There are a number of stories running through the upcoming UNLV football season. Here are five to watch:
1. Hauck’s hot seat
He’s been coaching at UNLV for three years and has six wins to show for it. No one is saying how many wins it will take for Bobby Hauck to spend another year as UNLV’s head football coach, but it’s pretty certain that another two-win season won’t cut it. Hauck has never been one to make excuses, but this year, he won’t have any. The roster is full of his recruits and the Rebels play seven of their 12 games in the cozy confines of Sam Boyd Stadium, where they have looked mostly respectable recently. Hauck will probably need at least four or five wins to justify another year as head coach. Most sports books have UNLV’s win total at 3 1/2.
2. Road dogs
With only six wins under Hauck, it’s easy to assume the Rebels have not had much success on the road. In reality, the Rebels have had NO success on the road. Hauck is 0-20 in games played outside of Sam Boyd Stadium. Add in the final two road losses by former coach Mike Sanford, and the Rebels are dangerously close to matching their all-time road losing streak of 26, set from 1994-98. Hope comes in the form of a New Mexico team that the Rebels beat 35-7 last season. The rematch takes place on September 28. In Albuquerque.
3. Getting defensive
30, 35, 38, 35, 58, 42. Those are the number of points surrendered by UNLV to the first six FBS teams they played last season. The Rebels gave up an average of 32.6 points and 445.2 yards per game last year. As Coach Hauck’s brother Tim put it, “The defenses here haven’t been good for 30 years.” Now Tim has a chance to change that as UNLV’s new defensive coordinator. Bobby Hauck’s little brother brings the pedigree — 13 years as an NFL player, two years as an NFL assistant coach — but he has his work cut out for him. It won’t matter how healthy Nick Sherry, Tim Cornett and the rest of the improving Rebels are on offense if the defense can’t keep opponents out of the end zone.
4. Rebel Records
A few Rebel standouts will be looking to etch their names in the UNLV record books before moving on at the end of the season. Senior running back Tim Cornett can become the first Rebel runner to lead the team in rushing yardage for four straight seasons. If he manages to do that, it’s a good bet the Texas native will also accrue the 701 yards he needs to supplant Mike Thomas as UNLV’s all-time rushing leader. Senior kicker Nolan Kohorst is 72 points away from becoming the Rebels’s all-time leading scorer.
5. AD it up
UNLV President Neal Smatresk is expected to hire a new athletic director sometime in the next few months. That person will face many questions that will have great impact on the future of UNLV football. The new athletic director will not only have to decide the fate of coach Bobby Hauck at the end of the season, but could also be instrumental in deciding whether UNLV goes all-in and attempts to build a top-tier football team or cuts the program entirely. One thing is sure, the status quo will not last much longer.