Matchup box — Washington State at UNLV
Washington State (1-1); UNLV (0-2)
Time: 6 p.m. Friday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
TV: ESPN Radio: KTTH (770 AM) The line: WSU by 8 ½
The setup: Wading through the softer part of its schedule, WSU tries to get its second victory under Mike Leach. UNLV, coached by former Washington aide Bobby Hauck, is off to a miserable start at 0-2 after losing to FCS Northern Arizona last week.
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What to expect: In two games, the Cougars have been defended with soft zones that have taken away deep passing, and they responded by running often against Eastern Washington. They could see more of the same, with QB Connor Halliday possibly starting as Jeff Tuel mends from a knee problem. UNLV’s biggest threat is RB Tim Cornett, whose 139 yards rushing a game is No. 7 nationally. The quarterback is 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman Nick Sherry.
Key matchup: Cornett vs. WSU defenders Ioane Gauta, Darryl Monroe and Chester Sua as the Cougars’ primary run-stuffers get a chance to shackle the Rebels’ best offensive threat.
Injuries: WSU — QB Jeff Tuel (knee), questionable; UNLV — RB/WR Eric Johnson (leg), WR Marcus Sullivan (leg), probable.
Notes: WSU leads the series 5-0, having first won in 1978 behind QB Jack Thompson. … The Cougars routed the Rebels 59-7 last year in Pullman, with UNLV scoring on a late kickoff return. … Both Vegas defeats have come on field goals at the wire. … The Rebels have only one senior defensive starter, and seven of 11 on offense are either freshmen or sophomores. … A week after Andrew Furney hit a 60-yard field goal for WSU, the Cougars return to site where Jason Hanson nailed the school record of 62 in 1991. … WSU safety Deone Bucannon will sit the first half, suspended by the Pac-12 for a flagrant hit on Eastern Washington WR Greg Herd last week. … WSU WR Marquess Wilson is off to a frustrating start with eight catches for 108 yards, but he has had two touchdown catches called back, plus a 46-yard nonscoring play.
Upset brewing? It’s unlikely UNLV could close the significant gap between the two teams from 2011, but no doubt the Rebels will be motivated by that game and probably will play at the level they brought against Minnesota.
Prediction: Washington State 34, UNLV 21