New Mexico vs. UNLV: Three Keys to a Rebels Win
UNLV will host the New Mexico Lobos in a key Mountain West football matchup. Here’s our preview of how the Rebels can defeat UNM.
Can UNLV survive without its star quarterback?
WEEK 6: New Mexico Lobos (2-2) vs. UNLV Rebels (2-2)
WHEN: Saturday, October 6 — 2:00 PM MT/1:00 PM PT
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium; Las Vegas, Nevada (40,000)
TV: AT&T SportsNet. Check here for availability in your area.
STREAM: The game will be available on the Mountain West Network outside of the AT&T SportsNet footprint.
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on the local ESPN affiliate, 1100 AM and 100.9 FM.
SERIES RECORD: UNLV leads the series 12-11. In the last meeting on November 17, 2017, the Rebels defeated New Mexico 38-35 in Albuquerque.
UNLV’s road to bowl eligibility took an unexpected turn this week with the news that Armani Rogers will be out for a significant chunk of time with injury, which makes this Saturday’s tilt with New Mexico newly intriguing: Both teams will feature their backup quarterbacks under center as they look to open Mountain West play with a victory.
Despite this, the Rebels remain a solid favorite to defend their home turf against the Lobos, who couldn’t complete a second-half comeback against Liberty last weekend. Will they have the weapons to outlast UNM once again?
Here’s what UNLV can do to beat New Mexico.
Three Keys to a UNLV Win
Make sure the running game stays strong.
There’s little doubt that injured quarterback Armani Rogers is a dynamic runner, but it is telling that the deep and dangerous UNLV running struggled without him in 2017. In a three-game stretch last fall against Fresno State, Hawaii and BYU, during which Rogers missed two games and attempted only five passes, the Rebels averaged just 3.55 yards per carry.
Considering that UNLV averaged 5.48 YPC throughout all of 2017, and have improved to 6.35 YPC so far this fall, this is a trend that bears watching.
Force Sheriron Jones into mistakes.
The Lobos’ passing attack has improved in 2018 — the team’s overall passing rating, 151.87, would be the best in at least a decade if the season ended last week — but Jones and Tevaka Tuioti have combined to throw eight interceptions. Jones by himself accounts for six of those picks, but creating those opportunities might be a challenge.
UNLV’s defensive backs currently rank 111th in Havoc Rate (percentage of plays with a TFL, pass defended, or forced fumble), and they have zero interceptions among them. The upside is that they played well against shaky offenses in non-conference play, shutting down both UTEP and Prairie View A&M, and UNM probably isn’t the same caliber of offense as USC or Arkansas State.
It probably isn’t a surprise that, for as efficient and explosive as UNLV’s ground game has been, the offense has been more or less helpless in more obvious passing situations. Nearly two-thirds of UNLV’s third downs (66.1%) have been classified as third-and-long, seven yards or more, and that ranks 127th among FBS teams. They’ve converted in that situation just 20% of the time, which ranks 101st.
It’s a mystery as to how Max Gilliam will respond if he’s backed into the situation, but the expectation should be that he can be better Rogers: The sophomore had completed only 5-of-22 passes with four first downs. He’d also owned a 14.3% sack rate on passing downs (2nd-and-8 or more, 3rd-and-5 or more, 4th-and-5 or more).