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Mock game gives Rebels chance to practice for real thing

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV Rebels head coach Tony Sanchez leads his team out of the tunnel to face the BYU Cougars during their football game at Sam Boyd Stadium on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.

UNLV has spent the past month on the practice field getting ready for the season opener at USC on Sept. 1. On Saturday, however, the Rebels will spend a day preparing for the stuff that happens outside the lines on game day.

Under the direction of head coach Tony Sanchez, the team will be put through a mock game at Sam Boyd Stadium, which is meant to mimic the entire game-day experience.

After the Rebels wrapped up Friday morning’s practice, Sanchez classified the mock game as “pretty boring” but necessary for some of the younger Rebels, who may be going through it for the first time.

“We’ve got guys out there who have played in 40 ball games, 35 ball games, so this is all kind of routine,” Sanchez said. “It’s new for the young guys, so it’s great for them to see that and see how the process unfolds and how it works.”

The Rebels stay at a local hotel on real game days, so they’ll do the same leading up to the mock game. From the team dinner to the bus ride to the stadium to the pregame warmups, UNLV will treat the proceedings as though it’s the most important game of the season.

On the field, the mock game will feature a light workload and absolutely no contact.

“We’ll eat [at the hotel], we’ll get on the bus there,” Sanchez said. “The biggest thing about the mock game is everything until the game actually starts. We take them through the full warmup, then we go into the locker room for 20 minutes, then we tell them ‘Alright, we’re going to be walking out now, we’re going to run through the tunnel.’ And then once the [mock] game starts, they’re wearing shoulder pads but there’s no contact at all.”

Execution will still be an emphasis, but in a different way. Sanchez wants to make sure his players and coaches know the personnel groupings, the substitution procedures and other nuts and bolts that often get overlooked.

“The biggest thing is guys on the headsets calling everything down, and then also all your substitutions,” Sanchez said. “There’s just going to be wholesale subs and guys getting used to staring at the sideline, going through those processes, coming on and off and making sure the personnel groups are right.

“Literally, for lack of a better term it’s like a wedding rehearsal.”

In other words, not the most exciting use of a practice session, but necessary to keep the Rebels running smoothly when the games begin for real.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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