Game of the week! Maybe not. Here are the four keys to a UNLV win over Fresno State on Friday.
1. Avoid a Palanwreck
There have been growing pains for quarterback Kurt Palandech, starting for the injured Blake Decker. Last week against San Jose State, Palandech threw a pair of first half interceptions that dug the Rebels into a hole that ended up being just a little too deep. UNLV lost to the Spartans, 33-27 in overtime, but Palandech's second half performance was considerably better. The Rebels needn't rely on the sophomore's arm, Fresno State yields yards and points to anyone interested. Keep it on the ground with Keith Whitely, Xzaviar Campbell, Lexington Thomas, George Naufahu, and Palandech himself, and resistance is unlikely.
2. Rattle the Rook
Fresno State freshman quarterback Kilton Anderson started his first game as a Bulldog last week, and it was an ugly affair. In a 56-14 thrashing at the hands of Utah State, Anderson completed 10 of 20 passes for 112 yards, a touchdown and three picks. Anderson is an impressive talent, and is going to figure things out sooner rather than later, so it's advantageous for the Rebels to face him early. UNLV's 10 interceptions this season is 3 more than 2014's total and tied for fifth in the nation.
3. Stop Marteze Waller
Too easy, to identify stopping one player as a key to the game. With all due respect to the Fresno State faithful, this guy is it. Marteze Waller is the Fresno State offense. His 469 rushing yards this season accounts for better than 67% of the Bulldog ground game. He's got half of the Fresno State rushing touchdowns this year, with one. Anderson isn't going to beat you with his arm. Lack focus, and this guy will beat UNLV with his legs. Lock up Waller, and UNLV suffocates most of the Bulldog offense.
4. Avoid the letdown
Score points, defend the run, defend the pass, they seem too simple don't they? That's because Fresno State is a bad team. A very, very bad team. A loss on Friday would be nothing short of a disaster for the Rebels. UNLV entered last Saturday's game against SJSU with a ton a momentum. High off beating Nevada and returning the Fremont Cannon to Las Vegas a week before, the Rebels came crashing down on four straight runs from Tyler Ervin in overtime. This is the perfect game to get back on track. A win on Friday and UNLV will have already exceeded expectations for this season, at least as far as Vegas bookmakers are concerned. A loss and the Rebels will find themselves in a familiar position, struggling to stay out of the basement in the West.
The UNLV Rebels and Fresno State Bulldogs kickoff Friday night from Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California at 7:30 PM PT.