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Rebels try to find silver lining

There wasn’t much to like, from UNLV’s perspective, about Saturday’s 30-7 loss at Idaho. But the second half might provide a ray of hope.

After yielding 24 points, 274 yards and 16 first downs in the first half, the Rebels gave up just two field goals, 58 yards and three first downs in the final two quarters.

The Vandals might have shifted into grind-out-the-clock mode and certainly weren’t as aggressive as in the first half. Quarterback Nathan Enderle threw 21 passes in the first half and just six in the second.

But UNLV coach Bobby Hauck views the stingier second-half effort as a positive sign for a struggling defense.

“Idaho didn’t change in the second half,” Hauck said. “Neither one of us put a different team out there.”

Of course, UNLV’s second-half showing means little if the Rebels fail to build on it in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against New Mexico at Sam Boyd Stadium. Both teams are 0-3 overall and 0-1 in Mountain West Conference play.

Mike Clausen might start at free safety against the Lobos. He moved from quarterback last week and then received a fair amount of playing time against Idaho.

Clausen is competing against safety Travis Dixon this week in practice.

“My comment to our defensive staff yesterday was I wish (Clausen) had not played as well as he did at quarterback during camp so we could’ve made that move in August,” Hauck said.

As for the Rebels’ offense, it has scored only three touchdowns — all through the air – and the line is having trouble holding off pass rushers and creating running lanes.

It’s a little bit surprising for an offensive line that was among the national leaders in pass protection the past two seasons and returned a veteran group that includes at least two NFL prospects.

But the line is trying to learn a new scheme.

“The table’s not always set in terms of transitioning from one system to the next,” Hauck said. “We try to make it work and we spend a lot of time studying football and trying to adapt personnel and all that. For the players, it’s learning a new language.

“Transition’s hard, and I have a healthy dose of respect for our team because they’ve taken to it very well in terms of attitude. Now the execution part of it, we’ve got to go forward with.”

The Rebels are 8-point favorites against the Lobos, who have lost 18 of their past 19 games.

Running back Channing Trotter told his teammates after last season that his goal was to play in a bowl game this year. That doesn’t look promising now, but Trotter isn’t giving up hope, even if UNLV must win seven of its final 10 games to qualify.

“I feel like we still do have an opportunity to make a bowl game,” he said. “We’re going to have to shock a team or two, but I think we can win every single game. I’m going to stick by my promise.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at
manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

 

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