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Northern Illinois Huskies vs. UNLV Rebels: A Q&A With Mountain West Connection

Nothing goes together better with a hot streak than Las Vegas, so it's the perfect place for the Northern Illinois Huskies to keep their roll of sixteen straight road victories going. The Huskies head to Sam Boyd Stadium to face the UNLV Rebels and are looking for consecutive road win number seventeen. To help us calculate the odds of a victory we chatted with Jeremy Mauss of Mountain West Connection about the Rebels and this game.

Ethan Miller

Hustle Belt: These teams haven't met since 1995. Huskies fans are probably a bit unfamiliar with the UNLV football program. Can you sum up the status of Rebels' football in recent times?


Jeremy Mauss: UNLV has not been a good football team over the past decade-plus. Their bowl appearance last year was its first since 2000, and by bad the were consistently in the bottom three of their league each and every year. This year the Rebels team look to rejoining those terrible teams as quarterback Blake Decker is not playing very well so far this year. There was some hope after last year's bowl game but all that seems to be lost, however playing so poorly to Arizona and then nearly losing to Northern Colorado likely means UNLV is back to struggling.


Hustle Belt: Blake Decker threw the ball 40 times while trailing Arizona in UNLV's opening game. The next week he threw it only 18 times versus Northern Colorado. The opponent obviously has an impact on the game plan, but are the Rebels generally a run first team, pass first team or more of a balanced offense?


Jeremy Mauss: UNLV has the best wide receiver in the league in Devante Davis but the quarterback situation with Blake Decker does not help prove that to other teams. The first two games were more about opponents as for the style of play, but UNLV wants to be a balanced team. They are still without Shaquille Murray-Lawrence who is in the coaches dog house and still trying to build his way up from whatever caused that. He was to be the teams starting running back but now the Rebels are using George Naufahu. If Decker can throw the ball better this should be a team that leans more toward the pass than the run, but his struggles are really limiting what the Rebels can do. Do not be shocked if former starting quarterback -- from last year -- Nick Sherry see's time on Saturday.


Hustle Belt: Is there one player on the UNLV offense that the Huskies' defense needs to fear?


Jeremy Mauss: That would be wide receiver Devante Davis but he needs to be thrown the ball. He will be in the NFL next year and can make defenses pay, but being a wide receiver is a two-way street with the quarterback and the Rebels don't have that. He needs to be covered well by what ever defensive back is assigned to Davis because he can make big plays, but so far this year they have been few and far between.


Hustle Belt: What is an area on the UNLV defense that the NIU offense can exploit?


Jeremy Mauss: Um... all of it? The UNLV defense is not good. It is hard to really tell if the rush or pass defense is any better since against Arizona both units were awful, but against FCS' Northern Colorado both were good. I'd lean toward the passing game because the front seven of UNLV can actually get to the quarterback and blow up plays behind the line of scrimmage with 10 tackles for loss and six sacks so far this year.


Hustle Belt: The notion of "desert heat" has some Huskies' fans concerned about a fatigue factor for their boys from the midwest. Is there any truth to this?


Jeremy Mauss: Well, it is a dry heat and that is much different then humidity and with the game kicking off at 4 p.m. local time the heat might be a factor in the first half. The high, as of now, is 97 degrees in Las Vegas and it will dip into the 70s once the sunsets. Stay hydrated and try to find some shade when on the sidelines because the heat will hit Northern Illinois pretty hard in that first half, and make sure to get in those electrolytes at the half to not have a hangover of heat. It is true, just walking around in a desert heat where one is doing minimal physical activity can wear people out.

Thanks again to Jeremy Mauss over at Mountain West Connection.