdowns against UNLV. Twenty-one by the Gophers (kick return, blocked field goal and interception) and 14 by the Wildcats (two interceptions).
The Rebels have scored 36 total points in that same time frame. It gets worse if you count all points scored off turnovers.
52 — Points scored off turnovers against UNLV. I told you it gets worse.
Not every mistake has come back to bite the Rebels immediately. Some of them take more time. Arizona scored 10 on possessions set up by UNLV turnovers — a touchdown after Nick Sherry’s fumble and a field goal after a turnover on downs — while Minnesota scored a touchdown off Sherry’s second interception.
One of the many understood factors to any possible success for UNLV this season is that it couldn’t make big mistakes, things like turnovers and penalties. Well, the Rebels haven’t been able to come close to that standard.
Not only that, Hauck’s main complaint after Saturday’s game was that the team blew its gap assignments, which created wide-open running lanes.
UNLV could survive some blown assignments if it didn’t give the ball away, and vice versa. If they’re playing technically sound, maybe the Rebels could get through some nontouchdown giveaways.
But put them both together? That’s how you get an 0-2 start by a combined score of 109-36.