Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports Media



The Ground Game is the Foundation for UNLV Football in 2020


“Football is first and foremost a running game, and that will never change.” 


The famous quote from legendary Head coach Vince Lombardi still reigns true in the violent world of football. Even in the new millennium, teams that sport a dominant running attack can always find success on the gridiron. Organizations, like the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens (who led the NFL in rushing a season ago), used their rushing attack to propel both teams to the 1 and 2 seeds in the NFL playoffs last season. The 49ers, as we know, rode their potent rushing attack to the Super Bowl.

In college football, a dominant running game is even more critical for a team to have success.  For instance, all the teams that made it to the CFB playoffs since its creation in 2014 have had dominant running games and star running backs. Players like Ezekiel Elliot, Travis Etienne, Josh Jacobs, and Clyde Edwards- Helair have spearheaded rushing attacks that have led their teams to prominence in college football.



Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

UNLV‘s offense has had some woes in recent history, but one thing that the Rebels were very good at last year, and the past few years, is running the football. That began recently under coach Tony Sanchez.  Coach Sanchez‘s era saw UNLV suffer through a fair share of issues with the offense in the passing game. The Rebels passing attack under Sanchez was consistently ranked in the bottom half of the Mountain West.  

Even when UNLV had 2-time All-Mountain West Receiver Devonte Boyd in his senior season, the Rebel passing game only averaged 186.9 passing yards per game and was ranked 8th out of the 12 teams in the Mountain West. Injuries at the quarterback spot played a part, but even when the position was healthy, passing was never a strong point under Sanchez

However, when it came to moving the ball on the ground, the Rebels have earned the name ‘Runnin Rebels’ like their basketball brethren. Before coach Sanchez arrived, UNLV was ranked at the bottom of the Mountain West in rushing statistics. In 2014 under the former staff, UNLV was ranked dead last in the Mountain West in rushing. The Rebels averaged only 3.6 yards per carry and only 129.2 yards per game as a team.  Once Sanchez arrived, the program made significant improvements to the running game. They jumped from dead last to 6th in the conference in 2015. After that, UNLV never fell below 4th in the Mountain West in rushing.



Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

The Rebel offense built its strength around the running game sporting a 1,000-yard rusher every single season for five straight years. For any fan that went to watch the Rebels on Saturdays, players like Lexington Thomas and Charles Williams have dazzled crowds with their abilities. They both racked up yards to become the number 2 and number 6 ranked players respectively on UNLV’s all-time rushing leaders list. Thomas and Williams have more than 6,000 yards combined in the last five years. That’s a credit to the legacy left by coach Sanchez, who recruited both players to help uplift the offense. 

While these two running backs are outstanding at what they do for the “Runnin’ Rebels” program, all good rushing attacks can be traced back to the big boys up front. The offensive line is, without a doubt, the most important piece of an excellent ground game. 

Last year the offensive line at UNLV averaged 2.3 yards before contact per carry for the season and were ranked 21st in the nation in their run blocking.  



Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

The strength of the UNLV football program is it’s running game and the offensive line. Which is more than enough for coach Arroyo who has made it known about his love for the ‘big guys.’ Last year his Oregon Duck offense was second in the Pac-12 in rushing as a team rushing for 174.9 yards per carry, and with what many thought of as the best offensive line in all of college football.

Now coach Marcus Arroyo has another opportunity to put a fantastic rushing attack together here in Las Vegas. Charles Williams is coming back for a 5th year after a 1,257-yard season last season. He’ll run behind a young but experienced offensive line that is returning three starters. UNLV is also adding an athletic, mobile quarterback in TCU transfer Justin Rogers.  Rogers, who is the highest-rated recruit in UNLV’s 62-year history, receiving looks from LSU and Texas A&M, can open up new dimensions for the running game like Justin Herbert did for Oregon last season.


With an already loaded rushing attack in place for Arroyo, the 2020 offense for UNLV will be more than ready to move the chains.


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-Jaron Turner – Franchise Sports Media

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