Fresh off a win against defending Mountain West Conference Champion Utah State, the UNLV Rebels face the New Mexico Lobos aiming for the Rebels’ third win in a row
UNLV welcomes the Lobos to Allegiant Stadium
WEEK 5: New Mexico Lobos at UNLV Rebels
WHERE: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
WHEN: Friday, September 30, 2022 – 11:00pm EST (8:00pm PST)
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, by following this link.
RADIO: ESPN 1100AM & 100.9 FM
SERIES RECORD: This will be the 26th meeting between UNLV and Utah State. The Rebels have won 13 of the last 25 matchups. It will be Lobos’ first game in Allegiant Stadium.
GAME NOTES (PDF): New Mexico | UNLV (not available at time of writing)
ODDS: UNLV Rebels -14.5
SP+ PROJECTION: UNLV Rebels by 13.2
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: UNLV Rebels by 15.63
UNLV will host the New Mexico Lobos this Friday night, in a Mountain West Conference game that both teams will look to build upon. For the Lobos, the game will be a chance to avenge last season’s 31-17 loss in Albuquerque as they resume conference play. And as the Rebels look for their third win in a row, this contest represents an opportunity to pick up their second conference win (matching last year’s total, in only their fifth game of the season) in front of their hometown fans.
In his press conference this week, Head Coach Marcus Arroyo talked about last week’s win and all the positives a win here can bring, and the momentum that would only grow in the excitement. “Our guys are feeding off this energy right now, home and away. Our guys fed off last week’s energy at their place (at Utah State), and I think getting our fans and our students and our community and everybody involved at Allegiant (Stadium) Friday night would be such an awesome thing,” Arroyo said. Arroyo and the Rebels clearly recognize what this type of success can mean, not only for this season, but for a city that so much wants to be a “sports town”. UNLV is seeing itself in the midst of a great start to the season, one that could mean so much more into the future, for the team and Las Vegas at large.
The Rebels are 2-0 at Allegiant Stadium so far this year, having defeated Idaho State and North Texas. The team has shown poise in not only embracing the role as a favorite in these games, games they were expected to win, but also in executing on the field and securing the victory. Across all phases, UNLV has made dramatic improvement and the results are clear in this early stage of the season.
How big is the improvement? Comparing last year to this year (thus far), the Rebels have gone from 111th in scoring offense to 25th (tied with Oregon). Total offense finished 119th; UNLV is currently 51st, gaining 439.2 yards per game. Defensively, the Rebels have risen from 88th in total defense to 69th. And UNLV was ranked 107th in scoring defense last year; they are now 58th, allowing 23.00 points per game. That kind of positive change, in just one offseason, is a credit to the UNLV coaches and players that now take their talents into Allegiant Stadium to face the New Mexico Lobos. And for the Rebels to continue their winning ways, there are a few keys to win:
UNLV’s Offense vs New Mexico’s Defense
New Mexico’s defense will be the most competitive one this Rebels offense will have faced this season. The Lobos enter this contest ranked 41st in total defense, allowing 330.5 yards per game. And while that defense will be coming in on a short week, after having faced the LSU Tigers for 80 plays in Baton Rouge on Saturday night, UNLV can expect a stout effort in Allegiant Stadium this Friday.
One of the many keys to success this season for the Rebels has been their success on first down. Aidan Robbins and Doug Brumfield have become the running force behind a solid offensive line that has opened up the rushing attack, which in turn sets up their passing game. Expect the Lobos will stack the box on the first and second downs, playing close to the line of scrimmage, in order to stifle that success. And from the Rebels’ perspective, expect UNLV to utilize more short passes or even take shots downfield, similar to how this offense played against North Texas in Week 3.
Although Jeff Weimer will be out for this game, and Kyle Williams is considered day-to-day, expect UNLV to remain aggressive in its passing game. Ricky White will be looking to add to his 317 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Nick Williams and Senika McKie should also see increased time on the field if Kyle Williams is unable to go.
Maintain the Defensive Momentum
Last week against Utah State, the Rebels played an outstanding defensive game, picking up six turnovers and stopping the Aggies offense on fourth down twice. Statistically the game may not have been impressive – UNLV still gave up more than 400 yards of offense – but much of the opponent’s success was after the game was well in hand for UNLV, as the Rebels were up by two scores since early in the second quarter and did not look back.
The Rebels will likely look to improve those results this Friday, against the 130th ranked total offense. Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week Austin Ajiake will lead an aggressive front seven, one that will need to remain disciplined against New Mexico’s option-based offense. The Lobos will look to establish the run and control the pace of the game through time of possession. And if the Rebels can force New Mexico into long conversions, something they have struggled with mightily, UNLV’s chances to win will rise exponentially.
Finish the 4th Quarter
Another point Coach Arroyo made in his press conference was a need to finish in the fourth quarter, to not let their opponents back into contention, especially when the Rebels have built significant leads in the first half. Last week against Utah State, UNLV relied once again on its physical running game and featured running back Aidan Robbins to maintain their lead in the second half. Robbins scored on a five-yard run early in the third quarter and then helped pick up a crucial first down late in the fourth quarter to take more time off the clock in the midst as Utah State tried in vain to draw closer.
It’s still early in the season, but thus far we have not seen the Rebels fade late in games or give up many big plays to their opponents. On the contrary, this team is proving it can play for 60 minutes, as the Rebels have given up only fifteen points in the fourth quarter through four games.
UNLV is a significant favorite in this game, and rightfully so. UNLV is playing its best football in recent memory and from the coaches to the players, there is a measured expectation that none of the accomplishments thus far are to be taken for granted. By all indications, this Rebels team is focused and ready to match up with a determined New Mexico squad. Coach Arroyo, in his weekly press conference, added, “You’re the favorite…. When you know you’re going in and you’re expected to win, there’s a change there.” And it’s a change the Rebels community is welcoming with open arms.
Expect UNLV to be decisive on offense early, whether it be with their power running game or getting receivers in space to open up the Lobos defense and adjust quickly to emphasize what’s working early and take the lead. On defense, the Rebels will look to stop New Mexico’s option game and, on the heels of last week’s six takeaways, to be creative to force turnovers and leave the offense in good field position for much of the day.
It may be noteworthy that the home team in this series has lost the last five matchups, including UNLV’s win last year in New Mexico. Expect that trend to end and the Rebels to get the victory versus an opponent that will be unable to keep pace in Las Vegas.