UNLV Rebels football team relishes road opportunities

It’s the subject that hasn’t gone away, but UNLV finally has a good chance to do something about it. Yes, the Rebels could do the unthinkable and win a road game.

Actually, they have a good chance to win two road games this month, which would bring relief and joy to a program that knows the feeling of long flights home more than a world traveler.

First is the matter of playing at Colorado State (2-7, 1-4 Mountain West Conference) at 4 p.m. PST Saturday. The Rebels (2-8, 2-3) are 2½-point favorites.

They also could be substantial favorites in the Nov. 24 season finale at Hawaii (1-7, 0-5).

“Any time we go on the road, there are opportunities,” coach Bobby Hauck said Monday. “I don’t want to discredit who we’re playing at all. I think (Colorado State is) a good team. … We view this as a game we can win, but all their people and (media) … will view us as a team they should beat.”

Hauck and his players certainly hope the frequent discussions about the road struggles are soon a thing of the past.

UNLV has lost 20 away games in a row, dating to Oct. 24, 2009, and a 34-17 victory at New Mexico. The school record for road futility is a 26-game skid from 1994 to 1998.

The Rebels, though, could take momentum, and some confidence, into the game at Colorado State after routing New Mexico 35-7 on Saturday.

That victory began a final stretch of winnable games. The Rebels, who also host Wyoming (2-7, 1-4) on Nov. 17, now could finish the season strong.

“I don’t know that it’s such a big deal who we beat, but that we got a win,” senior guard Doug Zismann said. “Our locker room was really hurting for one.”

Colorado State is trying to rebuild under first-year coach Jim McElwain, who served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator the past four seasons.

Hawaii is in a similar situation under rookie coach Norm Chow, who built a reputation as an innovative offensive coordinator, notably at Brigham Young and Southern California.

But Colorado State and Hawaii rank in the bottom two in the Mountain West in three major offensive categories. Each also is in the bottom 20 nationally in rushing defense.

Colorado State has been outscored by an average of 32-20 and Hawaii by 43-20.

UNLV has had its own struggles, losing by an average of 32-24. So the difference with Colorado State isn’t great, but the Rebels have been able to start quarterback Nick Sherry every week, while the Rams have gone through three players at that position.

Sophomore Garrett Grayson has been ruled out for Saturday with an injured left shoulder, according to The Denver Post, and redshirt freshman Conner Smith will start.

UNLV, though, knows it can’t take the Rams lightly and must play with the same hard-hitting intensity that overwhelmed New Mexico. The last time the Rebels were road favorites, they lost 21-14 at New Mexico last Nov. 12.

A victory Saturday would put the Rebels in position to possibly finish with a winning conference record.

“I think we’re a young team that’s getting better,” Hauck said. “We’ve been highly competitive against some really good teams on the road.

“But for us, it’s also trying to move up in the Mountain West standings. We’ve got some goals as a team to finish in good shape in the Mountain West.”

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

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