UNLV’s defense is allowing 10 fewer points per game than last season, but sometimes it’s hard to notice among all the big plays it gives up.
Now that defense faces a Louisiana Tech offense so potent that even video games couldn’t replicate it.
The Bulldogs (4-0) own the nation’s fifth-best scoring offense, and they bring a 52-point average into their game against UNLV (1-4) at 4 p.m. PDT Saturday at Ruston, La.
“It’s a good offense because they can run it and throw it,” Rebels coach Bobby Hauck said Monday. “They’ve got a run off of every pass, a pass play off of every run. They do a nice job of making everything look similar.”
That’s the trick with Louisiana Tech.
Try to defend the pass, and the Bulldogs answer with a running game that averages 213.8 yards per game and 5.2 per carry. Tevin King and Kenneth Dixon each have rushed for more than 300 yards, with King averaging a staggering 8 yards an attempt and Dixon a less stunning but still impressive 5.5.
Load up the box against the run, and the Bulldogs come back with quarterback Colby Cameron. He averages 285 yards passing, with a touchdown-to-interception differential of 12-to-0 and a 68.1 completion percentage.
UNLV, with its inexperienced secondary – junior Sidney Hodge is the only returning starter – has struggled against the pass, allowing 271.6 yards per game. The Rebels, who give up a 30.4-point average, were burned for big plays that stood in the way of potential victories against Washington State and Utah State.
“We have to have eye and feet discipline,” Hauck said. “When it’s our play to make, we have to make it. We have not been out of position a bunch. I go back to the Washington State game. They heaved the ball down the field four times … and made four catches for big plays in that game.”
UNLV has made a change to the secondary, with redshirt freshman Fred Wilson projected to get his first start. Wilson is a former three-star recruit, according to Scout.com, and was considered one of the top prospects in the 2011 class.
Also, redshirt freshman safety Peni Vea should be healthier after injuring a leg two weeks ago in practice. He wasn’t expected to play in Saturday’s 35-13 loss at Utah State, but wound up starting for the third time. Vea made five tackles, forced a fumble and broke up a pass.
His 33 tackles are second on the team.
“He’s not full speed, but he’ll be better this week,” Hauck said. “But he was able to go and be fairly productive. He runs pretty well – he didn’t have his top gear – but he brings some temperament and some physicalness to the secondary, so it helps when he’s in there.”
■ NOTES – Cox Cable 96 will televise the game at Louisiana Tech. The game also will be streamed on the ESPN3 Internet site. … Redshirt freshman defensive end Sonny Sanitoa is expected to receive his first start. He was a projected starter until injuring a knee during training camp. Sanitoa received his first playing time Saturday and recorded a sack. … Senior linebacker Princeton Jackson is expected to return this week after being sidelined for violating team rules. He didn’t play the past two weeks.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.