Nevada vs. UNLV: Three Keys To A Rebels Win
The Rebels and Wolf Pack renew their football rivalry on Halloween. Here’s how UNLV can keep the cannon red.
Can the Rebels keep their rivalry prize?
WEEK 9: Nevada Wolf Pack (1-0) vs. UNLV Rebels (0-1)
WHEN: Saturday, October 31 — 7:30 PM PT/8:30 PM MT
WHERE: Allegiant Stadium; Las Vegas, Nevada
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FS1, by following this link.
You can also find the audio broadcast on TuneIn.
RADIO: The UNLV broadcast can be found in and around Las Vegas on ESPN 1100 AM and 100.9 FM. The Nevada broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Wolf Pack Radio Network, which includes flagship 94.5 FM in and around Reno.
SERIES RECORD: Nevada leads the series 26-19. In the last meeting on November 30, 2019, the Rebels defeated the Wolf Pack, 33-30, in Reno.
LAST WEEK: UNLV lost on the road against San Diego State, 34-6, while Nevada defeated Wyoming at home in overtime, 37-34.
ODDS (via Action Network and Bet MGM): Nevada -13.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Nevada by 13.0 (77% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: to be determined
Is the honeymoon over in Las Vegas already?
The UNLV Rebels faceplanted in their season-opening loss to San Diego State and, in the second full week of Mountain West football, the stakes are ever higher because the program’s ultimate prize is on the line in the latest tilt between their bitter in-state rival.
Here’s how UNLV can keep the Fremont Cannon in their possession and beat Nevada.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Feed Charles Williams early and often.
UNLV’s coaching staff (hopefully) learned a few lessons from Saturday’s defeat against San Diego State, but the most important one from here is that the Rebels aren’t likely to have much success if they aren’t putting the ball in their best player’s hands.
Granted, the offense didn’t have much success doing anything in the first half against the Aztecs, but I doubt there’s much reason to throw three straight times and punt a second time around, as UNLV did on two separate drives while falling behind 27-0. Keep in mind that Williams was one of the most effective running backs in the country on first downs in 2019, with a 6.35 yards per carry average on 117 attempts that was comparable with stars like J.K. Dobbins and Zack Moss, so if he only has five carries by halftime again, something has gone terribly wrong.
2. Get the tight ends more involved.
Another aspect that UNLV may want to crank up is how often they use play action, especially if they reorganize their attack around Williams. Rather than bothering to get the ball to their wide receivers in space, it might be worth attacking the seams with sophomore Shelton Zeon III and junior Noah Bean, who combined for just four targets against San Diego State.
Rather than going three-wide, UNLV could be better served by keeping the more physically imposing skill position athletes on the field with more 12 personnel, especially with Nevada safety Tyson Williams set to miss the first half of this game due to targeting and linebacker Lawson Hall’s status up in the air due to injury. If the Wolf Pack are missing two key pieces from the spine of their defense, it may remove the temptation to get cute and focus on finding ways to win between the numbers.
One note in this regard: Giovanni Fauolo is listed on the depth chart as the starter, but this will be the second game of a suspension that stems from his role in the post-game scuffle that followed UNLV’s win over Nevada last November.
3. Survive the Air Raid onslaught.
Nevada wasn’t shy about leaning on what was pretty obviously its strength last Saturday against Wyoming, throwing the ball 67% of the time, and though the game nearly got away from the Wolf Pack, it’d be foolish to expect them to switch up their approach against the UNLV.
If you’re looking for upside, though, the Rebels’ young defensive backfield did improve as the game progressed against San Diego State. Carson Baker began the game by completing ten of his first 15 passes, but finished just 2-of-10. Young contributors like redshirt freshman Sir Oliver Everett and true freshman Nohl Williams held their own overall, but the trio of Elijah Cooks, Romeo Doubs and Melquan Stovall is a tougher task, as well.
Containing them entirely is out of the question — Wyoming couldn’t do it, either — but UNLV needs at least a couple of the same stretches that the Cowboys were able to force in the late third quarter and early fourth to have a chance.
On paper, this looks like about as lopsided a matchup between these two bitter foes as we’ve ever seen. However, recent history suggests that one would be wise to throw out the numbers and expect a hotly contested back-and-forth game.
Don’t be fooled, though, and brace yourselves instead. The Rebels didn’t look prepared to stop the San Diego State offense last weekend and they look even less prepared to do so against an Air Raid that was far more potent against a much better unit in their opening tilt. This has the makings of a 2009/2010-era beatdown.
Nevada 45, UNLV 10