Minnesota Football: Rival Blogger Q & A with Mountain West Connection's Jeremy Mauss

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

We get some insight into the match-ups between the Gophers & UNLV from fellow SBNation'er Jeremy Mauss.

Oh football. As you are running so very quickly toward us, and we run so quickly toward you, we are so very, very excited for the violent crash that we are about to embark upon with you.

Hey, it's back. The Rival Blogger Q&A. This week I sent some questions over to Jeremy Mauss from Mountain West Connection, and he was nice enough to respond with answers. Our exchange is below.

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After beating UNLV in triple OT in the dessert opening week last year, Gopher fans didn't have a hot clue what we really had with this team. How were UNLV fans feeling after that first game?

They were feeling confident because normally when UNLV loses they were just blown out on the field. They would lose by 30, 40 or even 50 points in some extreme cases. So by playing a Big Ten team down to the wire showed that UNLV was getting better. That theme carried on for the season, they were competitive in many more games.

Overall UNLV went 2-11 last season (13 games?), starting out the season with the aforementioned loss to our Gophers in triple OT. Despite starting the season 1-3, the Rebels played some tight games, but then it appears that the wheels kind of fell off. What happened last year?

Their schedule improved greatly after the first four games and had to play five straight bowl teams, and of that bunch four won nine games or more. Just the shear increase in competition played the biggest role in the downward spiral of the season, and the one game that was against a team that won less than nine games was to rival Nevada. Also, freshman quarterback Nick Sherry got banged up against Boise State and he was never the same after that.

Nick Sherry looks like he can be a dangerous threat at QB for the Rebels. The steam going into last season's game was that UNLV would be run-heavy, but for the season the offense was pretty balanced and Sherry put up over 2,500 yards passing. What do you expect out of Sherry this year, and particularly, in this opening game?

Sherry should be much improved over last year since he will be healthy, plus the offensive line returns three starters which will help keep him upright. For the first time in a while UNLV has a good amount of weapons on offense with NFL prospect Tim Cornnett and wide receiver Devante Davis. The offense will be balanced with a solid running game able to keep defenses honest. As for this first game expect to see a lot of the running game to start out and then try to get a defense to be sucked in and then see the passing game go.

UNLV hasn't completed a season above the .500 mark in a baker's dozen of years, and Bobby Hauck has managed to win just 2 games in each of his first 3 seasons at the helm for the Rebels. What's the outlook this season? Can Bobby Hauck save his job?

He is definitely on the hot seat and while 2012 saw just a pair of wins the team was very competitive, well at least compared to what they have done in the past. This year there needs to be the tangible results on the field and the schedule plays out nice with some of the tougher teams coming to Las Vegas. Hauck needs to get to at least four wins to feel safe about his job.

We talked about Tim Cornett last year and he was the leading rusher in the Rebels offense in 2012, but he shared carries with Bradley Randle. It also appears that UNLV has a pretty youthful offensive line heading into 2012. What does the run game look like with Cornett leading the way behind a young group of linemen heading into week 1?

Well, the offensive line returns four who have at least 10 career starts, so there is some experience there and that should not be an issue. Even with sharing time with Radley, Cornett was one of the best backs in the MWC. Cornett could be in contention for about 1,500 yards, if not more.

Bobby Hauck has hired his younger brother, and NFL veteran, Tim to head up the defense for UNLV this season. The Rebels are a team that gave up 32.6 points/game last season and gave up 30 points or more in 9 of their 13 games, so it's no understatement that the defense needed some help. What are you hearing about the defense now that Tim Hauck is in town?

It can't really get any worse than last year, well that is the theory. The younger Hauck will bring experience from his NFL playing days, plus he coached in the NFL so he knows his stuff. The defense has done fairly well against the offense in fall camp, so there is hope.

Minnesota is expected to be a team that will be heavy on the run. Utilizing the Maryland-I (which we are not now affectionately calling the Golden-I) the Gophers are expected to try to overwhelm defensive fronts in an effort to control the clock, or as we call it in B1G country, the way the game was meant to be played. How will the UNLV defense handle this kind of attack?

The rush defense was just awful as UNLV was 108th in the nation and gave up just over 200 yards per game. Look for them to have their linebackers creep up on the line to help in the run defense. UNLV doesn't really have the size on the defensive line so they will struggle some on getting a good push back, however they counter with some decent athletes. That speed could help stop the run if Minnesota goes off tackle and to the outside. Look for Minnesota to get their yards.

From a defensive perspective, the Gophers finished in the top half of the B1G in 2012 in terms of pass defense. While we lost two great cornerbacks to graduation, we're confident in a raw, but potentially deep, secondary heading into 2013. Pass defense should be a strength of this Gophers team, so with that in mind, how do you expect the Rebels to attack the Gophers Thursday night?

UNLV should start off with a hefty dose of Tim Cornett running the ball, but last year at times they would go away and just throw the ball. UNLV will run a balanced attack but they would be smart to run with Cornett and suck in the secondary and then get the passing game going.

Prediction time, Jeremy. Who wins on Thursday night, what is the score going to be, and how does UNLV look in the process?

Until UNLV proved me otherwise I am not going to pick them to win. They have been awful on the road the past few years. The game will be close and I see Tim Cornett having a big game on the ground but not enough to push UNLV over the top. UNLV will look better than last year, but I still see them making some mistakes.

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