UNLV front to be tested against Air Force

Of all of UNLV's opponents, Air Force is the one the Rebels carve out extra time during practice to work on defending.

The Falcons' triple option has seldom been an appealing matchup for UNLV.

But Saturday's meeting could be different. The Rebels' biggest defensive improvement has been in their front seven, which could be key entering the 7 p.m. game at Sam Boyd Stadium.

"I think we match up better with Air Force than we have in the past," coach Bobby Hauck said Monday. "I think we've got the potential to perform better than we have."

UNLV (0-3) has allowed 127.7 yards rushing per game. If that figure held up for the season, it would be the second-lowest in school history, behind the 79-yard average surrendered in 1968.

One major reason the Rebels aren't being hurt by the running game is because they struggle to defend the pass. Their inexperienced secondary has been burned for 281.3 yards passing per game, and opponents have thrown 115 passes and rushed 94 times.

The Rebels' pass-defense average figures to improve against ground-based Air Force (1-1), and their run-defense statistics figure to take a hit.

The Falcons are led by senior tailback Cody Getz, who has 348 yards and six touchdowns through two games, part of an Air Force ground game averaging 387 yards. Two games is a small sample size, but the Falcons have averaged more than 300 yards the previous two seasons and at least 200 yards since 1982.

"I wish they didn't have 53 yards to run wide," Hauck said, chuckling. "We'd have a better chance if it was 20 yards wide. They stretch it out and find air."

Still, the Rebels have good reason to think they match up better with Air Force this time. Certainly better than they matched up with Washington State, which passed for 378 yards in Friday's 35-27 victory over UNLV.

The Rebels have gotten strong performances by their defensive front, which has seven sacks - half of UNLV's total all of last season.

UNLV won't face Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson, who started four seasons and had some of his best games against the Rebels. He led an attack that rushed for 394 yards last season in the Falcons' 45-17 victory.

Jefferson's successor, senior Connor Dietz, averages 134.5 yards passing and 67.5 rushing.

"Just getting used to the speed that they play is the biggest problem," UNLV defensive tackle Alex Klorman said.

Hauck agreed, saying contending with the Falcons' speed isn't a unique problem for UNLV.

"You can't simulate their speed," Hauck said. "You watch week in, week out the first couple of drives, every defense they play is trying to catch up to the speed."

■ NOTES - Me-TV (Channel 8.2, Cox 129) will televise the game, which is produced by Time Warner Cable SportsNet. The network's official launch is Oct. 1. ... UNLV's statistics crew failed to credit quarterback Nick Sherry with an additional 6 yards passing against Washington State, and it missed an incompletion. Sherry's adjusted yardage total of 357 yards was the 16th best in UNLV history and the most since Jon Denton passed for 401 against San Jose State in 1997. Sherry attempted 50 passes against Washington State. ... Offensive left tackle Brett Boyko, who didn't play against the Cougars because of a twisted knee, might have to sit again. Hauck said a decision will be made late this week.

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