MOSCOW, Idaho -- UNLV's Bobby Hauck lives strictly by the football's coach credo of not reading too much into any game. He contends no one knows a game's impact until after the season.
Maybe that's usually the case, but the Rebels (0-2) seem to have an awful lot at stake in tonight's game against Idaho (1-1).
A loss could signal to UNLV fans it's time to start thinking about basketball season, but a victory after opening with losses to two ranked teams could give the Rebels a badly needed lift.
"It's definitely a pivotal game," offensive tackle Matt Murphy said. "There's no more, 'This is a new offense. This is a new team.' "
With dreadful New Mexico (17 losses in its past 18 games) visiting Las Vegas next week, a victory tonight could mean the Rebels would be 2-2 entering the Oct. 2 home game against UNR.
But a loss to the Vandals could send the Rebels on a skid that a victory over New Mexico would only temporarily halt.
Coaches don't like playing those sorts of supposition games because of so many unforeseen factors, such as injuries, that can change the conventional wisdom of a season.
There is no doubt, however, UNLV needs more than just a good effort against the Vandals if the Rebels are to make anything of this season.
Hauck, at least as a head coach, is new to this situation. He never opened a season with back-to-back losses in seven years at Montana.
"Losing should hurt," Hauck said. "It should bother you. And, yes, it does."
Montana, of course, is a Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse, and UNLV -- which hasn't had a winning season in 10 years -- is no Montana. Hauck's Grizzlies also never opened a season by facing ranked teams on back-to-back weekends, as UNLV did in losses to Wisconsin and Utah.
Though Idaho is a step down in competition from those opponents, the Vandals aren't the patsy they have been in recent years. Last year they ended a streak of nine losing seasons by going 8-5 and winning the Humanitarian Bowl.
Shiloh Keo, a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference safety last season, always seems to be around the ball, whether it's making a tackle or being part of a takeaway.
Nathan Enderle is one of the best quarterbacks the Rebels face this season. He passed for almost 5,000 yards the previous two seasons combined and threw for 42 touchdowns. Nebraska pressured him into five interceptions last Saturday, but the Rebels have zero sacks and could be vulnerable to Enderle's pinpoint passing.
"He's got a big arm," Hauck said. "He can throw it everywhere. The thing I'm really impressed with is everything is on the money. (If) he's throwing a bubble screen, the running backs aren't reaching for it."
UNLV showed improvement against Utah last weekend but hurt itself with special-teams mistakes and the failure to capitalize on red-zone opportunities in the 38-10 loss.
Should the Rebels clean up those areas and show continued overall progress, they could leave Idaho's Kibbie Dome with their first victory, despite being 7-point underdogs.
UNLV running back Channing Trotter worked out with Vandals punter Bobby Cowan this summer in Vancouver, Wash., and got a taste of what to expect.
"For being a punter, he's one of the toughest guys I know," Trotter said. "If that shows anything about their team, we're going to have our hands full."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914.