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When in Pullman, learn from Romans

In the aftermath that was the Pummeling in Pullman, UNLV’s football team can find a bit of comfort in this: It took thousands of years to build Rome, and they’re not yet finished.

Along the way, there have been wars and major political struggles and a plague or two and a pretty big fire.

It sort of puts Washington State 59, UNLV 7 into perspective.

Sort of.

The journey toward any level of success for the Rebels was always going to include some lopsided defeats, and there hasn’t been as dreadful a one the last two seasons than what happened Saturday.

The Rebels made a team that had won just five games the last three years look more like the New England Patriots, and a backup, immobile quarterback resemble Tom Brady. This one made that 55-7 loss at Brigham Young last season appear close.

Which is why Bobby Hauck shouldn’t change his approach one iota.

Yeah, you read that right.

UNLV can obviously recruit better and coach better and play better. It can really recruit better. It is 2-13 under Hauck. Everything can be better.

But the worst thing to do in such times is become someone or something you’re not, unless that means UNLV fielding a capable defense, and then, well, have at it.

Overreacting and altering strategy on the fifth mile of a marathon only tends to make reaching the finish line that much more arduous. Hauck has a plan, and UNLV has awarded him at least five years to execute it. Fifteen games is a long way from five years.

Overhauls like this include one small step forward for every five leaps back, and the result in Pullman could account for all five in the negative direction. Not the losing part. UNLV isn’t near as good as Washington State, amazing when you consider how pitiful the Cougars have been of late.

What bothered most was UNLV’s inability to even compete with what had been a Pac-10 bottom feeder, that the Rebels were out of the game so early, radio dials across the valley were switching before halftime to something more upbeat and positive, like the National Weather Service.

But the assumption UNLV should have made it more of a game was born from how bad Washington State has been than taking into account how dire the Rebels remain.

Inferior players in the right spots can be frightening enough; what the Rebels have today are inferior ones in the wrong spots. The result, losses of 51-17 at nationally ranked Wisconsin and 59-7 at Washington State, are predictable. Hawaii visits on Saturday, and there is every chance it could be more of the same.

The Rebels are trying too hard to make plays, to stop the bleeding, to calm the storm, to overcome their own lacking skill. In Pullman, a veteran defensive player attacked the line of scrimmage on five snaps in which he was supposed to be in zone coverage. Good kid. Works hard. Overthinking the room.

The hardest thing for Hauck might be not changing, staying the course, believing in the plan. It can be especially hard after such a loss. But as bad as it has been, and Saturday was not good in any way, such overhauls can work.

Utah State can rebuild to the point of almost winning at Auburn and New Mexico State can win at Minnesota as a 20-point underdog. If you can survive all the wars and political struggles and plagues and fires and home games blanketed in empty seats, time can often produce a competitive product.

Just ask that newly christened juggernaut that is Washington State.

“When you’re in our situation, you can sit around and feel sorry for yourself, but the fact of the matter is, the majority of people could care less, and the rest of them are happy you’re getting your tail kicked,” Hauck said. “So you go to work and get better. It starts with me. I have to do my job better, and it goes right on down to the scout team.

“Right now, our guys are looking to us for answers. We’ve just got to keep our team together. We have to make sure we correct and not change who we are, which is a bunch of hard-nosed people making sure our guys know that if they keep investing, good things will happen.”

If there is a Pummeling in Pullman or something close to it a year or two from now, sound the alarms.

For now, realize this: Construction is constant throughout Rome, and they’ve been at it since 750 B.C.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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