Usually when a football team faces a third-team quarterback, that’s a good thing.
That isn’t necessarily the case for UNLV, which struggled last season in going 1-4 against reserve QBs.
And Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush might not be any ordinary backup. He came off the bench Saturday to complete 19 of 32 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns to rally the Chippewas to a 24-21 victory over New Hampshire.
Rush, who redshirted last season, became the first Central Michigan freshman quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards since Dan LeFevour in the 2006 Mid-American Conference championship game against Ohio. LeFevour now plays in the Canadian Football League.
“(Rush) doesn’t get rattled,” Chippewas coach Dan Enos said Monday.
UNLV (0-2) faces Central Michigan (1-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Rebels are 7-point favorites.
They haven’t faced an effective passing attack in the first two games, with Minnesota and Arizona each throwing for less than 100 yards. Quarterbacks on those teams also combined to complete just 18 of 44 passes, or 40.9 percent.
UNLV’s secondary was one of its major question marks entering the season, so this game will provide some answers on whether it has truly improved.
“One of the interesting things for us ... is to see how we hold up in the secondary,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “Our guys have played fairly well.
“When the routes extend down the field, which Central Michigan will do, everything essentially becomes man-to-man. You have to make plays on the ball, and that’s something at times in past years we’ve struggled with. To date this season, our guys have been winning on the ball, so hopefully that continues.”
Central Michigan also is searching for some answers.
The Chippewas went into the season needing to replace offensive tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. They also were breaking in a new quarterback to take the spot of Ryan Radcliff, who passed for 3,158 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
Cody Kater was supposed to be that replacement, but he broke his collarbone in the season opener at Michigan. Adding to Central Michigan’s problems, running back Zurlon Tipton, who rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, broke his ankle.
So the Chippewas are trying to fit the pieces together, and perhaps their rally against New Hampshire is a sign the puzzle is becoming clearer.
“I think the win will certainly help,” Enos said. “I think it brought our team closer together, to be able to play through adversity and win the way we did under the circumstances we did.”
Rush helped provide stability on Saturday and now knows he will be the starting quarterback, giving him time to prepare.
“He’s a pretty poised, a pretty collected young man,” Enos said. “I think it will be something he’ll handle very well.”
■ NOTES — Saturday’s game will be streamed live and free at unlvrebels.com. ... Hauck left open the idea of starting senior Caleb Herring at quarterback over sophomore Nick Sherry, who had two interceptions returned for touchdowns Saturday in a 58-13 home loss to Arizona. He has thrown 11 interceptions in his past five starts. Sherry still is listed No. 1 on the depth chart.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.