When Fred Wilson wound up in a walking boot last week, that gave redshirt freshman cornerback Tim Hough his first career start.
And did he ever take advantage of the opportunity.
Hough, who went to Desert Pines High School, intercepted two passes and had a crazy zigzag return of a blocked field goal that went for 54 yards. All three plays set up UNLV touchdowns in Saturday’s 80-8 victory over Idaho State.
He was named on Wednesday the Las Vegas Bowl Mountain West player of the week, the first Rebel in two years to receive that honor.
“Coach always tells us it’s not about the opponent, it’s about us,” Hough said. “So we practice hard like it’s game day, and then the game comes easy.”
Now Hough is preparing for another game day when the Rebels travel to play at UNR at 4 p.m. Saturday. But whether he starts or comes off the bench is uncertain as Wilson tries to come back from an injured left ankle.
Hough (5 feet 11 inches 190 pounds) showed in training camp he had the ability to make plays, but he was unproven.
He’s not unproven anymore.
“He’s a great effort guy,” coach Tony Sanchez said. “He’s a very intelligent guy. He’s as spirited as anybody I think who’s ever been a Rebel. I mean he’s a fired-up guy, so we knew the effort was going to be there.”
Sanchez pointed out the secondary in general is getting the job done. The Rebels have intercepted eight passes, one more than they had all of last season. They have allowed a combined 324 yards passing in the past two games.
“We’re really starting to develop depth in that secondary, which is a big thing because it was a concern coming into the year,” Sanchez said.
* NO RUNNING — There’s not much of a secret how Saturday’s game will be decided.
Whichever team better establishes the run likely will be the winner. Both teams have promising run games and at best so-so run defenses.
Third-year UNR coach Brian Polian is 3-13 when the Wolf Pack rushes for fewer than 200 yards, and they are 10-3 when reaching that number.
They have a dangerous run game this season, with James Butler and Don Jackson having combined to rush for 763 yards and six touchdowns.
“I think technically they’re pretty good at what they do, but I think we’re pretty good as well,” UNLV linebacker Ryan McAleenan said. “I think it’s going to be a good opportunity to show that we can stop the run. We’ve done a good job the past couple of weeks, and we just need to keep it going this week as well.”
UNLV gave up 91 yards rushing to Idaho State, which dropped the per-game average against the Rebels to 203.2. They need that number to drop even further, but it’s better than the 293.8 average the Rebels allowed last season.
* NO TV COVERAGE — The game will be broadcast by Campus Insiders in an online stream that will be available at unlvrebels.com.
CBS Sports Network, ESPN and Root get first dibs on Mountain West games. None of those networks picked up the game, so Campus Insiders has the rights, meaning UNLV is not allowed to secure its own over-the-air deal.
“It’s disappointing,” Sanchez said. “I think it will probably be the only game in the Mountain West that’s sold out that’s played this weekend. It’s unfortunate being up in Reno and having the people in Las Vegas who don’t have the chance to get up there and see it.”
* BIRTHDAY BOY — Rebels quarterback Blake Decker turned 25 on Monday, and he spent the day going to class, watching game video and eating out.
“So it was a good birthday for me,” Decker said.
He wants the present to be a victory in Reno.
“That’s going to be the party on Saturday night on the plane ride home, I hope,” Decker said.
Contact Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65
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