Players celebrate after intercepting a pass. UNLV will practice in Ely through Aug. 21. (Staff photo by Lukas Eggen)

Players celebrate after intercepting a pass. UNLV will practice in Ely through Aug. 21. (Staff photo by Lukas Eggen)

By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer

For the UNLV football team, the 2013 season is a chance to break through. After a 2012 season that saw the Rebels make strides on the field, but struggled to finish games, this season provides a chance to help turn the program around.

The Rebels arrived in Ely last weekend, where they will be practicing until Aug. 21 before returning to Las Vegas. And this 11-day stretch provides players and coaches a chance to fine tune the team prior to its season opener against Minnesota.

“It gets us focused on football,” quarterback Nick Sherry said. “The weather is beautiful up here. You couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s cool in the afternoons, the sun’s out, but it’s not too hot like Vegas. It’s nice.”

Aside from cooler temperatures, UNLV’s trip to Ely means a break from the distractions of a big city and a chance for the team to focus on making this season the best one yet under the Hauck era.

“There are no distractions up here for us,” head coach Bobby Hauck said. “All we’ve got is time with each other from dawn to dusk every day. It creates a lot of team unity and we can focus solely on football. For the guys, there’s nothing to worry about except football, which is great.”

With players spending day after day together, the trip also helps the team become closer. And the difference in chemistry can be seen from the time they arrive to the time they leave.

“I’ve seen the chemistry improve over the last couple of years,” Hauck said. “What I really do see is a group that cares about each other and is working hard for each other and is united in one goal. I think being up here really kind of solidifies that.”

For the 2013 season, UNLV is picked to finish second-to-last in its division, ahead of Hawaii. But players and coaches are optimistic after a season that saw the Rebels take leads into the fourth quarter in multiple games. And with Hauck, now in his fourth season with the team, having experienced players in his system, players believe they will surprise people.

“Win games,” Sherry said. “We all want to go to a bowl game. Winning, that’s all our goals this year.”

Much of the offense’s success will rely on Sherry, who struggled at times with consistency last season. But that’s all changed, he said.

“Being smart and consistent,” Sherry said. “Last year I was all over the place and kind of up and down. This year, I’m more level, more consistent and I know what I’m doing out there.”

The Rebels return key starters including Sherry and running back Tim Cornett. And with a more experienced team, Hauck is looking to see UNLV make some big strides on the field this fall.

“I like our team,” Hauck said. “We have a lot of good things going on. I appreciate people hanging with us because we haven’t been particularly loveable over the last couple of years. We’re working hard and building this team. I think we’re going to have a highly competitive football team from a year ago when we lost numerous games when we were leading in the fourth quarter. We didn’t win enough but we were knocking on the door. I think this year it’s time to kick that door in so to speak.”

The Rebels will practice at Broadbent Park through Aug. 21. For a full schedule, please visit As UNLV makes final preparations for its 2013 campaign, this year may be one to watch for Rebel fans throughout the state and help set the program down a positive path.

“We’ve got a lot of veterans and a lot of guys who have grown up,” Sherry said. “That’s going to help us later in games, when we’ve struggled a lot. I think this is the team to turn the program around.”

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