UNLV is preparing for yet another strong passing attack that probably will get its share yards and points.
How the Rebels respond when/if San Jose State makes a big play or two or five will be a key to Saturday’s 1 p.m. football game at Sam Boyd Stadium.
As a rule, “you get beat here and there,” said safety Frank Crawford, who leads UNLV with three interceptions. “You don’t want to get beat, but it tends to happen. Whoever bounces back and whoever faces adversity and still is strong, that’s who will come out with the win.”
San Jose State’s David Fales is the Mountain West’s hottest quarterback, playing even better than Fresno State’s Derek Carr, entering this game with five consecutive 300-yard games to tie the conference record set by Brigham Young QBs John Beck and Max Hall. Fales threw for more than 400 yards in three of those games, including 482 yards and five touchdowns in Saturday’s 51-44 victory over Wyoming.
“He and they have been on fire,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “He’s got really good players to throw to, too.”
Wide receiver Tyler Winston has helped pick up the slack for San Jose State after standout Noel Grigsby went down early this season with a knee injury. Winston is third nationally in receiving yards by a freshman, with 506 on 24 catches. Chandler Jones leads the Spartans with 40 receptions for 805 yards and nine touchdowns.
Both receivers average more than 20 yards per catch in an offense that has finished 15 of its 23 touchdown drives in 2 minutes or less.
UNLV allows just 223.4 yards passing per game, second in the Mountain West. But opponents have been able to find success deep at times, and the Rebels can’t let Fales continue his incredible roll.
Not that UNLV can expect to shut down Fales, and the game’s outcome could come down to how the Rebels respond should he makes plays.
“It will be interesting to see how this game plays out,” Hauck said. “I just feel like we need to make some plays on defense. We do need to get some stops. Same thing on of fense. We can’t be putting our defense behind the 8 ball.”
■ UNLV’s turnaround is the nation’s fourth best so far. The Rebels were 1-8 at this point last season, and they now are 5-3. Auburn has the top turnaround, going from 1-7 to 7-1, followed by Buffalo (1-7 to 6-2) and Baylor (3-4 to 7-0).
■ The Rebels are coming off their second road victory, the first time since 2003 they have posted multiple away wins. They are 2-2 in away games this season, with only a remaining road trip to Air Force on Nov. 21. UNLV went 4-2 on the road in 2003, but just 2-4 at home in finishing 6-6. The Rebels didn’t qualify for a bowl that season because teams needed a winning record to receive a bid.
■ UNLV has won five of its first eight games for the first time since 1994. That year’s team finished 7-5, including a 52-24 trouncing of Central Michigan in the Las Vegas Bowl. UNLV beat Central Michigan 31-21 for its first victory this season to turn around the season after a troubling start.
FOR THE RECORD
■ Caleb Herring has the chance to break two more school records set by Randall Cunningham. Herring has completed 68.4 percent of his passes this season, which if it holds would smash Cunningham’s 62.4 mark in 1984. And Herring’s 1.9 career interception percentage is better than Cunningham’s record of 2.9. Herring has thrown just one pick in 228 passes this season, and his .4 percentage would break Omar Clayton’s 1.6 percent record established in 2008. Earlier this season, Herring replaced Cunningham in the school record book for highest completion percentage in a game by completing 24 of 28 passes against Central Michigan for an 85.7 mark. Cunningham completed 80.8 percent against Idaho State in 1984.
■ Senior running back Tim Cornett has rushed for at least 100 yards 14 times in his UNLV career, just three short of Mike Thomas’ school record set in 1973 and 1974. Cornett also is fifth among active players for most 100-yard games, with Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews topping the list with 17 apiece.
■ Devante Davis has 10 touchdown receptions this season, just one short of Sam Greene’s school record set in 1980.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.