The trip to Hawaii last football season felt like anything but a visit to paradise for UNLV.
Even though the Rebels were 3½-point favorites, they were never in the game in getting blown off the field 48-10.
The score was 31-0 at halftime.
That game was one low point of yet another low season, the loss to one of the nation’s worst teams and coming in a rout to end yet another two-victory season.
“We just need to remember what they did last year,” senior linebacker Tani Maka said Monday.
Those memories should be fresh as the Rebels (3-2, 1-0 Mountain West) prepare to face Hawaii (0-5, 0-3) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
This meeting comes at a much different time for UNLV, which seemed to have little hope as it staggered to the finish line in 2012.
Coming off a bye week, UNLV enters the rematch having won three games in a row for the first time since 2003, and it’s a much more confident and competitive team than the one that took the field in Honolulu on Thanksgiving weekend last year.
Oddsmakers noted the difference, installing the Rebels as 9-point favorites.
Another difference: the tone of coach Bobby Hauck’s weekly news conferences. Much more guarded, the answers giving away little information.
In other words, the games mean more, and any advantage gained or lost probably is magnified in his eyes.
That’s a byproduct of winning, especially for a coach who know he needs to rack up the victories to ensure he will be back for a fifth season.
Beating Hawaii should be a big step forward in job security, though without a full-time athletic director in place, it’s difficult to know where Hauck’s status stands.
He has momentum behind him, with the Rebels rallying from double-digit deficits to beat Central Michigan and New Mexico, sandwiching a 38-7 victory over Western Illinois.
Now it’s a matter of continuing that hot play against a team still searching for its first victory. Hawaii, however, has been more competitive the past two weeks at home. The Rainbow Warriors rallied from 42-3 down before losing 42-37 to Fresno State, then was beaten 37-27 by San Jose State on Saturday.
Quarterback Sean Schroeder passed for 663 yards and six touchdowns in those games, but also was intercepted four times.
“I think they’re awfully good,” Hauck said. “If you guys (media) have been watching the same film I’ve been watching for the last week, you would agree with that. So we’ll have our hands full on Saturday, and we need to have a great week of preparation and get ready to go.”
Given the way last season ended, Hauck probably doesn’t need to employ any special motivational tricks to get his team fired up.
The players can easily recall that ugly memory in one of the planet’s most beautiful places.
“I can’t imagine there would be anything but extreme motivation to go play this weekend for lots of reasons, actually,” Hauck said. “It was a bad performance by us. We went into that game thinking we were going to have a good chance to win it. They just went out and kicked our tails.”
■ NOTE — The game will not be on local television. It will be available free online at unlvrebels.com.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.