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Locos must make stand in home debut

After opening with two road games, the Locomotives finally get to play at home. And it couldn’t happen at a more critical time.

The Locos (1-1) need to beat Omaha today at Sam Boyd Stadium to stay in the hunt for a spot in the Nov. 5 United Football League championship game. The teams are tied for second place, 1½ games behind Virginia (3-0), and with a regular season that lasts only six games, a team can quickly fade from contention.

“We’re excited about being home and playing in front of our fans,” Locos president and coach Jim Fassel said. “More important, we need to get ourselves back on track.”

Two weeks have passed since Las Vegas was steamrolled at Virginia, 34-17. But after giving the team the bye week off, Fassel said he saw renewed energy and focus at practice this week.

“It was important for them to get away from football for a few days after a loss,” he said. “We were all angry about the loss and how we played in Virginia. But you’ve got to be smart about not working them in the ground just because you’re angry. That doesn’t solve anything.”

Quarterback Chase Clement vows to play better day than he did at Virginia, where he was 10 of 25 passing for 76 yards and sacked three times before being lifted for Brian Brohm in the fourth quarter.

“You’ve got to play the game that’s at hand,” Clement said. “We’ve done a good job this week of putting the Virginia game behind us. But it still comes down to execution. I have to do a better job of making the right decisions and running the offense.”

The Locos defense will be tested by Omaha quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who threw for 283 yards and ran for 24 in a 33-30 win at Sacramento last week.

“You can’t be tentative against him,” defensive end Eric Henderson said. “You have to put pressure on him and play physical.”

Masoli’s ability to keep plays alive with his legs will put added pressure on the Locos’ secondary. But Fassel has faith that his defense can prevent Masoli from making something out of nothing.

“It all starts up front,” Fassel said. “We need to get a good push and disrupt him and get him uncomfortable. And we’ve got to do a good job staying with their receivers and not let them suddenly get open.”

The Locos have something else at stake besides staying in title contention. They need to make a positive impact at the box office, with owner Bill Hambrecht having invested more than $70 million in the team since 2009.

But the Locos have factors working against them as they hope to draw a crowd of about 15,000 to the 5 p.m. game. They are going up against the UNLV-UNR game, which starts at 4 in Reno and will be televised locally.

There’s also the rest of the college football schedule and Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. It’s also Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday in the Jewish religion, which still will be observed while the game is being played.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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