When UNLV tailback Frank Summers decided to mentally move past last Saturday’s big victory at Arizona State, he plowed forward as if a Utah linebacker stood in his way.
Summers erased congratulatory voice messages, he decided not to talk about the win in interviews after Monday, and after filing his weekly blog Tuesday for a television network he refused to think about that game.
“That game doesn’t exist to me anymore,” Summers said.
As important as upsetting the then-No. 15 Sun Devils was to Summers and the Rebels, they know it means little if they don’t beat Iowa State. Both teams enter today’s 6 p.m. game at Sam Boyd Stadium with 2-1 records.
Iowa State has its own issues, trying to build back to the success it enjoyed under previous coach Dan McCarney. Second-year coach Gene Chizik is 5-10, including a 17-5 loss at Iowa last Saturday.
Austen Arnaud is the starting quarterback, but Phillip Bates takes some snaps. The Cyclones go with a running game by committee that averages 154 yards, but the defense has given up 181.7 per game and 5.5 per rush.
UNLV is favored by 21/2 points, and a victory would break the Rebels’ four-year run of two-win seasons.
They don’t need a history lesson on the pitfalls of trying to follow a major victory. The Rebels remember failing to win a game after last season’s supposedly program-turning 27-0 victory over Utah.
“I think what happens after a win like that or (Arizona State), people start telling our players how good they are and they start believing it,” coach Mike Sanford said. “You forget how you got there. We’ve got to counter that, and we’ve got to make sure we understand how we won this game.”
Sanford said he was heartened his team responded well to trailing 20-10 in the fourth quarter last week. Many previous UNLV teams would have called it a night and looked ahead to the next opponent.
The Rebels didn’t do that at Arizona State, “and now that part is something we’ve really got to build on,” Sanford said.
A victory would be tangible evidence the Rebels have launched a turnaround. It also would be important from a perception standpoint since their re-energized fans quickly would write off the Arizona State game as an aberration should the Rebels falter.
“That was a great win for our team last week, but if we come back this week and don’t do anything, then people will say that’s a fluke and we didn’t deserve it,” wide receiver Casey Flair said. “We’ve got to come back this week, and we’ve got to play harder and we’ve got to play hungry.”
Defensive tackle Malo Taumua also used the word “fluke” in talking about having something to prove, making it sound as if the players had received their talking points for the week.
But there is a real sense they are serious, and not just because so many players still burn over the 16-10 loss at Iowa State two years ago.
They know what’s at stake, and it’s not simply revenge. It’s about finally moving forward and not sinking back to a program destined to end another season jockeying for position near the bottom of the Mountain West Conference.
“The more games we win after this, the more we’ll be able to show people looking at this team that we are a legitimate squad,” quarterback Omar Clayton said.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.GAME DAY
IOWA STATE VS. UNLV
WHEN: 6 p.m. today
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium
TV/RADIO: The Mtn. (Cable 334); KWWN-AM (1100)
LINE: UNLV -21/2; total 50