Friday Night Lights: Washington St. at UNLV

Published on Sept. 13, 2012, at 11:03 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

We got off to a great start with our weekly installment of Friday Night Lights when we backed Utah St. as a home underdog in its 27-20 overtime win over Utah.

Now we go to Sin City for Week 2 as UNLV (0-2 straight up, 1-1 against the spread) is set to host Washington St. from out of the Pac-12.

As of early Thursday afternoon, most betting shops had the Cougars as 8 ½-point favorites with a total of 54 ½. Gamblers can take the Rebels on the money line for a plus-250 payout (risk $100 to win $250).

Bobby Hauck’s third season is off to a poor start. UNLV had all sorts of chances to prevail in Week 1, only to end up losing 30-27 to Minnesota in a wild, triple-overtime affair. The game was tied at 13-13 at the end of regulation, but 31 points in the extra sessions provided ‘over’ backers (52) with a miraculous victory.

Tim Cornett rushed 25 times for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but UNLV couldn’t overcome three interceptions from quarterback Nick Sherry, who did have a fourth-and-goal TD pass to force the third OT. However, he was intercepted on the Rebels’ next possession to set up the Gophers’ game-winning field goal.

Washington St. (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) got hammered by a 30-6 count at BYU in its season opener two Thursdays ago. Jeff Tuel completed 30-of-45 passes for 229 yards, but he was intercepted twice and couldn’t overcome a nonexistent ground attack that produced negative five rushing yards.

Mike Leach’s squad struggled again last week, beating Eastern Washington by a 24-20 count. Wazzu failed to cover the number as a 12 ½-point home ‘chalk.’

Eastern Washington out-gained Washington St. 469-355 in the yardage department. Tuel completed 20-of-26 throws for 171 yards and two TDs without an interception. Isiah Myers caught both scores and had six receptions for 58 yards. Marquess Wilson, an All-Pac-12 performer and All-American candidate, had four catches for 47 yards.

Wilson made an incredible TD catch late in the first half at BYU, but the play was nullified due to a holding penalty. For the season, Wilson has eight receptions for 108 yards but has yet to get into the end zone.

After the crushing loss to Minnesota, UNLV lost a 17-14 decision to Northern Arizona as a 13 ½-point home favorite. The defeat dropped Hauck’s record to an abysmal 4-23 since taking over for Mike Sanford.

The Rebels raced out to a 14-0 advantage against No. Arizona, but the game turned when the Lumberjacks got a 75-yard punt return for a TD from Austin Shanks. After pulling even at 14-14 midway through the fourth quarter, No. Arizona got the game-winning points on a 33-yard field goal from Andy Wilder with 12 seconds remaining.

UNLV got an improved effort from Sherry, who had zero turnovers and threw for 239 yards. Cornett ran for 141 yards and a TD on 25 carries. He’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry and will be the focus of UNLV’s gameplan against the Cougars.

These schools met in Pullman last year and Washington St. cruised to an easy 59-7 win as a 14-point home favorite. The 66 combined points sailed ‘over’ the 54 ½-point total. With Tuel injured, Marshall Lobbestael threw for 361 yards and five TDs. Wilson had five receptions for 102 yards and one score.

The Cougars out-gained the Rebels 612-158 in a ruthless pimpslap that should have UNLV thinking revenge Friday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Kick-off is slated for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Tuel is ‘doubtful’ with a knee injury suffered last week. Sophomore Connor Halliday will get the starting nod if Tuel can’t go. Halliday completed 5-of-11 passes for 76 yards last week, but he didn’t throw for a touchdown and was intercepted once. As a redshirt freshman in 2011, Halliday started one game and appeared in many others, throwing for 960 yards with a 9/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

–Washington St. junior safety Deone Bucannon, who had 80 tackles and three interceptions last season, is suspended for the first half.

–Although Hauck has struggled at UNLV with just four outright victories, his team has thrived for our purposes in home underdog situations, compiling a lucrative 7-2-1 spread record.

–Kentucky sophomore QB Max Smith has been one of the nation’s most improved players to date. He has connected on 65-of-89 passes (73%) for 634 yards and six TDs without an interception. Both of UK’s games have gone ‘over’ the total. The ‘Cats host Western Kentucky on Saturday as seven-point favorites with a total of 49.

–Facing a fourth surgery on his shoulder, Utah QB Jordan Wynn decided to retire and made his intentions known Monday. The Utes will move on without him and take on BYU as four-point home ‘dogs in Week 3.

–Highest total on the board in Week 3: Houston at UCLA (75).

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