MORGANTOWN - Playing ranked teams, or ones that have been ranked at some point during the 2010 season, as well as playing in hostile environments are nothing new for UNLV and head football coach Bobby Hauck, whose Rebels will play at West Virginia University at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"When you're trying to build things, it's difficult to play the type of schedule we've played," Hauck explained during his weekly teleconference on Tuesday. "It's physically hard on our team, that's for sure.
"Morgantown is known for being loud and their fans are passionate about the game. It's a college town. It's a cool place to play. I've not been there, but I've talked to a lot of people who have worked there or been there."
The Rebels (1-4, 1-1 MWC) are coming off of a 44-26 loss to rival Nevada last weekend in Las Vegas. Wide receiver Phillip Payne recorded eight catches for a career-high 170 yards, including a personal-best 65-yard reception while quarterback Omar Clayton moved into third place on the school's career passing list with 5,490 yards.
"Coming off a rivalry game, whether you win or lose, it's always hard to get back to work and play well," continued Hauck. "That's just typical and that's one of the pitfalls of playing a rivalry game in the middle of the year."
West Virginia (3-1, 0-0 Big East) and its head coach Bill Stewart can relate to that fact as the Mountaineers needed overtime to dispatch of instate rival Marshall by a 24-21 score in the fifth annual Friends of Coal Bowl then had to prepare to take on Maryland in the resumption of the "Border State Battle" eight days later.
"The goal for us will be to improve and play our best game back in Morgantown," said the coach. "West Virginia will be the fastest team we've seen. We'll be excited to go back there and play. It's a loud, fun place. It's a great venue."
But, when your defense is rated No. 101 in the latest NCAA rankings and it is facing an offense which comes off of its bye week averaging 378.75 yards and 25 points per game despite being limited to only 14 points in a 20-14 loss to No. 9 ranked LSU.
Of more concern to Hauck and his offensive coordinator is a Mountaineer defense which enters the game as the No. 1 unit in the Big East and ranked No. 8 nationally.
"They're one of the top defenses, statistically, in the country right now. They've got some really good-looking kids. Their safety, Sands, is an impressive guy. Their linebackers really go. Their nose is really good. They do some things that are problematic on defense. It's a structure different than what we've seen to date."
And, the Rebels haven't really been lighting up scoreboards where ever they have played.
Clayton, who has completed 55-of-104 attempts for 748 yards and five touchdowns, isn't only the team's leading passer, but his 227 yards on 46 carries makes him the Rebels' leading rusher as well.
When Clayton goes to the air his top receiver has been Payne, who enters Saturday's contest with 23 catches for 389 yards and a pair of six-pointers.
And, as if that were not enough, the team will depart for Morgantown on Thursday to allow time for the players to adjust to the different time zone.
"Certainly the travel is difficult, especially when you go west to east," said Hauck. "They're three time zones away. There are some things that play into making this a hard game. The number one thing is that they're pretty darn good, too."
Game time at Milan Puskar Stadium is slated for 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised as part of the Big East Network with John Sanders doing the play-by-play and Renee Nadeau providing the analysis.