Rebels must buck history to make history against BYU

Updated: October 24, 2003, 5:18 PM ET

LAS VEGAS -- If the UNLV football team is to make history on Saturday, the Rebels will have to buck some history.

With a victory, UNLV would record its 200th football win. In 36 seasons, the Rebels are 199-196-4.

But coach John Robinson's team (4-3, 0-2 MWC) must break the school's four-game home losing streak to BYU and a recent two-game losing streak that has the squad looking for its first Mountain West Conference victory.

The Rebels have never defeated the Cougars (3-5, 2-3 MWC) in Las Vegas. UNLV defeated the Cougars, 24-3, last year in Provo for only its second win in 10 tries against BYU.

"We almost broke it two years ago," UNLV junior linebacker Adam Seward said. "That was a tough loss. I was on the field for the final play and I just remember their fans chanting, 'B-Y-U! B-Y-U!' It was tough."

A crowd of more than 30,000 is expected for Saturday afternoon's televised game at Sam Boyd Stadium with many of them expected to wear the dark blue, white and tan colors of the Cougars.

The Cougars are also struggling, having lost four of the past five games, including the last two.

"BYU is a great team to play," Seward said. They have such a lot of tradition in their program. But the main thing is we need to win this game. It's big for us. We can't fall to 0-3 in the conference by any means. And we want to put an end to that 0-4 record here."

The Rebels are going to have to get some big plays out of an inexperienced secondary for that to happen.

Starting cornerback Ruschard Dodd-Masters will sit out the first half after getting ejected during Saturday's 28-10 loss to Utah for bumping an official. He'll be replaced by freshman Ernest Gordon who has played mainly on special teams.

The Rebels and Cougars will lean on their defenses. Both teams have struggled offensively in recent weeks, especially passing the ball.

"Touchdowns aren't coming easy to either team right now," Robinson said.

The Cougars are coming off a 58-13 trouncing by Colorado State and a 13-10 defeat to Wyoming.

The heat has come down on third-year coach Gary Crowton, who succeeded the legendary LaVell Edwards. Though expectations are Crowton will be back next season, the Cougars finish with tough contests against Boise State, Notre Dame and Utah.

BYU went 12-2 in Crowton's first season, but ended with back-to-back losses. Since winning his first 12 games, his record is 8-14 and a firecrowton.com Web site has sprung up.

"Gary Crowton is suffering through the difficulties," Robinson said.

Brigham Young defensive end Brady Poppinga said the Cougars still have plenty of fight left.

"I'll tell you why (we're not done)," Poppinga said. "It's because we look at ourselves as winners and champions."

Crowton insists he pays no attention to skeptics, and hopes his players don't either.

"I just tell them to be positive," Crowton said. "BYU has been such a good program through the years and we've come through some struggles the last two years, but nothing some wins can't cure."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index