Barry Odom’s approach hasn’t changed.
Just a few days after his first win as UNLV coach and less than a week from a major challenge on the road against one of the best teams in the nation, Odom is staying even-keeled.
“It’s a nameless, faceless opponent,” he said, “just like last week.”
Of course on paper, the Rebels’ next game isn’t against just anybody. UNLV travels to the Midwest to play No. 2 Michigan at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, the exact opposite type of opponent from the Rebels’ Week 1 challenger Bryant, an FCS school.
Odom got off to a solid start to his UNLV tenure, defeating Bryant comfortably 44-14 Saturday at Allegiant Stadium. However, he’s more worried about the overall performance of the Rebels (1-0) than the daunting challenge of the Wolverines (1-0) on the horizon.
“We’re excited to be 1-0 and also understand the improvements we need to make,” he said.
One area with potential improvement Odom mentioned in particular was the passing game. Junior quarterback Doug Brumfield went 11 for 18 against Bryant for 89 yards and no touchdowns. He was also intercepted by sixth-year defensive back Robert Crockett III on a tipped pass.
Odom said more practice time will be valuable for Brumfield and the Rebels offense as it continues to grow under new offensive coordinator Brennan Marion. After reviewing the film, the UNLV coach said there were a couple plays which showed promise.
Specifically he mentioned the near-touchdown catch by junior receiver Ricky White in the back of the end zone which was ruled out of bounds.
Odom said the offense has a number of plays designed for White, the team’s leading returning receiver, but also added he doesn’t want to force plays to anyone in the offense. White, a former Michigan State transfer, finished the game with just two catches on five targets for seven yards.
“He’s got enough talent and skill set that the plays will come to him,” Odom said.
The UNLV coach was also pleased with the team’s pass rush against Bryant. He said their blitz tempo looked good against a real offense. The Rebels had one sack and three tackles for a loss.
However, he was critical of the team’s inability to contain Bryant quarterback Zevi Eckhaus, who had 89 rushing yards on nine attempts, including a 42-yard scramble, and broke two UNLV tackles.
Struggling to tackle quarterbacks in the first week of the season isn’t a new phenomenon to Odom. He said many of the teams he’s coached have been hesitant to hit opposing quarterbacks in Week 1 after being told to avoid the signal caller at all costs for the entire offseason.
“I’m hopeful we can address that,” Odom said. “We can’t give them running lanes. We’ve got to do a good job on our blitz tracks and our rush lanes, countering once we get past the ball.
“Some of those things you learn from experience. I think we’ll be better moving forward.”