LAS VEGAS - To get a better feel for what the Arizona Wildcats will face tomorrow here against UNLV, we checked in with the UNLV beat writer for the Las Vegas Sun, Taylor Bern.
Bern is in his second full season as the beat writer for the Rebels and was in Minneapolis last week for UNLV’s season opening loss to Minnesota.
We chatted with Bern about UNLV’s offense, his impressions from last week’s game, why the Rebels have such a hard time winning and coach Bobby Hauck.
We also talked about some key spots in Vegas to ensure some Sin City fun. For that, check out the Hot Sheet in tomorrow’s Star.
What were your three major impressions from last week’s game against Minnesota?
A: “The first thing was that (quarterback Nick) Sherry, who we had seen look mediocre and bad in camp, looked good. They were committed to a plan and executed it pretty well offensively in the first half and most of the game. They were doing what they set out to do, which is not always what happens with them. They stuck with their gameplan pretty well.
“The second thing was they still can’t get out of their own way. Even in close losses last year, there were one or two plays that swung the game. You would think maybe they have a chance and then they’d commit a couple of stupid penalties or there would be a play or two that would lose the game for them. They haven’t learned to get those out of the way yet.
“The third thing was they squandered the best defensive performance they’ve had a while, which is really weird to think in a 51-point game. They score late, after everything had been decided. The UNLV offense was outgaining Minnesota by 200 yards and that had a lot to do with defense. The defense only had one penalty, which was a questionable pass interference call. I think they feel good about the defense going into this game.”
Do you think they are a better team than a year ago?
A: “I do think they’re better. All the good things about last year are back. Sherry has a year under his belt. (Running back Tim ) Cornett is healthier. (Wide receiver Devante) Davis can make plays. They feel good about the skill positions and return most of the offensive line. I don’t know if the returning guys in the secondary is a good thing or bad. If you’re UNLV, you’d rather have guys with experience even if they weren’t good, then fresh-faced players.”
What are you expecting attendance-wise Saturday?
A: “It’s going to be pretty bad. The ticket sales are not going well and I was seeing reports that they were reaching out to seat-filling websites and all those reports were accurate. It suggests it will be pretty bad. Arizona will have decent contingent coming for the weekend. My total guess would be 18,000. They might get a decent walk-up crowd.”
What kind of running back is Cornett?
“He’s a north-south guy. He likes to get momentum and charge through people. He doesn’t shy away from contact, sometimes to a fault. He’s not that big, listed at 6-0, 6-1, but he’s speedy. If he gets a step, he’s going to outrun some secondary guys. He’s pretty good at escaping through tackles and keeps his legs pumping.”
What is their main strength defensively?
A: “The linebackers were pretty good the other night. Tani Maka, who started every game at middle linebacker last year is back. They like their defensive line, but the production hasn’t been there in getting to the quarterback. I haven’t seen a whole lot of positives with the defense. I guess I would say linebackers. Finding a strength of that defense isn’t easy.”
What’s the consensus on coach Bobby Hauck? Do people believe he’s on the right track?
A: “There’s plenty of opinions on both sides. The people that support him bring up money and say ‘what else are you going to get?’ The side that wants to let him play it out will tell you they took steps forward last year even though they only won two games. But, there are plenty of people who see three two-win seasons and think he needs to go, but they don’t have any solutions as to a guy might be that would be a difference maker. I think a greater number of fans support him.”
Why does UNLV have such a hard time winning in football?
A: “Part of it is history. They’ve never had anything going here. When players come to UNLV, they think they’re going to be the class to turn it around. It’s tiring when you’re always looking at it like that. I also think facilities are a factor. Sam Boyd Stadium is a decent drive away and it’s run down, but it’s not as big of a deal as people make it out to be. The facility (weight room, locker rooms) on campus is probably a bigger deal. People talk about how run down it is. There’s high schools, one in particular (Bishop Gorman) that has more impressive facilities than the university. Also, there’s no campus atmosphere, no history. The local guys don’t want to stay. Bobby is finding himself recruiting against the Montana’s of the world and if you’re competing in that realm, that’s not where you want to be if you’re going to play against schools like Boise State.”