Behind Enemy Lines: UNLV
On Thursday night, the UNLV Rebels travel to TCF Bank Stadium to take on your Minnesota Golden Gophers. Last year, it took Minnesota three overtimes to defeat the Rebels in Las Vegas. What should Gopher fans expect to see out of UNLV this season? GopherIllustrated.com goes Behind Enemy Lines with Thomas Parker from Rebel-Net.com to find out.
LT: The Rebels have some newcomers on the team this season via transfer, tell us a little bit about them and what kind of impact Rebel fans expect them to make.
TP: The words transfer and UNLV usually go hand-in-hand, but they are usually synonymous with basketball. Yes, they are some transfers coming into the football program this year, but it's mostly depth that those players are going to help shore up. With nine starters returning on both sides of the ball, and nearly the entire special teams unit returning, the Rebels have the experience. This should alleviate the concern of having to plug new members of the roster into the fold immediately.
LT: What can Minnesota fans expect to see out of the UNLV offense? Who are the playmakers?
TP: Not only are UNLV's skilled players pretty solid, they are all seasoned veterans. Quarterback Nick Sherry was on pace to break all the freshman Mountain West records before an injury stalled his progress. Tim Cornett has been the Rebels' leading rusher since he got to campus. In his fourth and final season, Cornett will be the focal point of the offense. After not having an experience in the receiving corps a year ago, UNLV has all its top wide outs back this season, with Devante Davis making the biggest splash in 2012, catching 61 passes. Do-everything receiver, Marcus Sullivan, is a threat any time he touches the ball, whether by air or ground.
LT: The UNLV defense struggled to stop the run a year ago. What are the expectations for the defensive unit heading into the season opener at TCF Bank Stadium?
TP: This is the wildcard for the Rebels. No one knows exactly what to expect. Head coach Bobby Hauck brought in his brother, Tim, to run the defense this year, so that could help in the way of schemes and effort. Tim was an assistant in the NFL and should be able to command respect from his crew. Only one player on the roster had more than 2.5 sacks last year, so being able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks should be the key. A lack of a pass rush was instrumental in how bad the UNLV secondary looked for much of the year. Led by senior linebacker, Tim Hasson, the defense can't go anywhere but up in 2013.
LT: Some people say this would be a "signature win" for UNLV if they were able to defeat Minnesota. What would it mean to Bobby Hauck's job security and the program?
TP: It wouldn't matter if the Rebels were playing at Alcorn State in this opening week if a win were involved. After going two seasons without a road victory, UNLV would celebrate any type of success away from Sam Boyd Stadium. Coach Hauck and the Rebels are desperate for their first taste at a road "W'. Beating Minnesota on the Golden Gophers' home turf would just be icing on the cake.
LT: The Rebels travel to TCF Bank Stadium to take on Big Ten foe Minnesota. What are you expectations for the matchup?
TP: I would expect this game to be pretty similar to last season and be close throughout the entire contest. The Rebels have the experience and the hunger to do some damage this season and pull off a couple upsets along the way. Minnesota plays a lot like many of the MWC teams so it shouldn't be a horrible mismatch. I like the Gophers to pull away late and open their slate with a 31-23 victory.