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September 25, 2013

Two birds, one stone

A LOOK BACK -

UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck has been searching for building blocks throughout his tenure over the past three seasons. He finally will get the opportunity this Saturday to show fans and supporters, let alone his players, that the foundation is firmly set.

It has been a slow and painful process for Hauck, but he will be able to kill two birds with one stone at New Mexico when his Rebels will attempt to do a pair of firsts for him as UNLV's top honcho.

Three wins in a season and a road victory don't sound like the most daunting of tasks from an outsider's point of view, but if UNLV is able to accomplish these two feats, no one would have a bigger sense of relief than Hauck.

The key during the Rebels' current two-game winning streak has been the job of their defensive unit. After allowing 21 points in the opening half against Central Michigan, UNLV has given up a mere seven points over the last six quarters.

Getting off the field in a hurry and giving the ball back to the offense has been huge during the span. The Rebels have forced six 3-and-outs of the opposing offenses, which has led to easier scoring drives for UNLV, while also keeping the defense fresh.

Caleb Herring's insertion into the quarterback role has been almost as important as the suprising defensive improvement. He has shown the ability over the past two weeks to do whatever is necessary to help move the chains, whether it be by run or pass.

In all honesty, Herring's culmination into the success he's found couldn't be happening to a better teammate. Herring has been the epitome of a "team" first guy for the past couple seasons.

Whenever Hauck asked Herring to move to receiver so that freshman quarterback Nick Sherry wouldn't be looking over his shoulder, Herring quickly became a top target, making difficult catches and playing fluidly at the position.

Fast forward to this season, Herring finally got his shot after two and a half poor performances from Sherry, which included five interceptions and a QB rating of 92.3. Herring's numbers through a game and a half have been spectacular, completing 78% of his passes with four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a QB rating of 167.6.

A LOOK AHEAD

Finding a way to transfer all the good that UNLV has done at Sam Boyd Stadium these past two weeks has to be the biggest task for Hauck and Company this week.

The Rebels have had their moments at home under Hauck but have never found a way to play a complete 60 minutes away from Las Vegas. Maybe the leadership of Herring will be enough, but a victory will definitely be earned and not given away by New Mexico.

Lobo head coach Bob Davie has gotten his program straightened out after a few down years. UNM has been especially difficult to beat in Albuquerque, playing Boise State, Fresno State and UNR close last season.

There are few teams in the country that have pretty much ditched throwing the ball to pound on the ground. The Lobos are one of the few exceptions to today's aerial attack offenses. UNM has thrown the ball only 41 times through three games, while piling up 151 rushing attempts.

If UNLV is able to slow the rush, which it wasn't able to do against Arizona a few weeks ago, and Herring looks sharp, this could be the week the Rebels and Hauck take that next critical step.



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