PROVO — BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has had his hands full with scheduling as a football independent. Instead of scheduling four non-conference games a year, he's trying to schedule at least 12.

"It's been a challenge, but it's been good," Holmoe said.

BYU's partner in going independent, ESPN, is playing a significant role in helping the Cougars schedule high-profile future games with opponents like Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. In August, BYU signed an eight-year television contract with the broadcast entity that Holmoe refers to as "the top matchmaker in college sports" — ESPN.

"ESPN's helpful because they have so many relationships with so many schools," Holmoe said. "We're not the only one that works with ESPN. We're the only one with a single contract. Conferences that have contracts with ESPN work with (ESPN vice president of programming and acquisition) Dave Brown and his crew all of the time. So to have a relationship with ESPN means you're in the conversation with a number of schools."

THE RUN GAME: In wins over San Diego State and Wyoming, BYU rushed for 271 yards and 217 yards, respectively.

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck has noticed.

"They've really committed to running the ball and have done a really good job of it," Hauck said. "We're going to have to stop the run if we're going to have a chance this weekend."

THIRD WIN?: BYU quarterback Jake Heaps is looking for his third victory as a starter in his sixth start. If that happens, it would mark the most victories by any freshman QB in BYU history.

THE SERIES: BYU leads the all-time series with UNLV, 14-3. The Cougars have won five straight games over the Rebels, including a 59-21 decision in Las Vegas last season. BYU has won those five games by an average margin of 30.2 points.

UNLV's last victory in Provo was a 24-20 triumph in 2004.

20 comments on this story

ALL-ACADEMIC TEAM: Senior placekicker Mitch Payne and junior running back Bryan Kariya were named to the ESPN Academic All-District VIII team this week. Payne is a Business Management major working on his Master's of Public Administration. Kariya is a Chinese major with a 3.87 GPA. As first-time honorees, both players will be eligible to be named Academic All-American when the team is announced on Nov. 23.

INJURY UPDATE: Sophomore offensive lineman Walter Kahaialii underwent a knee scope procedure during the bye week. Kahaialii, who backs up left tackle Matt Reynolds and right tackle Braden Brown, is expected to miss 2-4 weeks.