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Swearing aside, Rebels played clean

I received an e-mail from a disgruntled UNLV football fan asking my opinion of the most compelling statistic from the Rebels’ 41-21 season-opening defeat to No. 12 Wisconsin of the Big Cheese Conference.

This is what I wrote back:

Wisconsin football budget: $22.7 million.

UNLV football budget: $6.4 million.

In college football, it’s difficult to beat the Rockefellers on Peter Brady’s allowance.

Those should be the last words about Game One of the Bobby Hauck Era. They won’t be, mostly because the Rebels weren’t up to blocking the grain silos disguised as Wisconsin defensive linemen, thereby reducing the UNLV running game to something resembling a John Barr commercial.

Mike Clausen, UNLV’s starting quarterback, would have done anything to sell the offensive line on the idea of sustaining its blocks against the Badgers for longer than a nanosecond. But in defense of the O-line, if you’ve ever tried to block a grain silo, you know how difficult it can be.

Putting it another way: Having a snowball fight with pitching great Randy Johnson is, in retrospect, a bad idea.

The people at UNLV responsible for scheduling Wisconsin straight out of the box, who have since departed, could have made Hauck’s UNLV debut a joyous and momentous occasion had they the foresight to match the Rebels against an opponent with a direction or an ampersand in its name. Or Ole Miss, had it been idle.

"Interesting opener," was all Jim Livengood, the new UNLV athletic director, would say before kickoff.

No matter how the question was phrased about the judiciousness of opening the season against an opponent whose budget exceeds the gross national product of Tanzania, Livengood kept repeating "interesting opener." I think this is because he is one of those "if-you-can’t-say-something-nice-about-somebody, don’t-say-anything" guys. This is particularly true if that somebody is now scheduling season openers against Ohio State, which usually doesn’t ring the judicious bell, either.

Hauck also is taking some heat for a profanity-laced rant on the sidelines after he sent his quarterback onto the field following a TV timeout, and his quarterback was forced to call another timeout after apparently forgetting what he was supposed to do. Hauck reminded Omar Clayton that the coach would be the one who calls the timeouts around here. For emphasis, he used the swear word one usually saves for the end of an argument, or when one is frustrated by his offensive line’s inability to block grain silos and/or his quarterback’s short attention span.

Woody Hayes’ record for expletives uttered on 3rd-and-14 during Cornelius Greene’s junior year, it can be assumed, remains safe.

If you think Hauck was being bawdy, you should hear a sports writer on a tight deadline trying to come up with another word for "fumblerooskie." Think Darren McGavin, Ralphie’s dad in "Christmas Story," and multiply by seven to the third power.

"My mother is so disappointed," said Hauck, who was contrite when asked about his Dice Clay tribute on semi-national TV, or whatever the Versus channel calls itself.

"It’s not the first time I’ve uttered a profanity. It probably won’t be the last. I get excited sometimes. It’s something I’ve tried to work on over the years."

Instead of criticizing Hauck for his potty-mouth, or things he couldn’t control, such as how big and strong and talented the team from the Big Cheese Conference proved to be, cynical UNLV fans might want to consider how the Rebels fared in the areas Hauck could control.

There were few penalties and only one ticky-tack personal foul, when one of the Badgers flopped, and Alex De Giacomo, the Rebels’ safety who tackled everything that moved Saturday night, was whistled for a charging foul. And, for the most part, the Rebels lined up where they were supposed to line up.

They were not whistled for a pass interference call on the first play of the game. They did not, if you were watching Monday night’s Boise State-Virginia Tech game, fumble away a snap on the second. They did not have a punt blocked a few snaps after that. They did not commit two personal fouls during one special teams play.

This was a refreshing change from the Mike Sanford Era. Sanford did not swear on the sidelines. Nor did he win a lot of football games.

"Certainly, there were a couple of breakdowns," Hauck said. "But for the first game, we played pretty clean."

If pressed, he might even swear to it.

The Rebels will be up against it again at Utah on Saturday and, discounting New Mexico, probably in most of their other games this year. UNLV fans expecting Rome to be built in a day had better get used to a lot of Randy Johnson snowball fights.

If, at the end of the season, the garage door is hanging from the hinges, it’s to be expected.

If, at the end of the season, the Rebels are still lining up in the right places and avoiding foolish penalties, it’ll also be a !@#$%^& improvement.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352.

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