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Rebels face rival, seek revival

RENO — UNLV hasn’t been able to win on the road, and it hasn’t been able to beat UNR.

So where do the Rebels have to go after an incredibly discouraging loss to Southern Utah?

On the road at UNR.

Well, then.

Oddsmakers certainly don’t like the Rebels’ chances when the 1-3 football teams meet at 4 p.m. today. UNLV is a 20½-point underdog.

Considering UNLV’s closest game during its 11-game road losing streak was a 23-point defeat at Idaho last year, that line might be conservative.

“We need to break through,” coach Bobby Hauck said. “We’re going to keep working at it until we get that done.”

UNLV also needs to get it done to end a six-game skid to the Wolf Pack.

“I definitely want to beat them before I leave,” senior wide receiver Phillip Payne said. “It’s my last chance.”

Though UNR is making its home debut after four road games, the Wolf Pack aren’t the same team that has kept the Fremont Cannon blue for more than half a decade.

The Wolf Pack are still seeking answers, particularly at quarterback, where Tyler Lantrip or Cody Fajardo will start. Both probably will play, and the fact neither has taken charge in trying to replace UNLV-killer Colin Kaepernick concerns UNR coach Chris Ault.

UNLV, of course, has its own problems and has spent two weeks with the Sept. 24 loss to Southern Utah hanging over it. Instead of being 2-2 with the chance to put together a promising season, the Rebels must find a way to rally from the 41-16 defeat to the Football Championship Subdivision school.

One advantage in facing the archrival next is Hauck doesn’t have to worry about where he will find motivation.

“Having the chance to go up there and play our rivalry game is great tonic for getting on to the next one,” he said.

Quarterback Caleb Herring especially needs a bounce-back game after having three interceptions returned for touchdowns by Southern Utah.

Perhaps a strong running game led by Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle, who have combined for 460 yards and three touchdowns, will take pressure off Herring.

Another positive defensive effort would, too. After giving up 1,109 yards in the first two games, the Rebels have allowed 546 yards in the past two.

“We feel like we are building a little bit of consistency over the last couple of weeks,” linebacker Nate Carter said. “But it needs to be better, and we are going to keep pushing until it gets to the level that we want.”

Stopping the Wolf Pack won’t be easy. The last time UNLV ventured to Reno, UNR buried the Rebels with 773 yards in a 63-28 pummeling that led to then-coach Mike Sanford being put on the hot seat by school president Neal Smatresk.

Hauck, in the second season of a five-year contract, might not be called out publicly by the university boss if UNLV loses today, but he knows the importance of this game.

“It’s never lost on coaches or players that everyone’s tuned in to the rivalry game,” Hauck said. “Our players are aware of the fact that everybody in the state, for the most part, has an opinion on it and is invested in it.”

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

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