Colorado Springs -- (Sports Network) Two struggling teams collide this Saturday afternoon in a Mountain West Conference tussle, as the Colorado State Rams will try to grab their first league win when they host the UNLV Rebels at Hughes Stadium.
It has been an inauspicious start to Bobby Hauck's tenure in Las Vegas, as his Rebels have stumbled out of the gates with five losses in their first six matchups. UNLV, which is currently in the midst of a two-game slide, is coming off an embarrassing, 49-10 setback to West Virginia this past weekend.
Things have not been much better for coach Steve Fairchild and his Rams, as the team has also suffered five setbacks in its first six games on the schedule. The lone win for CSU came at home against Idaho (36-34), so that gives the Rams something to shoot for this weekend. However, coach Fairchild's team rolls into this matchup on a down note, falling to top-25 ranked opponents in TCU (27-0) and Air Force (49-27).
Colorado State controls the all-time series against UNLV, posting a 12-5-1 ledger. However, last season the Rebels snapped a six-game slide to Colorado State with a 35-16 decision.
The Rebels have yet to find a groove offensively, which would explain the team's mediocre 19.8 ppg. The ground game has been abysmal, averaging just 105.7 ypg on an equally poor 2.9 yards per attempt.
At the same time the passing attack for UNLV has not been much better, and that is largely due to the ineffectiveness of both Omar Clayton and Caleb Herring. Clayton, who has completed 54.9 percent of his throws on the year, threw for only 79 yards in the loss to West Virginia and also tossed an interception. As for Herring, the freshman threw a touchdown in the loss, and finished with 101 yards, but was also picked off once.
Tim Cornett, who hauled in the touchdown pass from Herring, led the ground game with 56 yards on 12 carries. As mentioned earlier, running the ball has not been a strong suit for this offense, but the player with the most success has been Cornett, who is averaging 5.8 yards per attempt.
The offense has not been outstanding, but the poor start to the season for UNLV has plenty to do with the performance of the defense, which is surrendering close to 40 points per contest.
The biggest concern for coach Hauck thus far has been the miserable play against the run, as opponents are currently dismantling this defense for 206.3 rushing ypg. Out of the 25 touchdowns surrendered by this unit, 17 have come via the run.
UNLV's inability to stop the run continued in the team's loss to West Virginia, as the Mountaineers punished the Rebels for 219 yards and four touchdowns on 6.6 yards per tote. WVU, however, also abused the secondary of UNLV, throwing for 226 yards and three more touchdowns.
Much like their counterpart, the Rams have been ineffective offensively, totaling a meager 13.7 ppg.
The ground game has been one of the worst in the nation, as the team is producing only 94.3 ypg on an equally poor 3.1 ypc. However, the play of quarterback Pete Thomas has slightly softened the blow of the poor ground game.
Thomas, however, has not been overly impressive and while the quarterback has completed 67.5 percent of his passes, he has thrown just five touchdowns against eight interceptions. In the recent loss to Air Force Thomas continued to show inconsistent play, as the signal caller finished with 136 yards and one score, while also tossing an interception.
What was surprising in this contest was the rushing attack, which exploded for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Leonard Mason led the way with 139 yards and one touchdown on 6.3 yards per attempt. The senior came into the contest with just 26 combined yards through the first five games, but look for him to see more carries if he continues to produce at a high level.
On top of the lackluster play of the offense has been the terrible effort put forth by this defensive unit, which has already allowed 25 touchdowns.
Coach Fairchild's defense has been a mess against the run and the pass, as teams are punishing Colorado State for 210.8 rushing ypg, while adding another 223.0 ypg via the pass.
Against a run-oriented team like Air Force it was clear that the Rams were going to have trouble stopping the Falcons on the ground and that was the case, as Air Force pulverized CSU for 248 yards and three touchdowns on 5.3 yards per attempt. More embarrassing than the defense's performance against the run was the fact that Air Force completed just 6-of-10 passes, but still managed 185 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
Both teams have been terrible this season, especially on defense. However, neither team has performed well offensively, so it is unclear how this game will play out. The Rams have home field advantage and should be able to slip past UNLV for their first league win on the season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colorado State 25, UNLV 18
Saturday, October 16th, 2:00 p.m. (et)