UNLV’s Tyler Gaston, bottom left, and Jordan Sparkman stop Minnesota’s Donnell Kirkwood during UNLV’s season opener against Minnesota at Sam Boyd Stadium Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. ( STEVE MARCUS )
By Case Keefer, Las Vegas Sun and U.S. News Agency / Asian
Finish the game. Review the film. Prepare for the next opponent.
It’s a routine the vast majority of college football coaches live by and preach to their players. Forget about last week or next week, they say. This week’s game is the only one that matters.
UNLV coach Bobby Hauck backs this philosophy, which is why he could have stunned junior linebacker Tim Hasson on Monday by reflecting on the events of four days ago. Before Hauck held his weekly press conference, he commended Hasson for his showing in the season-opening 30-27 loss to Minnesota.
“All he said was, ‘I’ve got to get better,’” Hauck said, “which shows me the right attitude and the right approach. We’ve got a whole locker room of guys like that.”
The collective attitude is the foremost reason Hauck believes the Rebels defense will improve tenfold from its dreadful season a year ago. He thought the defense showed positive signs against Minnesota by giving up only 13 points in regulation, the second-fewest of his 26-game tenure at UNLV.
Hauck expects further defensive improvement in UNLV’s game against Northern Arizona at 7 Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium. The days of giving up 40 points per game, the Rebels’ average the past two seasons, are coming to an end.
“We’ve got to get better in our pass rush, and we’ve got to tackle better,” Hauck said. “We’ve got to get our eyes fixed on the backfield in terms of coverage. There are some things we’re getting started on.”
Even Hasson regretted missing a few tackles against Minnesota. He couldn’t have too much criticism of his opening night, though.
Hasson had seven tackles — including one for a loss and one sack — an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. It was a special performance, hence how it stuck in Hauck’s mind.
“I was just prepared,” Hasson said. “I went through my scouting report. The coaches scouted it pretty good. I just felt like I was in the right spot at the right time. My eyes were good. I just want to improve and make sure it continues.”
Hauck reported terrific energy in UNLV’s practices since the loss. That’s not something that would have happened last year, Hasson said.
He said the team, and the defense specifically, would dwell on the losses and let the poor play affect future preparation.
“People just started feeling sorry for themselves and want to blame other people,” Hasson said. “That’s just gone. We’ve got leaders in there.”
The Rebels were in the nation’s bottom 30 defensive teams in every major statistical category last year. The way they talk this year, they won’t rank that low in any of them.
The Minnesota loss showed that UNLV is capable of playing good defense, Hauck said.
“It’s something we build off of,” Hauck said.