Three games into the football season, and so much is still unknown.
Some questions will be answered tonight.
Is Western Illinois improved, or are its early results a mirage?
Will UNLV coach Bobby Hauck actually begin the game with a quarterback coming off a career game on the sideline, or will Caleb Herring get the start?
Are the Rebels more representative of how they played the final 2½ quarters last week against Central Michigan, or are they the mistake-prone team that struggled until that time?
If the UNLV team that showed up midway through the second quarter of its 31-21 victory over Central Michigan is the one that takes the Sam Boyd Stadium field at 6 p.m. today, the 12½-point favorite Rebels should be fine.
“If we play like that second-half team, which we’re capable of playing a full game, I feel like we can compete with anybody,” linebacker Tim Hasson said. “That’s how I know we can play.”
The Rebels need to build on their success against Western Illinois (2-1) and get to 2-2, which would be the first time UNLV has been at least .500 since beginning the 2009 season 2-2.
Hauck, in his fourth season, never has won back-to-back games at UNLV. If his team fails to come through tonight, Hauck will be squarely on the hot seat because this appears to be the most winnable game on the schedule.
But perhaps Western Illinois is better than first believed. The Leathernecks won their first two games under first-year coach Bob Nielson, and they led Minnesota 12-7 last week late in the third quarter before losing 29-12. Minnesota defeated UNLV 51-23 to open the season.
Hauck said watching the video of what Western Illinois accomplished in that game “was pretty eye-opening.”
“I kind of feel like that’s how they’re going to play us.” Hauck said. “They had some success stopping Minnesota, and there’s carry-over between the two of us.”
The Leathernecks, however, have plenty of their own questions. Western Illinois recorded its two victories over Hampton and Quincy, and the Leathernecks were picked ninth in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference. They went 3-8 last season.
UNLV, after its experience with losses to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona the past two seasons, probably won’t overlook Western Illinois, another Football Championship Subdivision team. Not that the Rebels can take any opponent lightly.
Hauck and his coaches also have a decision to make at quarterback. Herring is coming off a career performance, leading UNLV back from a 21-0 deficit to beat Central Michigan.
“My thoughts were to be ready to win it, to look at it as a situation where I’m not coming in just to back up, I’m coming in to help lead the team to win,” Herring said.
His play would seem to give him the inside track to start tonight, but Hauck insisted Herring and Nick Sherry would fight it out in practice this week.
Both quarterbacks shared repetitions, with Herring given the ball at end-of-practice drills Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hauck said he expects both to play, and he knows Sherry might be needed to win a game at some point.
No matter who is at the controls, the Rebels know this is a game they can’t afford to lose. They also should know they better play like they did most of the night against Central Michigan.
“They’ll be confident,” Hauck said of Western Illinois, “that they can come in here and win.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.