UNLV expects to take next step from good to great


POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2009


The theme of UNLV's season, as proclaimed on the cover of the team's media guide, is “;Rebels on the Rise.”;

After a rocky three seasons to begin his tenure in Las Vegas, head coach Mike Sanford saw the program take steps in a positive direction last season.

The Rebels went 6-29 and 3-21 in the Mountain West Conference in the three seasons after Sanford took over for John Robinson, winning two games each of those years.

Last season, they jumped out to a 3-1 start, stunning then-No. 13 Arizona State and Iowa State in overtime. The momentum withered with a five-game losing streak, but the Rebels won two of their last three to finish 5-7 and tied for sixth in the MWC.

“;I felt like we were an improved football team, we made progress, but we weren't anywhere what we could have been and we all know that,”; Sanford said at the MWC media day last month.

The expectations are a bit higher for the Rebels than previous years, when they were picked to finish last in the league. This year, media members voted UNLV fifth in the Mountain West's preseason media poll.





        Sept. 4 Central Arkansas

        Sept. 12 at Washington State

        Sept. 19 at UNLV

        Sept. 30 at Louisiana Tech

        Oct. 10 Fresno State

        Oct. 17 at Idaho

        Oct. 24 Boise State

        Oct. 31 at Nevada

        Nov. 7 Utah State

        Nov. 14 New Mexico State

        Nov. 21 at San Jose State

        Nov. 28 Navy

        Dec. 5 Wisconsin

“;It feels like this year, the stage has been set,”; linebacker Jason Beauchamp said. “;It feels like everything is in place, more so this year than in the past. The key is just to stay humble and keep the work ethic.”;

Beauchamp and receiver Ryan Wolfe were named to the preseason All-MWC team and are part of a senior class that broke in with Sanford in 2005.

“;We've grown up together a little bit and been through a lot of tough times,”; Sanford said.

The Rebels also return junior quarterback Omar Clayton, who passed for 1,894 yards and 18 touchdowns against four interceptions last season before suffering a knee injury.

Clayton went 7-for-12 for 109 yards in a scrimmage last Saturday and threw a touchdown pass to Wolfe, the MWC's second-leading receiver last year.

Wolfe averaged 86.7 receiving yards per game and is already the program's all-time leading receiver with 209 catches for 2,735 yards.

Beauchamp topped the MWC with 127 tackles last season and leads a defense that returns eight starters. The Rebels finished eighth out of nine teams in the league in scoring defense (32.6 points per game) and total defense (423.2 yards per game).

The Rebels signed four junior college and four high school defensive backs to help tighten a pass defense that gave up 24 touchdowns through the air while coming down with a league-low seven interceptions.

UNLV opens with three straight home games, closing the stretch with the Sept. 19 meeting with Hawaii at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Warriors and Rebels play each of the next three seasons, with four more meetings scheduled between 2014 and 2018.