Rebels out to avoid another home upset vs. FCS opponent


Usually there's little good that comes from a shattering loss like the one UNLV suffered to Southern Utah last season.

But remembering that bitter 41-16 loss at home could serve the Rebels well as they prepare to play Northern Arizona at 7 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Like Southern Utah, Northern Arizona is a Football Championship Subdivision team. Major-college programs aren't supposed to lose to FCS schools.

But because the Rebels lost to Southern Utah, UNLV coach Bobby Hauck made a point to mention the defeat to his players Saturday so they don't let down against Northern Arizona.

"That'll be the last time we bring it up," Hauck said Monday. "Everybody here is painfully aware of that lesson, and we hope we don't have to revisit that Saturday."

Last year proved the Rebels, who won two games each of the past two seasons, can't overlooked any opponent. Not only did they lose to Southern Utah, but the Rebels were the only team to lose to New Mexico in 2011 when they went down 21-14 on Nov. 12.

The Sept. 24 loss to Southern Utah probably was more shocking. UNLV had just come off a stunning 40-20 victory over Hawaii, and a win over the visiting Thunderbirds would have evened the Rebels' record at 2-2 and perhaps generated some momentum for their season.

Looking at the statistics, it appeared as if UNLV didn't have any problems against the Thunderbirds, outgaining them 402 yards to 256.

But this was no ordinary night, and the first ominous sign came in the first quarter when quarterback Caleb Herring checked out of a run play on first-and-goal at the 1-yard line and threw a pass to wide receiver Phillip Payne. Because Payne expected a run call, he was blocking in the end zone - and called for offensive pass interference.

The Rebels wound up not scoring, blowing the chance to take a 14-0 lead and perhaps control.

Southern Utah, instead, intercepted Herring three times and returned each for a touchdown to win in a rout.

Now preparing to play Northern Arizona, which opened with a 63-6 loss at Arizona State on Thursday, UNLV knows it doesn't want a repeat of Southern Utah.

The Rebels instead hope to build on Thursday's promising but emotionally difficult 30-27 triple-overtime season-opening loss to Minnesota.

"Every opponent isn't to be taken lightly, but especially ... after what happened last fall," guard Doug Zismann said. "It's something I want to keep from repeating."

Linebacker Tim Hasson agreed.

"I know for a fact we're not going to have that problem this year," Hasson said of overlooking opponents. "I don't think we had it last year, but I know our guys are going to go out there and play hard no matter who we're playing."

Northern Arizona enters the game hobbled. Quarterback Cary Grossart and running back Zach Bauman were injured against Arizona State.

Chase Cartwright came off the bench to complete 9 of 21 passes for 127 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. The Lumberjacks got better production at running back, where California transfer Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries.

Hauck said he hopes to find out the severity of the injuries and whether they would have a strategic effect.

"We have to anticipate some change," he said.

Hauck has his own injury concerns, but is optimistic wide receiver Marcus Sullivan, who twisted an ankle on the final drive of the first half against Minnesota, will play. Sullivan caught five passes for 53 yards.

"Any time he gets the ball, he's pretty dynamic with it," Hauck said.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

 

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