Washington State (1-1) at UNLV (0-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 14, 9:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sam Boyd Stadium (36,800) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: ESPN. Home Record: WSU 0-1, UNLV 0-2. Away Record: WSU 1-0, UNLV 0-0. Neutral Record: WSU 0-0, UNLV 0-0. Conference Record: WSU 0-0, UNLV 0-0. Series Record: Washington State leads, 5-0.
GAME NOTES: The third of four straight home games to kick off the 2012 campaign takes place on Friday night for the UNLV Rebels, as they host the Washington State Cougars in non-conference action at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Owners of one of the longest losing streaks in the nation at seven games, the Rebels could easily be 2-0 on the season. In the opener the team went to overtime against Minnesota before bowing to the Golden Gophers in a 30-27 final, and then last Saturday the squad squandered a two-touchdown lead en route to a 17-14 setback versus FCS foe Northern Arizona.
As for the Cougars, they picked up their first win of the season last weekend when they slipped by Eastern Washington at the newly refurbished Martin Stadium in a 24-20 final. The victory, while against a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, evened the team's record at 1-1 after having lost to BYU in the opener, 30-6.
The Cougars have never lost to UNLV (5-0), thrashing the Rebels in last year's matchup by a score of 59-7.
In front of the first home opener sellout at Martin Stadium since 1952, the Cougars managed to make 24 first-half points stand up against the Eagles as the WSU offense disappeared after the break, turning the ball over on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter which allowed EWU to close the gap.
Starting quarterback Jeff Tuel threw a pair of TD passes to Isiah Myers, the signal-caller finishing 20-of-26 for 171 yards while being sacked three times. Carl Winston added 67 yards rushing and one TD on the ground for the hosts as they surrendered close to 500 yards of total offense to Eastern Washington.
On a positive note, there was a stretch for the WSU defense when it forced five punts and picked off two passes during seven straight Eagles possessions.
Unfortunately, the pass defense overall still needs to be cleaned up for the Cougars because giving up 341.0 ypg, last in the Pac-12 Conference and 110th nationally this week, is still a far cry from the 252.4 ypg allowed last season.
Another area of concern for Washington State lies in the team's inability to effectively run the ball, averaging a meager 51.5 ypg which is again last in the conference and 117th in the country. Then again, the Cougars had similar issues last year when they managed to produce just 100.2 ypg which was 111th in the country.
Like the Cougars, UNLV was the aggressor early on in their game against NAU over the weekend, but the Rebels could not keep the pressure on against the Lumberjacks and eventually allowed the game-winning field goal to be converted with just 12 seconds remaining in regulation. Running back Tim Cornett finished with a career-best 141 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries while quarterback Nick Sherry converted 16-of-29 passes for 239 yards in the losing cause.
Kicker Nolan Kohorst was given just one field goal attempt in the meeting and missed a 30-yard effort in the fourth quarter which could have changed the entire complexion of the final period and quite possibly the outcome altogether.
Searching for a silver lining in an otherwise disappointing outcome, the Rebels managed to hold the Lumberjacks scoreless through the first half on Saturday, the first time UNLV has turned that trick since the 2008 campaign.
Through the first two games of the season, the defense for the Rebels has been somewhat successful, giving up 383.0 ypg and 23.5 ppg which rank the squad 64th and 65th in the nation, respectively. It might not sound like that great of an effort, but taking a look at last year's numbers it is clear that UNLV has put a premium on tighter defense.
Only once in 2011 did UNLV manage to hold an opponent to less than three touchdowns and three times gave up at least 50 points, leading to 40.4 ppg for the opposition which meant the Rebels ranked 118th in the country in that department.
Forget the fact that Washington State has never lost to the Rebels, or that the Cougars trounced UNLV in last year's meeting because the hosts for this week's game actually have the potential to turn in a much better effort. As long as the UNLV offense can show up for an entire 60 minutes there a good chance the Rebels could pull this one out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNLV 23, Washington State 20
09/12 10:35:30 ET