First-year defensive coordinator Tim Hauck said before the season that UNLV would take chances on that side of the football.
Other coordinators have made similar comments, only to play mostly vanilla defense while giving up chunks of yards and plenty of points.
Hauck, however, backed up his words with actions.
UNLV turned up the heat in recent victories over Central Michigan and New Mexico, and the pressure helped the Rebels rally to win both games.
Central Michigan scored 21 points through 1½ quarters on Sept. 14, but was shut out the rest of the way. The Chippewas gained 233 yards during their early run, and then were held to 145 after the blitzing began to come.
New Mexico rushed for 400 yards and scored 35 points in the first half on Sept. 28. The Rebels then went after the Lobos, holding them to 97 yards rushing and just a touchdown in the second half, though Hauck attributed most of that success to the players better defending the triple option.
Still, unlike recent seasons, UNLV isn’t sitting back waiting for the opponent to make a move.
“It’s a mentality change for our guys just to get them to the point that, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this. We’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to be physical,’ ” Hauck said. “And pressuring is part of that.”
Blitzing also was a big part of the Rebels’ 38-7 victory over Western Illinois on Sept. 21, limiting the Leathernecks to 338 yards.
UNLV (3-2, 1-0 Mountain West), which plays Hawaii (0-5, 0-3) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium, still doesn’t have the type of defense that can play basic coverage and dictate what opposing offenses do, and Hauck knows that.
The Rebels have allowed more than 400 yards and 30 points per game the past five seasons, and they are giving up averages of 419 yards and 35.8 points this year. The scoring figure this season is a little misleading because five touchdowns were surrendered with the defense off the field.
“In general, UNLV has not played good defense over the last 30 years,” Hauck said. “Taking chances and rolling the dice a little bit isn’t a bad thing, and the guys, they’ve fed on it. They like it.”
■ The comeback victories over Central Michigan and New Mexico marked the first time since 1979 the Rebels have twice rallied from two-touchdown deficits to win in one season. UNLV did it three times in 1979 and twice in 1976. The Rebels came back from 21-0 down to Central Michigan and 14-0 to New Mexico.
■ A victory over Hawaii would stretch UNLV’s winning streak to four games, its longest since matching that number to close the 2000 season, including a 31-14 rout of Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl. The last time UNLV won that many in a row in the regular season occurred when it won seven consecutive games in 1984.
■ UNLV is offering a season-ticket package for the final four home games priced between $50 and $120.
FOR THE RECORD
■ Tim Cornett is second in UNLV rushing history with 2,947 yards, and has an excellent chance to surpass Mike Thomas’ 3,149 yards within the next two weeks. Thomas set the record in 1973 and 1974.
■ Cornett also is second to Thomas in three other major career categories — touchdowns (40-30), rushing TDs (37-27) and 100-yard rushing games (17-12).
■ Devante Davis is on pace to smash Sam Greene’s school single-season record of 11 touchdown receptions, set in 1980. Davis has eight touchdowns, which is only one short of the national lead held by Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks and Troy’s Eric Thomas.
POS. PLAYERAREA STATUS
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.