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Dave Campbell / Associated Press, Published August 28 2013

Season opener between Gophers, UNLV to have familiar feel

MINNEAPOLIS – When Minnesota played at UNLV last year, the Gophers figured they had the summer weather in this series out of the way.

But when the two teams meet again tonight to open the season, it could feel a little bit like the desert. Temperatures have soared this week in the Twin Cities area, and forecasts have put the 6 p.m. kickoff right around 90 degrees.

So the Gophers will be substituting liberally to keep their guys as fresh as possible.

“If it’s 91-plus, we’ll go deep,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. “We’ll have to.”

In 2012, the 8 p.m. start in Nevada was 86 degrees.

The Rebels have seven opponents who played in 2012 bowl games on the schedule this year, including nonconference foes Minnesota, Arizona and Central Michigan. Geography alone should make the Gophers the most difficult of those for UNLV. The Rebels have lost 22 straight games on the road, since a win Oct. 24, 2009, at New Mexico.

Minnesota was a touchdown-plus favorite last year as only the third Big Ten team to visit Las Vegas, but the Rebels led in the fourth quarter and took them to three overtimes before falling 30-27.

This time, they’ve switched sites for the first season opener in TCF Bank Stadium history. Since their open-air facility opened on campus in 2009, the Gophers had started on the road each time. The Aug. 29 game date also is the earliest ever for Minnesota.

UNLV is 2-12 against current members of the Big Ten, with the only victories coming against Wisconsin in 1986 and 2003.

The pressure to win at UNLV, a program that posted only one winning record over the last 18 years and none since 2000, isn’t close to what it’s like in the Big Ten. Still, Rebels coach Bobby Hauck is clearly under scrutiny this fall, with exactly two victories in each of his first three seasons in charge of the Rebels.

After leading Montana to an 80-17 mark and three appearances in the FCS national championship game over seven years there, Hauck is 6-32 at UNLV.