Game 2: Arizona Wildcats (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) at UNLV Rebels (0-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
Date/Time/Location: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. (MST) at Sam Boyd Stadium (36,800 capacity) in Las Vegas
Television: CBS Sports Network
Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson
Game Notes: Arizona, UNLV
Odds: Arizona (-17), O/U 57 (Vegas Insider)
Meet the Coaches
Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez enters his second season with the Wildcats after stints at Salem, Glenville State, West Virginia and Michigan. Over the course of his 19 seasons as a head coach, the 50-year-old Rodriguez possesses a 129-89-2 career record. In his debut season with the Wildcats, Arizona went 8-5 including a dramatic win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. It was Rodriguez’s first debut winning season and first bowl appearance in a debut season. He also tied Jim Young for most wins in a coach’s first season at Arizona. At the three schools he coached for more than one year, Rodriguez increased his win total from the first to the second season, averaging a 3.67 win increase from year one to year two.
UNLV’s Bobby Hauck enters his fourth season with the Rebels after spending seven seasons as the head coach at Montana. Hauck possesses an 86-50 career record, but is only 6-33 with UNLV and has yet to win more than two games in a season with the Rebels. At Montana, he led the Grizzlies to an 80-17 record, finishing first or tied for first in the Big Sky every season. He led the team to three appearances in the NCAA FCS championship, including back-to-back appearances in 2008 and 2009. Hauck is familiar with the Pac-12, having spent time as a coach with UCLA (1990-1992), Colorado (1995-1998) and Washington (1999-2002).
The Wildcats were extremely conservative in their season opener, throwing the ball 13 times compared to 34 rushing attempts. However, that is expected to change in Game 2.
At his Monday press conference, Rich Rodriguez told reporters, “We can get by with that because we were running the ball and NAU wasn’t scoring. But going forward, we are going to need to throw the ball because teams are going to put everyone up front if you aren’t throwing the ball. And in practice, we work more on passing than running.”
That will put a lot of pressure on senior quarterback B.J. Denker in his third career start. Last game, he completed 9-of-13 passes for 87 yards, but missed badly on the majority of his deep throws. However, it was enough for Rodriguez to no longer list Denker as the co-starter, essentially naming him the winner of the offseason’s quarterback battle.
The Wildcats will get a boost offensively with the return of running back Ka’deem Carey, who was suspended last game due to his offseason off-the-field trouble. Along with Daniel Jenkins, who rushed for 139 yards last game, the Wildcats have one of the scarier backfields in the conference.
On defense, the Wildcats will look to continue the success they had in the season opener. Arizona forced three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by safety Tra’mayne Bondurant, and also recorded three sacks. It’s a big game for the Wildcats defensive line as they are going up against a pretty potent rushing attack.
Special teams will be the position to watch during the game after they performed miserably against NAU. Nate Phillips, who muffed two punts in the opener, will be tried again as the primary punt returner. It will be interesting to see if Jake Smith, who missed the Wildcats’ only field goal attempt, or Casey Skowron handles the kicking duties. Drew Riggleman will look to duplicate his 44- and 55-yard punts and not his 15- and 18-yard ones.
Last season, the Rebels finished as one of the worst teams in the NCAA, posting a 2-11 record with only one win in conference.
UNLV is led on offense by senior running back Tim Cornett, who rushed for 1,232 yards last season and has led the Rebels in rushing each of the past three seasons. Cornett, who is only 700 yards away from surpassing Mike Thomas as UNLV’s all-time leading rusher, was one of 35 players named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award preseason watch list.
In addition to Cornett, two other offensive players were named to the 2013 Preseason All-Mountain West team – wide receiver Devante Davis and offensive tackle Brett Boyko. Davis, along with Marcus Sullivan and Anthony Williams, leads a trio of returning receivers who combined for 138 receptions for 1,850 yards last season.
Starting at quarterback is Nick Sherry, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound sophomore with professional potential. Sherry struggled with inconsistency as a freshman, completing only 53.1 percent of his passes for 2,544 yards with 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Similar to Arizona, the Rebels have an above-average secondary that was made to look bad by a lack of pressure on the quarterback. On special teams, 2013 Preseason All-Mountain West-selection Nolan Kohorst returns after making 12-of-14 field goals a season ago.
Their season opener did not go well, dropping the game 51-23 in Minneapolis, after being down only 16-13 at halftime.
While they only gave up 320 yards of total offense, the Gophers scored on a 98-yard kickoff return, a 51-yard blocked field goal return and an 89-yard interception return.
On offense, the Rebels accounted for more than 400 yards, with 193 of those yards coming on the ground. Cornett and fellow running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence accounted for 188 of those yards on 24 combined carries. Sherry went 35-for-50 for 226 yards and two touchdowns, but did throw two interceptions.
On defense, safety Peni Vea led UNLV with nine tackles. Cornerback Tajh Hasson intercepted a pass, while cornerback Sidney Hodge recorded two passes broken up. The special teams had two field goals blocked.
Arizona Injury Report
Out – wide receiver David Richards (foot), wide receiver Austin Hill (knee), offensive lineman Beau Boyster (knee, season-ending), linebacker Cody Ippolito (knee, season-ending)
UNLV Injury Report
It doesn’t exist. No injuries to report. @JSayersNews: Is there anywhere I can find UNLV’s injury report for this weekend?
— Taylor Bern (@TaylorBern) September 4, 2013
Arizona vs. UNLV Series History
The Wildcats and Rebels have played once in the history of the two football programs. On Sept. 22, 2001 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Arizona defeated UNLV 38-21. The Wildcats outgained the Rebels 440-280 as quarterback Jason Johnson went 18-for-30 for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Arizona receiver Bobby Wade caught two touchdowns in the win, while running back Tremaine Cox ran for 111 yards on 8 carries with a touchdown. Both teams returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Tags: 2013 Football Game Previews Anthony Williams Arizona Wildcats Austin Hill B.J. Denker Beau Boyster Bobby Hauck Bobby Wade Brett Boyko Casey Skowron Cody Ippolito Daniel Jenkins David Richards Devante Davis Drew Riggleman Follow Index Jake Smith Jason Johnson Ka'deem Carey Marcus Sullivan Mike Thomas Nate Phillips Nick Sherry Nolan Kohorst Peni Vea Rich Rodriguez Shaquille Murray-Lawrence Sidney Hodge Tajh Hasson Tim Cornett Tra'mayne Bondurant Tremaine Cox UNLV Rebels