The Arizona Wildcats football team completed a successful business trip to Las Vegas, sprinting past the host Rebels, 58-13, to move to 2-0 on the season.
For the fans it was a chance to take a road trip that had absolutely nothing to do with business.
The UNLV football experience is an interesting one because, as is often the case in Vegas, things look far less attractive when the lights come on.
The stadium location is horrible. It is miles away from campus so you don’t have any students walking around and contributing to a college atmosphere. There’s absolutely nothing else in the area so you can’t walk to get a casual dinner before the game. It’s just drive or cab in, watch the game, and drive/cab out.
It’s too bad because they have a nice setup. The tailgating area is a beautiful field of thick green grass with lots of room for people to play in between the rows of trucks and tents. It was a huge upgrade from the dirt parking lots on the other side of the stadium that were available to us for the Las Vegas Bowl in 2008.
Sam Boyd is a nice little stadium with good views, although it certainly helped that it was basically general admission seating because the home crowd was so small.
If UNLV’s football game day was reviewed like a buffet it’d be something like:
A hidden gem of untapped potential. Understated appetizers and a satisfying assortment of entrees but don’t expect to be wowed by the ambiance. The perfect local hangout except none of the locals want to hang out. 3.5 Elvises out of 5.
I did the basketball/bowl game doubleheader four years ago but I had forgotten about UNLV’s annoyingly slow “Re-bels” call. My buddy accurately described as just like the “airball” chant. Why would you want to make it sound like your fans are taunting your own team?
As for the game itself, it was a joy to watch Ka’Deem Carey running with a football again (Must see! 5 Elvises!). Just in case we had forgotten, Carey reminded us how he went about leading the nation in rushing. He’s a big-play threat on every down and he always finishes runs going forward (not a single negative play in 16 touches on Saturday).
We had hoped the passing game would look better in week 2 but it did not. It’s definitely a concern for Pac-12 play (mainly because the Cats only get to face USC’s offense once).
B.J. Denker has taken 90% of the snaps in two lopsided wins so he’s clearly the number one quarterback. Receiver Austin Hill isn’t coming back from injury for a long time this year if at all and Devonte’ Neal is officially sitting this season. The guys out there are the ones who have to get it done.
It’s no surprise the run game looked even better with Carey back and Denker added a touchdown run of 30+ yards for the second straight game. The pace on offense can still get faster and I believe that’ll give the passing game its best chance for success, but there most likely won’t be a great deal of success through the air.
The good news is it’s not like Rich Rodriguez hasn’t coached run-heavy teams before.
Neither NAU nor UNLV has a dynamic offense but it’s hard not to get excited about the Wildcat D. How many years did we watch UA players drop interceptions thrown right at them? Now the UA defenders are snatching the ball clean and heading for paydirt.
There is a clear upgrade in team speed on defense. The SWAT lineup has been a big improvement so far and forcing turnovers is the best way to make up for a lack of size.
The only decision worse than UNLV continuing to call passing plays was my gritty crew deciding to drive up to Las Vegas after work Thursday night. That’s because A) it meant driving to Las Vegas after work Thursday night, and B) it increased our nights (mornings) in Vegas by 50%. Let’s just say Coach Rod would not have nice things to say about my conditioning.
There was an odd moment on Saturday when the Cats’ second-team defense gave up a long touchdown to make the score 51-13. Pockets of Arizona fans were standing and cheering like it was New Mexico Bowl II. That’s when we remembered the over/under was 61.
Only in Vegas.