LAS VEGAS — Here in Sin City, where it is easier to find a wedding chapel than a McDonald’s, honeymoons are big business.
Alas, what follows a Las Vegas honeymoon is not always pretty. Case in point: Bobby Hauck and the UNLV football program.
Hauck, anointed the latest would-be savior of the long-suffering Rebels when he arrived three years ago, owns a 4-23 record. Barely 15,000 fans turned out last Saturday to watch the Rebels blow a 14-0 halftime lead in a 17-14 loss to a Northern Arizona squad picked to finish seventh in the Big Sky Conference.
“We know,” Hauck says, “we’re hard to love right now.”
The Washington State Cougars know the feeling, having drawn a blank on winning seasons and bowl games since 2003. However, the Cougars are favored by 81/2 points tonight at UNLV, a team that CBSSports.com ranks fourth worst in the nation.
Some might view the betting line as a slight to the Cougars, since they routed UNLV 59-7 last year in Pullman.
It must be remembered, however, that CBSSports.com ranks Washington State 86th among the 124 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Also, WSU is 2-26 outside Pullman since 2008 and barely beat projected Big Sky runner-up Eastern Washington at home last week.
Redshirt sophomore Connor Halliday likely will make his second career start for WSU. Last week’s starter Jeff Tuel suffered a knee injury against Eastern Washington and saw little practice time this week.
Youth and inexperience is a cause for concern at many positions for the Cougars and Rebels. Redshirt freshman Nick Sherry starts at quarterback for UNLV.
Pass blocking has been shaky on both sides. The Cougars lack a prime-time running back, but UNLV’s Tim Cornett has run for 100-plus yards in four of the past five games.
Sherry lacks Halliday’s arm. Most college quarterbacks do, but Halliday tends to gamble on some throws, resulting in outcomes all too familiar in Vegas.
Halliday has only played one quarter in a much-hyped new offense that has yet to work out all the kinks. UNLV lists just one senior starter on a defense that has yielded fewer points and yards than the Cougars and is far better at stopping rivals on third down (22 for 28).
Both teams are seeking momentum heading into their conference openers next week — UNLV in the Mountain West Conference, WSU in the Pacific-12 Conference. The Cougars are 5-0 all-time against the Rebels, but Washington State coach Mike Leach says history won’t automatically repeat itself.
“They’re playing together a lot better than they have in the past,” he said.
Perhaps, but plenty of UNLV fans are calling for Hauck’s head, threatening to stop attending games. Some of the negative comments have been rather clever.
One message board item on the Las Vegas Sun newspaper’s website read: “I heard a district court judge offered a punishment choice to a convicted felon, 6 months in jail or attend a UNLV football game.
“He chose jail.”