Underdog Rebels unfazed by 41-point spread vs. No. 5 Boise State

UNLV’s representatives at Monday’s weekly news conference were asked if they were motivated by being such massive underdogs to Boise State.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” safety Quinton Pointer said.

Maybe he was serious, but Pointer smiled as he said it, and no doubt word of the 41-point spread has made its way into some quarters of the Rebels’ locker room.

For just about everyone outside that locker room, the only question is how badly the Rebels (2-5, 1-1 Mountain West Conference) will lose when they play the nation’s fifth-ranked team at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

“The guys in the locker room are really all that matter,” quarterback Caleb Herring said. “We’re all believing, and we’re all looking to upset Boise this weekend.”

Whether it’s the largest point spread the Rebels have been assigned is unknown, but it’s at least close. UNLV was a 35-point underdog against Texas Christian the past two seasons and was blown out each time.

Just like those games with the Horned Frogs, there is little doubt about the challenge that lies ahead against the Broncos (7-0, 2-0). So, even though UNLV coach Bobby Hauck insisted the only goal he will consider is winning the game, he acknowledged it wouldn’t be easy.

“I would say we need to play much closer to perfect than we have to date in order to win,” Hauck said. “We’re not afraid to say that.”

Boise State, which has Bowl Championship Series aspirations, had last week off to prepare for this game. The Broncos have won 33 of their past 34 games.

Quarterback Kellen Moore, who is expected to be a Heisman Trophy finalist for the second year in a row, will try to break the NCAA record for career victories. He is tied with former Texas star Colt McCoy with 45.

The Broncos are loaded on both sides of the ball, leading the Mountain West in total offense (488-yard average), total defense (300.6 yards), scoring offense (43.3 points), scoring defense (16.1 points), pass offense (303.4 yards) and pass defense (166.1 yards).

No wonder the Big East Conference so badly wants to admit Boise State — and why Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson will fly cross-country to try to keep it from happening.

As for UNLV, it is coming off a 38-35 victory over Colorado State that broke a three-game losing streak.

Two Rebels were named Mountain West players of the week — James Dunlap on defense and Deante Purvis on special teams. Dunlap made seven tackles, including 4½ for loss and two sacks, and he forced a fumble. Purvis averaged 40.4 yards on five kickoff returns, taking one 98 yards for a touchdown.

Herring sealed the starting quarterback position after coming off the bench to complete 9 of 13 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a 29-yard gain to set up his 5-yard run with 1:20 left for the winning score.

If Boise State’s Moore is on, Herring could find himself feeling pressured to match score for score.

No one Monday wanted to project what could happen, and they certainly wouldn’t entertain the idea of losing.

“I don’t think it’s right or productive to talk in any other terms than we’re going to go and try to upset Boise this weekend,” Hauck said. “That’s the only way you can approach it.”

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

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