WWJD: Emergency – 2019 UNLV Football


2019 UNLV Football   2019 UNLV Football

As a reporter, I have a job to do: to report news and give analysis. I also have the right to choose how I cover a team and how I give that view from my perspective. In general, I am a positive person and tend to write that way. Some have called me a “homer” for UNLV football Head Coach Tony Sanchez because I have defended him and the direction of the program in the past, and where I feel the program is going under his leadership.

WWJD: Emergency - 2019 UNLV Football
Photo courtesy of SB Nation

After Saturday’s loss to Wyoming, I’m left speechless. This is why I am introducing “WWJD” or “What Would Joe Do“. This is an emergency.

To be clear, I still feel Tony is the right person to lead UNLV into Allegiant Stadium in 2020. However, things have to change quickly or that won’t happen.

The Rebels’ offense has not looked the same this season and you have to think the loss of offensive coordinator Barney Cotton prior to the start of the season due to the need of a heart transplant, is playing a bigger role than anyone expected. Offensive line coach Garin Justice took over for Cotton and the offense hasn’t clicked yet for UNLV.


This will be my first “WWJD“: If I were coach Sanchez, I would take over the play-calling duties going forward. Everyone knows the ultimatum from UNLV Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francios prior to the start of the season, it’s “Bowl or Bust” for Tony. So, if I am going to be coaching for my job, I’m going out with my guns blazing. This isn’t an indictment on coach Justice or the job he is doing, rather it’s Tony controlling his own destiny.

The Rebels offense has to improve in order for the program to take the next step forward. UNLV cannot be a one-dimensional team that can only run the ball or vice versa, only able to pass with no threat of a rushing attack. Tony called plays during his tenure as head coach at Bishop Gorman High School and they were extremely successful under him. They were a run-first team but had an aerial attack that was potent as well, which made them a balanced offense.

UNLV needs this balance.

This brings me to my next point. UNLV’s quarterback play has been disappointing for the most part this season. Junior quarterback Armani Rogers has been inconsistent at best so far this season. Freshman Kenyon Oblad has shown the arm talent that the coaches love but needs to continue to get more experience and show he can handle defensive pressure. The issue I see is that Rogers gives the Rebels a dual-threat dimension and improves the running game, while Oblad makes the Rebels passing attack more of a threat.

This is the toughest decision I believe coach Sanchez has to make: Who should be his starting QB going forward? 


WWJD: Emergency - 2019 UNLV Football
Photo courtesy of Seattle Times

WWJD“: I would open up the competition weekly and the cream will rise to the top. I also wouldn’t be opposed to splitting reps during games, something other schools have done with success. While I personally don’t like doing this, it may give the Rebels the best chance to win and whichever QB gets hot, you ride him the rest of that game. It would also force opponents to scheme for two types of quarterbacks.

The Rebels defense, for the most part, had been playing well until the Wyoming game and then the wheels fell off. This group has been the biggest issue under coach Sanchez during his tenure as head coach. Tim Skipper and the defensive staff have improved the group, but the lack of depth in the secondary and lack of pass rush have really hurt UNLV again this season.


I also believe at some point the players have to look at their teammates and be honest with who is doing what and who isn’t. They need to look in the mirror and be honest with themselves as well. Stop worrying about what a teammate isn’t doing or tracking their personal statistics and worry about playing winning team football. Leaders are supposed to lead during times of adversity, not just when times are going well. They hold teammates accountable for their actions, or lack-there-of, and are an extension of the coaches. They are supposed to be the standard, not the exception, and can’t feel they are above reproach.



WWJD: Emergency - 2019 UNLV Football
Photo courtesy of UNLV Free Press

WWJD“: I would make every player accountable for their attitude, effort, and performance. I know the coaches do hold the players accountable and discipline isn’t an issue. It never has been an issue under coach Sanchez. But years of losing games and adding players who point fingers at others while not looking at themselves in adverse times have taken their toll on this program. Those types of players are cancers to the program and are eroding any positive energy Sanchez and Co. have brought in with recent recruiting classes.

It’s time to have those hard conversations with those who have a false self-evaluation of themselves and where they are in NFL, CFL, and even XFL scouts’ eyes. Some would be in for a rude awakening from scouts and talent evaluators I have spoken to.


This season is not over. I believe coach Sanchez, his staff, and players can still be turned around. I believe in Tony. Call it silly, stupid, blind optimism, or whatever you want. I see things from a different view, as a former coach, player, and as a media member. I know what they’ve been up against and still fight publicly as well as privately. I’ve also seen what positive energy and support have done for programs in worse shape that have been turned around.

WWJD“: I would root my ass off for this Rebels team, from the coaches to the players, more passionately than ever the rest of the way. They want it to turn around more than the fans, alum, and administrators. They have put their blood, sweat, tears, and families on the line for UNLV. Why wait to do it? Why wait until Allegiant Stadium opens up or the football staff is let go? Why not throw that support into the program now (for those who use those excuses as reasons why they haven’t yet)?

I’m going to remain positive and honest covering them, finding the bright side of everything I can about this Rebels team, whether some like it or not. I will remain unapologetic while doing so because that’s what I do.

2019 UNLV Football   2019 UNLV Football


Joe Arrigo





2019 UNLV Football

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