MWC Showdown: Utah Looking to Settle Score with UNLV

Chris GolightlyCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2009

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 19: Aiona Key #9 of the Utah Utes eludes the tackle of Walter Thurmond III #6 as he runs for yardage after a pass reception in the second quarter of the game at Autzen Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 31-24. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Tonight, Boise State and Tulsa kick off a huge college football weekend. Games laced with intrigue on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, build up to a slew of huge games on Saturday.


The cherry on top comes Saturday night.


The Showdown in the Desert! The Clash of Titans! The Ultimate Battle for Supremacy amongst MWC schools that begin with the letter ‘U’!


Utah Utes vs. UNLV Rebels!


(cricket chirping)


Sarcasm aside, this game is extremely important for the UNLV football program


Like many travelers and visitors before them, the Utes come to Las Vegas with an unmistakable gleam in their eye. They have one thing on their mind: winning big.


Utah fans may have already penciled in victory, and are completely justified in doing so. No FBS team has played worse the last two weeks than UNLV.  The numbers are truly alarming.


In just two games, the Rebels have allowed 850 yards rushing, 1484 total yards and 122 points while recoding no sacks and no interceptions.


Calling the Rebels a “swiss cheese” defense fails to capture the true ineptitude of the unit the last two weeks.  Swiss cheese is a solid substance with lots of holes.  The UNLV defense has been nothing but holes.


QB Terrence Cain and the Ute offense have the mindset of a 400 pound Midwestern tourist at one of Las Vegas’ many mouth-watering buffets.


Help yourself, have as much as you like. Don’t be afraid to come back for seconds, thirds, fourths or even ninths. It’s all there for the taking.


Recently, the Rebels have been offering indiscriminately generous portions of yards and points to all comers.


They can’t actually be that bad, can they?


My guess is no. The Rebels have hit rock bottom. They have nowhere to go but up.


The Utes will be able to move the ball. They will score points. They’ll have a good day.


UNLV cannot shut their offense down, but perhaps they can at least slow them down.


Utah doesn’t exactly boast a high octane offense. Though solid and productive, the Utes are not explosive. They may flirt with fifty, if they avoid self inflicted wounds.


However, I’d be shocked if UNLV fails to improve, at least statistically. They simply cannot continue to give up over 600 yards and 60 points. Those are video game numbers.


The pressure is on QB Omar Clayton and the UNLV offense. The Rebels’ offense is potent, but they have been mistake prone and have had trouble establishing the run.


To stay in the game, UNLV must score early, and they must score often.


If RB Channing Trotter can get going and Clayton can keep the ball away from the Utes, the Rebels can make a game of it. If UNLV can somehow manage 100 yards rushing and a turnover free game, they’ll have a chance to pull the upset.


Those are ominously large ifs.


The Rebels biggest problem this year has been the inability to make big plays and the inability to avoid killer mistakes. They haven’t been finishing off drives with TDs, and they haven’t been getting takeaways or sacks.


This Utah defense is not the fear-inducing top ten unit that helped them win a BCS bowl last season, but they are a very solid, talented group. They will be able to rattle the Rebels, and eventually deliver a knock out blow.


It’s worth noting that the last time Utah visited Sam Boyd Stadium, they laid an egg. A goose egg, to be specific; right on the scoreboard. The 27-0 loss was one of only two UNLV victories that year.


Utah coach Kyle Whittingham likely remembers that embarrassment all too well. While his offense feasts on a vulnerable defense, Whittingham will be looking to mercilessly force feed the Rebels a heaping plate of frosty revenge.


They may not match the statistical output of UNLV’s last two opponents, but they will pour some salt in the wounded Rebels’ gashes.


Utah 44 UNLV 23


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