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UNLV Gameday: The Rebels favored for the 1st time in 2013 season

Central Michigan comes into Las Vegas as a touchdown underdog to the 0-2 Rebels


Steve Marcus

UNLV running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence carries the ball into the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown run during UNLV’s home opener against the University of Arizona at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

LasVegasSun.com Sports Talk

Mayweather and a UNLV disaster

Las Vegas Sun sports writers Case Keefer and Taylor Bern discuss this weekend's big events: the biggest boxing match in the last six years and a UNLV home football game.

What’s done is done for UNLV. At least that's the Rebels' hope.

Now that they’re 0-2, the Rebels begin the friendlier four-game portion of their schedule; a few victories now could certainly ease the pain of two defeats by a combined score of 109-36. And to get that first win, they’ve got to stop making the killer mistakes that led to that lopsided score.

UNLV hosts Central Michigan (1-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The game will stream online via the Mountain West Network and Campus Insiders.

And who will play quarterback for the Rebels when the game kicks off? We may not know that for certain until Saturday. Both sophomore Nick Sherry and senior Caleb Herring are getting equal time with the first team this week.

That position is our top storyline heading into this weekend:


1. Quarterbacks

It’s the most important position on the field and both sides have some question marks going into the game.

For Central Michigan, redshirt freshman Cooper Rush will be the starter. Rush began the season at third string before an injury at the top and poor play from backup Alex Niznak forced him into the role. He responded with 326 yards and three touchdowns over about three quarters in a comeback victory against New Hampshire.

So while he’s inexperienced, Rush performed well and led his team to a victory. UNLV’s issue isn’t experience; it’s the performance part.

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck benched Sherry for Herring in the second half of Saturday’s blowout and opened up the competition this week. It could turn out to be just a wake-up call for Sherry, but considering how bad some of those throws were, it may be just what he needed.

Hauck also left open the possibility that both guys could play Saturday. Honesty or trying to keep CMU guessing? We’ll see this weekend.

2. UNLV’s secondary

It’s finally time to see how this group will perform this season. Both Minnesota and Arizona featured quarterbacks far better at rushing the ball than throwing it.

Now the Rebels face Central Michigan and third-string quarterback Rush, who in three quarters amassed 326 passing yards while the Gophers and Wildcats combined for just 180 over two games.

This is expected to be Rush’s first career start — he played in relief last week — and it’s possible he’ll have all kinds of problems that come with a young quarterback making his first road start. Still, UNLV went 0-4 against backup quarterbacks last year in large part because the secondary couldn’t stop simple pass patterns.

3. Attendance

This spot was reserved for attendance last week, too, and after a 45-point defeat, it’s another interesting question. Especially when you consider this game is going up against the Mayweather-Canelo fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

A lot of people would probably rather watch that fight somewhere than make the trip out to Sam Boyd Stadium for another loss. UNLV has to hope enough fans give them another chance and the Rebels actually take care of business.

Key Matchup

UNLV’s quarterbacks vs. CMU’s secondary

I already addressed UNLV’s secondary concerns so this is another storyline to keep an eye on. It could just as easily read UNLV vs. UNLV.

The Rebels have been great at sabotaging themselves so far this season, turning long shots into no shots. Whichever quarterback gets the nod is going to have to avoid those gut shots.

To be fair, two of the return touchdowns against Minnesota had nothing to do with UNLV’s offense. But Sherry’s performance against Arizona has put the quarterback issues into the forefront.

Over/Under: 0.5 Central Michigan return touchdowns

From last week: “UNLV just gave up three of them so the law of averages suggests they should make it through this game unscathed in that department. But you never know.

Imagine the heartbreak if the Rebels give up a kickoff or interception return touchdown early in the game. You would see a lot of slumped shoulders.”

We don’t have to imagine that heartbreak. We saw it. Will Central Michigan make it a second straight over?

That’s what he said: “There’s no explanation for that.” — Hauck on punter Logan Yunker not going out on the field for a punt attempt

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

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