Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
1. Maximize red zone chances.
One thing both teams have in common is that the Spartans and Rebels have had a hard time finding their way into the red zone this season. That could be especially good news for UNLV this week, considering that no team in the Mountain West has put its defense’s back against the wall more often to date and found relative success despite it: Opponents have had 31 chances to get points inside the 20-yard line, the most in the conference, but they’ve scored a touchdown just 16 times, a 51.6% rate that’s fourth in the conference.
The Rebels offense, by contrast, has had just 18 trips and, while they pace the Mountain West with a 94.4% conversion rate, have scored only ten touchdowns. Put simply, UNLV must find ways to finish with six points rather than three to finally get over the hump.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) October 16, 2021
2. Make stops on third downs.
UNLV has struggled mightily in this regard all year long, allowing a conference-worst 44.9% conversion rate, but there’s hope for the Rebels in that the Spartans offense slumped in those same situations over the last two weeks against San Diego State and Colorado State, converting 9-of-30 tries (30%).
Much of that has fallen on Spartans quarterback Nick Nash, who has just two first downs on ten third-down rushing attempts and is just 6-of-18 with four first downs through the air. If the Rebels front seven can keep him contained and force him to throw to move the chains, those little successes could pay off big time as the game progresses.
3. Trust the running backs to produce.
One curious note that emerged from last week’s loss to Utah State is that while Charles Williams went off, not a single carry went to any other Rebels running back. In the interest of protecting whoever ends up at quarterback this week, whether it’s Doug Brumfield or Cameron Friel or Tate Martell or Justin Rogers, Arroyo and offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas may want to reconsider that line of thinking.
Chad Magyar hasn’t received more than four carries in a game so far this season as the Chuck Wagon’s primary backup, while Jayvaun Wilson and Courtney Reese have seven carries each for the entire season, but one of those guys might have to bring a little more to the table considering the Spartans have a tough run defense that ranks 31st by Expected Points Added (EPA) and has been solid, if not spectacular, in getting into the backfield with a 18.1% stuff rate that ranks 65th.
Neither team in this game has been able to catch much of a break this season, but it also seems that they’re trending in opposite directions at this point. The Spartans couldn’t accomplish anything against the Aztecs and Rams, but the Rebels don’t possess an elite defense like those two squads. That in itself will make a substantial difference, enough so that UNLV will probably end up catching yet another close loss.
San Jose State 28, UNLV 24