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UNLV Football Game Preview: Rebels in must-win mindset against Cowboys

After two disappointing losses, UNLV is in a must win scenario if they want to salvage their season and make a bowl game.

UNLV v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Game Information

UNLV Rebels (1-2, 0-0 MWC) at Wyoming Cowboys (3-1, 0-0 MWC) at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming.

Date and Kickoff: Saturday, September 28th at 5:02 pm PT (6:02 MT)

Watch and Listen: ESPNU (TV) and ESPN Las Vegas 1100AM/100.9FM (Radio)

Series History: All-time, Wyoming leads the series 12-11. UNLV is 4-7 at Wyoming and have not won there since 2003.

Significance of the Game

This is a must win game for UNLV. If the Rebels want to make a bowl game, and if Tony Sanchez wants to keep his job, UNLV will need to come out and perform well on Saturday. UNLV’s next four games are arguably their toughest on the schedule. The Rebels face Boise State, Vanderbilt, Fresno State, and San Diego State during the month of October.

Hypothetically, at 1-3, and with the challenging schedule that is ahead of them, it would be near impossible to see a path for UNLV to get to six wins. It is hard to say, and hear, that the fourth game is a must win, but this is the spot the Rebels have put themselves in. Even if UNLV wins this game and goes to 2-2, the road to six wins is still a challenging one. For the Rebels, they can only focus on their next game and not worry about games down the road if they do not take care of the Cowboys.

Who’s In? Who’s Out?

UNLV suffered a devastating blow to their defense this week, as safety Drew Tejchman is out for the remainder of the season after a non-contact injury in practice. He has a tear in his LCL. Tejchman was fifth on the team in tackles, and he will undergo surgery next week. The Rebels will now call on Greg Francis to fill in his spot.

What to Watch for

Every UNLV fan will have their eye on who is under center for the Rebels. Armani Rogers is listed at the number one spot on the depth chart for Saturday’s game. But we will see how long Tony Sanchez leaves him out. If Rogers is under-performing and not putting UNLV in a position to win, we will see Kenyon Oblad come into the game.

Rogers has not been producing, through the passing game, at a level to make UNLV’s offense dynamic. However, he does not need to be an exceptional passer if UNLV goes run heavy. The quarterback position depends on what offense the Rebels want to run. If Tony Sanchez decides to go with a more pass heavy offense, then Oblad is the right option. In this crucial game, Sanchez might have to make a change to at least try and see which quarterback gives UNLV the best chance to win.

Three Keys to a UNLV Victory

Give Williams the Ball

Charles Williams had a great first half against Northwestern. Then, in the second half, he only got the ball four times. He must get the ball more. In their last two games, the Rebels have gone away from the run. And in both of those games, UNLV came out with a loss. The Rebels have to stay committed to the run, it is what they are good at.

Along with Williams, UNLV must find rushing plays for Armani Rogers. Rogers keeps the defense honest on the read-option. They must also find plays for backup Darren Williams, who will be giving Charles Williams much needed breathers during the game. Do not abandon the run game UNLV, it is your bread and butter, give Williams the ball and follow his lead.

Protect Armani

Or Oblad, or whoever the quarterback is. No quarterback will be successful when their offensive line gives up sacks. In the last two games, UNLV’s offensive line gave up 11 sacks. No matter who the quarterback is, UNLV’s line is not playing at an acceptable level that can help the quarterback be productive. Rogers might not be the best passer but being pressured constantly and sacked several times a game does not help him.

So much talk at the beginning of the year was how well this line would play this season. Besides manhandling FCS opponent Southern Utah, the Rebels have been outworked by the defensive lines of Arkansas State and Northwestern. Wyoming’s defense is known for stopping the run, so UNLV will have another tough challenge ahead of them. If UNLV can control the line of scrimmage, the offense could be in store for a productive outing.

Pressure the Quarterback

Even though UNLV is coming off a loss, the defense played decently against Northwestern. They only gave up 30 points, and the Rebels were in most of the game, with most of the mistakes coming from the offense. UNLV’s front seven will have a chance to make their presence known against Wyoming.

Cowboys’ quarterback Sean Chambers has a 38% completion percentage, and he was benched last week, (before being brought back in to help Wyoming score touchdowns), in their loss against Tulsa. UNLV will need a big game from Gabe McCoy, Rayshad Jackson, and Vic Viramontes to cause havoc at the line of scrimmage and apply pressure to the Wyoming line.

Prediction

These two teams always play close games, and this one is no exception. It is going to be an old-school, smash-mouth type of game with both teams running the ball. This game will be decided in the trenches, between which offensive and defensive line can win more battles. Unfortunately, I do not see the Rebels coming out on top. Wyoming has more momentum and are playing much better compared to UNLV. My prediction; Wyoming 24, UNLV 20.