#16 Boise State Broncos (4-0, 2-0 MWC) vs UNLV Rebels (1-3, 0-1 MWC) at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Date and Kickoff: Saturday October 5th, 2019 at 7:30 pm PT.
Where to Watch and Listen: CBS Sports Network and ESPN Las Vegas 1100AM/100.9FM
Series History: All time, Boise State leads the series 7-3. The Broncos have won the last five meetings. Good news for UNLV is all three of their wins has come in Las Vegas. Bad news, the Rebels have not defeated the Broncos since 1976.
Significance of the Game
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and sitting at 1-3, Tony Sanchez is calling upon redshirt freshman Kenyon Oblad to try and provide a spark for UNLV. Sanchez announced Thursday, at the opening of the Fertitta Football Complex, that Oblad would start against Boise State over Armani Rogers. Oblad is a hometown product, from Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada. Now, the local kid will need to answer the call and provide a spark to save the season for UNLV and save his coach’s job.
Tony Sanchez’s seat is hot, liked engulfed in flames hot. He knew coming into the season that he had to win and become bowl eligible if he wanted to keep his job, and it wasn’t going to be easy to with how challenging the schedule is. Going 1-3 to start the year, with a challenging month of October head, does not help the Rebels. UNLV faces Boise State, Vanderbilt, Fresno State, and San Diego State over the next four weeks, and could be 1-7. Usually, UNLV wins a game they have no business winning, this year, they’ll probably need two wins if they want to get to a bowl game.
Who’s In? Who’s Out?
After the devastating loss of Drew Tejchman, it appeared the Rebels would have to add some more names to the injury list after a few scary incidents against Wyoming. Fortunately, for UNLV, both Armani Rogers and Charles Williams are available for the Rebels on Saturday night.
Oblad will start for UNLV, but Rogers is available if necessary. Also, Max Gilliam has been back practicing and he is available if necessary, for UNLV. The running backs are also returning to full strength. Williams is back and healthy for the game. Courtney Reese is also back after he was injured in the first game. Biaggio Ali-Walsh has also been back practicing with the team and could see some action against Boise State.
What to Watch For
UNLV’s offensive line will have a new look against the Broncos after some rearranging done by the coaches. Justice Oluwaseun moves from right tackle to left tackle, Justin Polu goes from right guard to right tackle, Julio Garcia comes off the bench to play at right guard, and Ashton Morgan moves from left tackle to the bench.
The line must play better to give UNLV its best chance to win. They need to create holes for the running backs and provide protection for Oblad. The redshirt freshman needs time and space, which will increase the probability of a completed pass. Williams is a big play back, and the more hole the line creates, the better chance he can break off a big run. In the Tony Sanchez era, the offensive line has been consistently good, this year, they have been consistently bad, and that must change this week.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
Get Oblad Confident
Compared to Rogers, Oblad is the “passer.” The Rebels will make some changes to the offense now that Oblad is the starter. What is basically going to change is the coaches will take out any read-option or zone-read. The coaches need to call plays for Oblad to get his confidence high against this very good Boise State team. While they need to get Oblad in a groove, they cannot abandon the run game.
I feel like a broken record, and many people have said the same thing, but UNLV is at its best when they run the ball. They are a running team, and even with the “passing” quarterback, the Rebels still must run the ball a near majority of the time. Even if Boise State stops them, do not completely ignore running the ball. Charles Williams is back and healthy for this game, give him the ball and let him break a big run that can shift momentum. Get the running backs involved in the pass game too. The Rebels need a solid recipe of both run and pass plays to get Oblad confident and show their running strength.
Receivers need to make big plays
There is an old saying that goes “It takes two to tango,” which is right. It can be applied to UNLV’s struggling passing game. Yes, the Rebels have had inconsistent quarterback play from Rogers, and Oblad has not shown a lot in his small sample size. But the receivers need to step up and help their quarterbacks out. I said earlier before the season that this receiver group could be a solid one, and Sanchez has even said this group is good, but they have not shown it at all.
Through four games, only one receiver (Randal Grimes), has more than 10 receptions, 14. Senior Darren Woods only has four receptions, he is just one of the receivers in the bunch that needs to step up. It appears that Oblad and Grimes, both Las Vegas products, have developed a connection, and they both must build upon that. The rest of the receivers must help Oblad. Some of it has to do with coaching and calling the right plays. But the receivers need to create separation and run themselves open to help create some plays in the pass game.
Apply Pressure and Tackle
UNLV must make freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier uncomfortable. The Broncos are 24th in total offense, and the Rebel defensive line must apply pressure to create cracks in the Boise State offensive line. Boise State usually has a solid offensive line, and it helps them be so dynamic offensively. The defense will be at a big disadvantage throughout the game, they need to throw it all at the wall against Boise State and see what sticks, UNLV must force some turnovers and sacks if they want a chance to win.
The defensive line has been a bit of a disappointment so far this season. UNLV’s nine leading tacklers are linebackers or defensive backs. Nick Dehdashtian, Kolo Uasike, and Nate Neal all need to step up and have solid performances. Vic Viramontes had a lot of hype surrounding him coming into the year, and he has not lived up to it yet, he also needs to make his presence felt against Boise State. Finally, UNLV must tackle and finish plays. They had too many missed tackles against Wyoming, and Boise State will make the Rebels pay for their missed tackles.
Thanks to the announcement of Kenyon Oblad being the starter, I had to redo this whole game preview, expect this part. I’ll keep it short, there is no way UNLV can beat Boise State straight up. They will need a lot of luck to go their way if they want to claim victory against the Broncos. It is going to be a long and rough night for Oblad. My Prediction: Boise State 43, UNLV 17.