MORGANTOWN -After spending seven seasons in charge of a powerhouse Montana team in the Football Championship Subdivision, Bobby Hauck moved up with the big boys in December when he was hired to change the fortunes of UNLV's downtrodden football program.
That has yet to happen, as the Rebels have stumbled to a 1-3 record with that victory coming against a New Mexico team that has not gotten to within 17 points of anyone through its first five losses.
That means nothing, of course, to West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who has tracked Hauck's progress through the years and believes that surface will be scratched sooner than later.
''They have lost three games this season to Top 25 opponents,'' Stewart noticed. ''They are a good football team and their coach is a dandy.
''I like what he is doing with this team. I look at UNLV's roster and see that Bobby hasn't wiped the slate clean. He has a lot of seniors as well as a lot of freshmen on the team. As I'm watching his program, it looks like this guy is doing it right in how he is building his program.''
Still, the Mountaineers are 27 1/2-point favorites - uh oh, remember the last time that happened? That number makes it look as if the folks in Vegas have given up on their own.
Hauck, for his part, knows this is going to be anything but easy.
''They're one of the top defenses, statistically, in the country right now,'' he said of the Mountaineers. ''They've got some really good-looking kids. Their safety, (Robert) Sands, is an impressive guy. Their linebackers really go. Their nose (tackle Chris Neild) is really good. They do some things that are problematic on defense. It's a structure different than what we've seen to date.''
That can't be a good thing for the Rebels, who rank 110th nationally in total offense at 286.4 yards per game.
What about crossing time zones - UNLV hasn't been in the east since 2004 - and the unfamiliar environment?
Well, Hauck can only close his eyes and imagine.
''Morgantown is known for being loud and their fans are passionate about the game,'' Hauck said. ''It's a college town. It's a cool place to play. I've not been there but talked to a lot of people who have worked there or been there.''
There's little doubt West Virginia has been watching the film for tendencies out of the UNLV players and there's no way they're taking a game against an unfamiliar Division I team lightly, but this game is probably more about them than the opponent.
Still smarting from a six-point road loss to LSU that bounced them from the Top-25 (they're at 26), the Mountaineers had a bye week to let that sink in.
''We need to get a game under our belts,'' Stewart said. ''We need to play.''
Against UNLV, they'll meet dual-threat quarterback Omar Clayton, who has thrown for 748 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 148 yards and a score.
''I saw No. 2 Omar Clayton take a shot and I don't know how is he walking,'' Stewart said. ''He is tough. He hung in there, and he is a leader. I really believe that when Clayton was hit that hard, and then went down to lead his team (into the end zone), that really showed their grit.''
NOTE: West Virginia announced that tickets remain for Saturday's game, along with Thursday's game against USF at Mountaineer Field. Tickets can be purchased through the Mountaineer Ticket Office online at www.WVUGAME.com or by calling 1-800-WVU GAME.