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UNLV Football Game Preview: Rebels looking for revenge against Arkansas State

A new week means a new opponent for the Rebels. UNLV will host the Red Wolves, trying to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Southern Utah at UNLV Photo by: Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Game Information

UNLV Rebels (1-0, 0-0 MW) vs Arkansas State Red Wolves (0-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) at Sam Boyd Stadium

Date and Kickoff: Saturday, September 7 at 7:06 PM PST

Where To Watch and Listen: Facebook/STADIUM (Stream), ESPN 1100AM/100.9FM (Radio)

Series History: These two programs have faced off twice previously. Arkansas State won the most recent matchup in 2018, 27-20. UNLV hosted the first meeting between the two schools in 1995 and won 28-23.

Significance of the Game

Last year, UNLV went to Arkansas State and lost. It proved to be a critical turning point in UNLV’s season. Following the defeat, UNLV would lose six of its next seven games. A large factor to that line of losing was Armani Rogers going down and not playing in the next six games. This will be an opportunity to see how good this Rebel team is. We will learn a lot from this game, like how improved the defense is, and how productive the Rebel passing game is.

If UNLV wants to make a bowl game, they have to win a few of these “coin-flip” games. The Rebels are at home and must use their home field to their advantage. After this game, UNLV faces a daunting six-game stretch that sees them facing Boise State, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and many other contenders in the Mountain West. The result of Saturday’s game could be a sign of how the rest of the season plays out.

Who’s In? Who’s Out?

Senior linebacker Gabe McCoy is back for the Rebels. He was suspended one game by the NCAA because he played in a game during the season he was redshirting. He is back healthy and ready to play for UNLV on Saturday, he is listed on the depth chart at the number one BUCK linebacker position.

Freshman running back Courtney Reese is out for Saturday Night’s game due to an ankle sprain. Late in UNLV’s win against Southern Utah, Reese went down after being tackled, which resulted in a fumble. His knee was bent back and Reese walked off the field under his own power, and after the game was on crutches.

Max Gilliam (foot), Alex Perry (shoulder), and Biaggio Ali-Walsh (back), will also be unavailable for the Rebels. Chad Magyar, who had an impressive spring, did not play last week due to “a personal reason,” and he is not listed on the depth chart this week.

What To Watch For

Against Southern Utah, we saw some glimpses of the Rebel passing attack. In total, UNLV accumulated 203 passing yards, which is not bad (for UNLV standards), but the Rebels will likely need more if they hope to defeat Arkansas State. UNLV needs to find some success in the passing game, and find a passing attack that boosts Rogers’ confidence. UNLV will need big plays from the athletic Randal Grimes, and speedsters Tyleek Collins and Mekhi Stevenson.

What UNLV cannot do is completely abandon the run game, it’s their identity and they must run for a fair amount of plays. Arkansas State will likely put a focus on trying to limit UNLV’s running game, so the Rebels might have to win the game through the air. Rogers will need to find any weakness in Arkansas State’s defense and must try to exploit that with his arm He’ll need to find a rhythm and connection with receivers early and often. We will see how Rogers and the receivers play on Saturday, along with how UNLV will go about trying to move the ball through the air.

Three Keys To A UNLV Victory

1. Secondary Needs To Improve

Arkansas State is a passing team, and last week against SMU, the Red Wolves threw the ball 50 times for 324 yards. Quarterback Logan Bonner threw four touchdown passes, all of them to Omar Bayless, who had 132 receiving yards. There is no way UNLV can entirely shut down the Red Wolves passing attack, so the UNLV defense needs to limit it as much as possible.

Evan Austrie and Bryce Jackson both had solid performances against Southern Utah, and it will be important for them to carry that momentum into this game. Drew Tejchman and Jericho Flowers need to step up and make their presence felt on the field Saturday night. UNLV will also need help from the front seven to put pressure on Bonner which can help the secondary. If UNLV can get some production from the secondary, it can go a long way towards a potential UNLV victory.

2. Cut Down The Turnovers

Turnovers were the deciding factor when the Rebels lost in Arkansas last season. A crucial turnover was a muffed punt inside the five yard line that lead to an Arkansas State touchdown. There was another instance earlier in the game where Rogers thrown an interception, one of three, in the red zone that also lead to a Red Wolves touchdown.

Rogers must play smart when he is put in a passing situation. With this game likely to be a close one, UNLV cannot afford to give the Red Wolves extra possessions or short fields that can lead to scores. UNLV played smart and disciplined football last week, and will need to carry that into this week. A loss in the turnover battle could result in a loss for UNLV on Saturday.

3. Armani Must Answer The Call

More than the Southern Utah game, we will find out how good this UNLV team is Saturday night. Given last year’s result, it is likely to be another close game. In those close games, big players will need to make big plays. So, when the Red Wolves come into Las Vegas, Armani Rogers will have to play to his full potential to lead the Rebels to victory. He must make big plays with both his legs and his arm to help carry the Rebel offense to the win.

As mentioned previously, Rogers needs to make smart decisions to keep UNLV in the game. He must make the right reads when passing, and stay safe when he tucks it and runs. Rogers cannot be the reason UNLV loses this game, (i.e. throwing interceptions, being careless when running). UNLV’s success this season will be impacted on how well Armani Rogers plays. If he can will the Rebels to a win, it could result in much more success for UNLV this season.

Prediction

A win for UNLV will be a much needed confidence boost before they begin a difficult six game stretch following Saturday. A loss, on the other hand, could set up a stretch that sees the Rebels losing four, five, or maybe six games in a row. I think UNLV will build upon their win against Southern Utah. The Rebels will have McCoy back, which will help the defense out as a whole. The Rebel defense will make just enough plays to limit Arkansas State’s offense. UNLV will continue to run the ball well, and Rogers will have a solid performance through the air. UNLV will get a big win and move to 2-0 for the first time since 1999, UNLV 37, Arkansas State 33.