UNLV Football Preview: Rebels vs San Diego State

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Source: Mark Newman/UNLV Athletics

 

Some people will call this a must-win game for UNLV; some people will call it just another game. Any way you look at it, UNLV needs to finish at least 4-1 and move their record to 6-6 on the season to have a chance at a bowl game. As it stands right now, the Rebels sit at 2-5. UNLV starting quarterback Armani Rogers is still not feeling 100%, and backup quarterback Kenyon Oblad is starting. Oblad has thrown for an average of 300 yards per game and has racked up a total of 996 yards through three-and-a-half games. His first career victory came at Vanderbilt two weeks ago, winning 34-10, while throwing for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

The next week the Rebel offense had five turnovers, including three interceptions against Fresno State en route to a crushing defeat. This week the Rebels will face a San Diego State team that currently sits at 6-1 (3-1 in the Mountain West) on the season. The Aztecs’ only loss came against Utah State in mid-September.

This week will be a tough test for the Rebels, with several players out with injuries on the defensive side. The Rebels face a tough task again this week. The game will come down to containing Ryan Agnew and being able to stop a potent Aztec rushing attack. The Aztecs have numerous capable backs able to take the weight off of starting-running back’s Juwan Washington’s shoulders.

For a quick reference, San Diego State quarterback-Ryan Agnew has thrown for under 200 yards in four out of the Aztec’s six victories. In their only loss of the season against Utah State, he threw for 281, yet threw the ball 37 times. Containing him will be crucial since the Rebels have a lack of depth in their defensive back room. The last thing the Rebels need is big plays from Agnew.

Photo credit: NBC Sports

Last year the Rebels were able to limit the Aztecs to 24 points. UNLV limited Agnew to 187 yards with a touchdown and an interception. If the Rebels can replicate that success, then they should be able to pull out a victory. It will not only take a good showing against Agnew. It will also require stopping the run.

San Diego State has a couple of capable backs in their backfield with Chance Bell (leading rusher against Utah State) and Juwan Washington. San Diego State was initially designed to be a more pass-friendly team this year, but that has changed in two of the last three games. The team has only thrown 20 passes against San Jose State and Colorado State. Washington has been a decent back this season for the Aztecs, rushing for 343 yards on 103 total attempts. He also has a couple of touchdowns to his name. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, having 14 receptions on the season.

One big question mark for him this season and in previous years has been his durability. He has only played in five games this season. He is healthy for this game, and UNLV had better watch out. If they don’t contain him, they’ll be in for some trouble. He has rushed at least 20 times four out of his five games this season and looks to be a significant factor against UNLV, especially with quarterback Ryan Agnew playing as solid as he has been playing with only two interceptions on the season.

On the other hand, their change-of-pace back, Chance Bell has rushed 52 times for 256 yards, including a breakout game against New Mexico State with 17 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown. Bell is less of a threat out of the backfield but led the team in rushing in a loss against Utah State.

UNLV will also need to play mistake-free football, their only loss of the season was at home against Utah State. The Aggies only had three penalties and zero turnovers in a 23-17 win. Utah State also threw the ball 47 times, a season-high against San Diego State. With Kenyon Oblad providing a spark to the UNLV passing game, he will need to be ready for a large workload against the Aztecs. He is already the leader in passing yards for the Rebels on the season through three starts.

Photo Credit: MountainWestConnection

When he threw the ball over 50 times, the Rebels got annihilated on their home turf against Boise State. He has been on point passing in the other games, including throwing to his favorite target-Randal Grimes for the majority of his touchdowns this season. The Rebels are more of a ground-and-pound team, but moving away from their identity against the Aztecs is needed.

The Aztecs return starting defensive back Luq Barcoo in the secondary. He had two tackles against UNLV in 2018 but has racked up five interceptions, including nine pass deflections, so far this season. Kenyon Oblad will need to pay attention to Barcoo as the Aztecs like to disguise coverages. With Oblad being a first-year starting quarterback, it can confuse him. If Oblad takes it in stride and can read the coverages effectively, then the Rebels stand a chance. A lot will rest on Oblad’s shoulders in this game.

UNLV shuffled the offensive line, and it has provided mixed results. It has helped showcase multiple UNLV running backs in the past couple of weeks, including Charles Williams and Chad Magyar. The Aztecs carry four players with at least two sacks on their roster and eight players with at least one sack. The Aztec defensive line might be one of the deepest defensive lines the Rebels have faced all season. This game rests on the receivers and running backs to help put UNLV into manageable situations to alleviate the stress of the pass rush.

All-in-all, the Rebels need to prevent Ryan Agnew from becoming a significant factor in this game. The run game for the Aztecs needs not to be a considerable influence, and Rebel Quarterback Kenyon Oblad needs to focus and have a good game for the Rebels to have a chance. The Rebels come in as a 13-point underdog at home. The game is at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, October, 26 at 7:30 PM PST.

 

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