UNLV Football Preview – Rebels vs Northwestern



UNLV Rebels vs Northwestern
UNLV Rebels running back Charles Williams (8) runs with the ball. Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports


When UNLV kicks off against Northwestern, the Rebel program will be looking to win big both on the field, over a power-five conference opponent, as well off the field in the form of $1.2 million to the program. This is a Wildcat team that is coming off of a bye week after a devastating loss at Stanford, where their starting quarterback TJ Green went down for the season and they could only score seven points. They will be starting Clemson-transfer, Hunter Johnson, who went 6-17 for 55 yards and a couple of interceptions, while also running the ball for 13 yards. UNLV should not have to worry about Johnson with the secondary that they’ll field. This should be a good game for the Rebels. Fans should expect UNLV’s first takeaway of the 2019 season.

The team that traveled to Evanston, Illinois on Thursday should already be acclimated to the climate, where they will be playing in sunny weather and 58% humidity. However, even with Johnson playing, the Wildcats should not be taken for granted. They won their last three bowl games and made it to their first-ever BIG Ten championship. Their head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, was considered for an NFL head coaching job in the past year. They have talent on the roster, with their running back Isaiah Bowser having rushed for 866 yards on 197 carries in 2018 and only 10 times for 54 yards against Stanford. UNLV is fired up after not showing up ready to play against Arkansas State, where they wound up losing by 26. 

If UNLV is able to move the ball down the field and protect quarterback Armani Rogers to the point where he can comfortably throw the football, they should get the win. However, it will be hard to do that against one of the top defensive ends in the nation, Joe Gaziano, who is second among active DE’s with 21 sacks. Plus Armani Rogers has to be on point throwing the football, as Junior Wildcat Safety JR Pace has six interceptions in his career. That was a point of emphasis this past week for Rogers, who Head Coach Tony Sanchez said was throwing balls in the dirt that guys couldn’t haul in. This will be a big point of emphasis for the game.

With the Rebels allowing six sacks last week, and zero the previous week, it should be noteworthy that the line is still figuring themselves out. This is the same line that ended last season with only 5 allowed sacks in their last four games. 

You will probably see more of a running attack this week from UNLV since the Wildcats have such a good pass rush and secondary. With Charles Williams ranking third in the nation with 311 yards on 34 attempts and four touchdowns, including a big 75-yard rush last week, this is going to be the focus for the Rebels this week. It will be a pivotal game for the Rebels knowing that they can ride the Chuck Wagon all day. If the Rebels can get the ball inside and rush to the outside as Williams did successfully against the Red Wolves, it could be an upset victory for the Rebels. They desperately need something good before heading into the bye week and then a trip to Wyoming the following week. Williams is poised for a big year, and if the Rebels are serious about winning this game, you will see a lot of the Chuckster in this game.

The keys to the Rebels vs Northwestern will be accurate passing that feeds off of the run game, as well as keeping Hunter Johnson in check while creating turnovers. If the Rebels do that then they have a chance to silence the naysayers who have them as 17.5-point underdogs entering this game.



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*Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics