Saturday evening at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Tony Sanchez and the UNLV Rebels will face a stiff test against one of the Pac-12’s top teams. The UCLA Bruins suffered a heart-wrenching overtime loss at Texas A&M last week. This weekend they’ll try again for their first win of the young season against a UNLV team that rolled over Jackson State, 63-13 in the opening week. Mountain West Connection caught up with Bruins Nation, SB Nation’s UCLA focused site, to get an idea of what to expect on Saturday.
1. Obviously Saturday's loss to a ranked Texas A&M was disappointing, particularly after a two touchdown comeback to force OT in a rowdy environment on the road. It was a game however, where the Bruins were 5 point underdogs by game time. What's your biggest takeaway from the loss to the Aggies?
AnteatersandBruins: I’ll be the eternal optimist and say it shows what we’re really capable of. However, I never want to see us put points on the board out of desperation ever again. Clearly, the team has talent and needs to decide when to use it.
Robert Bastron: My takeaway was that UCLA could be a really good team, if we can stop making mistakes and get out of our own way. I think we’ll all be curious to see what the level of focus seems to be against UNLV on Saturday.
Joe Piechowski: My preseason concerns about the UCLA offensive line was confirmed by the fact that the Bruins gave up five sacks. The O Line must get better to win the Pac-12.
2. What's the biggest change UCLA needs to make from the game against the Aggies to the game against the Rebels?
AnteatersandBruins: This week’s talent level will not be the same as last week, but I want to see us play at an even higher level. Not play down as we have in the past to unranked teams. I want to see us blitzing on defense and beef up the run game. Block for Rosen, run the routes, CATCH THE PASSES. Get all the pieces together and come out flawless.
Robert Bastron: Play mistake-free football.
Joe Piechowski: This is a potential trap game. Last week was a tough opponent. Next week, the team plays BYU and Stanford comes in after that. If UCLA looks past the Rebels, UNLV could make a game of it.
3. Besides everybody, who do UNLV fans need to be most worried about on Saturday?
AnteatersandBruins: I’d say they need to fear our run game. UNLV gave up a lot of rushing yards last year (and passing, for that matter), so they’ll need to figure out how to stop Soso Jamabo and Company.
Robert Bastron: DT Eddie Vanderdoes (he wears #47) is our best defensive lineman, maybe player. He was at least doing his part against A&M, eating up whoever was blocking him all day. He could play a large role in being able to disrupt the Rebel O.
Joe Piechowski: Fabian Moreau, Randall Goforth, Jaleel Wadood and the rest of the secondary. These guys may be the best secondary in college football. The Rebel receivers are going to be much better covered than they were last week against Jackson State.
4. Is there anybody or anything about this UNLV squad that gives you cause for concern?
AnteatersandBruins: They’re breaking in a new quarterback that put up a lot of points last week. I don’t think he should be taken lightly.
Robert Bastron: A former four-star recruit at quarterback. Dual threat quarterbacks give all defenses headaches, but for a team that has had trouble stopping the run, a big QB that can run and is hard to tackle is certainly a concern.
Joe Piechowski: I’ll pick the “anything” option. UNLV is playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time ever. They are coming into Pasadena with nothing to lose and will play with reckless abandon. It’s the biggest venue they’ll play in this year. It’s their “bowl game” even though it’s only Week 2. The Bruins cannot look past the Rebels.
5. We're grown ups, let's not be silly and talk upset. The line as of Tuesday afternoon has UNLV getting 27. What do you think?
AnteatersandBruins: Again, the new UNLV QB seems legit, but I can’t say I know enough about Jackson State and what they’re capable of. Maybe they had no pass rush. But let’s also remember that UNLV also has a new-ish coaching staff that is looking to continue improving. Who knows what they did in the offseason. Let’s give this team as much consideration as any other.
Robert Bastron: I think UCLA will be excited to be playing at home, anxious to get the bad taste of A&M out of their mouths, be focused enough to make fewer mistakes, and cover the spread.
Joe Piechowski: I think UCLA needs to go about its business and not overlook the Rebels. I think the Bruins need to make a statement after last week’s loss. I want Josh Rosen to be able to take the fourth quarter off and maybe even the third. They need to come out, punch UNLV in the mouth and keep punching until they give up, punch a little more and then get the second and third string some experience.
Don’t forget, go to Bruins Nation for all your UCLA news and analysis. UNLV and UCLA kick off from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California Saturday at 5pm PT.