First look at WSU vs. UNLV
Time: 6 p.m. Friday
Records: WSU (1-1, 0-0 in Pac-12); UNLV (0-2, 0-0 in Mountain West)
Last week: WSU defeated Eastern Washington, 24-20. UNLV lost to Northern Arizona, 17-14
Last time: WSU defeated UNLV in Pullman, 59-7, in 2011
The line: WSU by 11
What it means for WSU: The Cougars are still searching for a complete, consistent victory after an ugly loss at BYU and a frustratingly close win over Eastern Washington. UNLV seems to provide an opportunity to achieve that. The Rebels have won four games in the last two seasons combined, and lost on Saturday, 17-14, to Northern Arizona of the Big Sky. If ever there was a chance for WSU to put together an impressive victory, this is it. And with uncertainty over the status of quarterback Jeff Tuel (right leg), it could also be an opportunity for Connor Halliday to get some more playing time.
What it means for UNLV: The Rebels are trying to avoid an 0-3 start – and trying to avoid losing all three of those games at home. Third-year coach Bobby Hauck and his players might also still have last year’s 59-7 drubbing in Pullman in the back of their minds, and can exact some revenge with a better effort at Sam Boyd Stadium. Finishing drives has been a problem for the Rebels, as they outgained NAU 428-288 but didn’t score in the second half and managed just 14 points.
“I think they’ve come together,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “They’ve got some guys that played last year. They’re playing together a lot better than they have in the past.”
Key matchup: UNLV’s offensive line vs. Ioane Gauta
The Rebels list three sophomores – left tackle Brett Boyko, left guard Cameron Jefferson and center Robert Waterman – as starters on their offensive line. Thus far, they’ve helped the Rebels average 4.3 yards per carry, though leading rusher Tim Cornett (50 carries, 278 yards) checks in at a healthy 5.6 yards per carry and has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his team’s first two games. Gauta, WSU’s starting nose tackle, needs to disrupt the middle in order to keep Cornett in check.