Friday October 8, 2010
WVU's speed is main concern for Hauck, UNLV
Column: Dave Hickman
by From staff reports

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- On the surface, it appears that UNLV is not facing anything Saturday at Mountaineer Field that the Rebels have not gone up against several times already this football season.

A quality opponent? UNLV has already played three Top 25 teams in the first five weeks of the season. West Virginia can't even be counted in that number after the Mountaineers dropped from the rankings.

A hostile environment? The Rebels played at No. 10 Utah a week after Pitt went to the same venue and found out how tough it is, losing in overtime.

Still, there are a few things that do make Saturday's trip to Morgantown rather unique.

For starters, it's a trip across three time zones, something the Rebels have not done since 2004 when they played at Tennessee. Geographically, UNLV hasn't been this far east since playing at Miami in 1972, 38 years ago.

"Certainly the travel is difficult, especially when you go west to east,'' said first-year UNLV Coach Bobby Hauck, who brought his team East on Thursday instead of Friday to help acclimate to the time difference.

"They're three time zones away. There are some things that play into making this a hard game. The number one thing is that they're pretty darn good, too."

As for the quality of competition, well, UNLV has faced what is statistically one of the toughest schedules in the country so far.

In addition to Utah, the Rebels have also lost to then-No. 12 Wisconsin and now-No. 21 Nevada at home. Throw in Idaho and the four opponents who have beaten UNLV are a combined 16-3.

What worries Hauck about facing West Virginia, though, is the same thing that concerns all opposing coaches - speed.

That's especially true of the Mountaineer offense, which boasts Noel Devine, Jock Sanders and Tavon Austin, three little skill position players who are as dangerous in the open field as any trio in the country. Devine may or may not play, though, because of a foot injury suffered two weeks ago in a loss at LSU.

"(Devine is) a really good player. Good back, great speed,'' Hauck said. "He has the ability to make people look silly in the open field and go the distance on every play. He's special. I'm going to assume he'll play."

And, too, the Rebels have to shake off the effects of losing a rivalry game to Nevada a week ago. Imagine West Virginia playing Pitt one week and then trying to get up for a cross country trip for a non-conference game.

That's essentially what the Rebels face this week.

"Coming off a rivalry game, whether you win or lose, it's always hard to get back to work and play well. That's just typical and that's one of the pitfalls of playing a rivalry game in the middle of the year,'' said Hauck, who made his name as the coach at Montana, where he was 80-17 in seven seasons. "But we need to focus on West Virginia. The goal for us will be to improve and play our best game back in Morgantown.''

And that's another thing that makes this game a bit different for UNLV. Only three times since anyone on the current Rebel roster has been at UNLV has the team played in front of more than what figures to be a crowd in the mid-50,000 range - twice at BYU and once at Arizona State.

"Morgantown is known for being loud and their fans are passionate about the game. It's a college town. It's a cool place to play,'' Hauck said. "I've not been there, but I've talked to a lot of people who have worked there or been there.

"We'll be excited to go back there and play. It's a loud, fun place. It's a great venue."