Rebels dogged by FCS letdowns

Coaches like to say they will take an ugly victory over a pretty loss, but sometimes even a win can feel like a defeat.

That’s how it felt for UNLV last season following a one-point victory over one of the nation’s worst teams, a lower-level squad at that.

The Rebels survived a missed chip-shot field goal to escape with a 13-12 victory over Northern Colorado. That game marked the beginning of the end for Rebels coach Bobby Hauck, and it didn’t help his case that Northern Colorado went on to finish 3-8.

So now the Rebels (0-3) are getting ready to play another Football Championship Subdivision team when Idaho State (1-2) visits Sam Boyd Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday.

UNLV coach Tony Sanchez believes in following a process, a system of preparation that doesn’t deviate depending on the level of opponent.

“We’ve got to change the entire mindset around here,” Sanchez said. “I don’t care who we’re playing this week, our preparation for this team is no different than it was last week, and our mindset’s no different, and our commitment to doing things right is absolutely no different.

“I think the guys are starting to get that. They’re starting to get that we’re not letting up.”

History is a good teacher that UNLV should never let up, even against a lower-level opponent.

In 2011, the Rebels not only lost to Southern Utah, but were routed 41-16. Caleb Herring had three interceptions returned for touchdowns, a performance that would affect him for the rest of that season and 2012. Herring turned into one of the great reclamation projects in 2013 and led UNLV to the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

In 2012, Northern Arizona squeaked by with a 17-14 victory. The Rebels were in control early with a 14-0 lead, and then Hauck ordered a fake field goal in the second quarter that failed. Northern Arizona went on to tie the game and won on a 33-yard field goal with 12 seconds left.

The one exception to the recent struggles occurred in 2013 when UNLV beat Western Illinois 38-7.

Last season, though, there was that near miss against Northern Colorado. The Bears had the chance to take the lead with 5:45 left, but missed a 24-yard field goal.

As much trouble as UNLV has had with FCS schools, Idaho State has had it worse when playing up a level. The Bengals have lost their last 23 games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, last winning in 2000 when it defeated Utah State 27-24.

“We’ve played a bunch of these move-up games, and No. 1, the checks never bounce, and No. 2, we’ve always played better after those games,” Idaho State coach Mike Kramer said. “We get used to playing at that speed. We get used to playing against guys who know how to cover ground, and we’re a lot better football team for having played these guys.”

* BANGED UP — UNLV starting cornerback Fred Wilson wore a walking boot on his left foot at practice Wednesday morning. Details of his injury weren’t made available, but he is considered day to day.

Wilson has one interception and one pass breakup, and has been solid this season. If he doesn’t play, Jay’Onn Myles is listed as his backup.

* BY THE NUMBERS — UNLV’s nine-game losing streak is the nation’s second longest. New Mexico State has lost 13 in a row.

This also is the Rebels’ longest skid since they lost 10 in a row in 2006.

The Rebels also hope to avoid their first 0-4 start since 2004 in coach John Robinson’s final season. Sanchez also hopes to avoid a personal 0-4 start with UNLV, but he would be in good company if he hits that number. The last Rebels coach to lose his first four games was Harvey Hyde in 1982. He went on to go 26-19-1 in four seasons, taking UNLV to the California Bowl in 1984.

* CONNECTIONS — Wilson’s younger brother, Fondereaux, is a wide receiver at Idaho State. Also on the Bengals’ roster is running back Ty Flanagan, who went to Mojave High School. Rob Phenicie, a UNLV assistant coach the past five seasons, is Idaho State’s wide receivers coach.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him: @markanderson65

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