UNR Wolf Pack (1-0) vs UNLV Rebels (0-1)
Saturday, October 31, 2020, Kickoff at 7:40 PM PT
Site: Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Fox Sports 1, Radio: ESPN Las Vegas 1100 AM/100.9FM
Series History: The Wolf Pack hold a 26-19 advantage in the series against the Rebels. UNLV has won the last two games, in 2018, where the Rebels trailed 23-0 in the first half, and in overtime in 2019. The game last year was the first time the two teams have gone to overtime against one another. Both teams have played each other for 31 straight years and this year’s edition will be the first one on Nevada Day.
Significance of the Game
Not only is this a rivalry game between the two Nevada universities on Nevada Day, not only is it Marcus Arroyo’s first home game at UNLV, but this is also the opening of Allegiant Stadium with fans, so this is a big event. The Rebels are coming off the first live event under Arroyo, and UNLV has a lot of film to look at after their 34-6 loss against San Diego State and they are facing a hot UNR team that come off an overtime win against Wyoming. Arroyo said that this game is important, mainly because it’s their next game.
While he understands the important of a rivalry game, he does not want to make too much of one game. He does not want to make one game define their season, it is a long way to go through the rest of the 2020 season and a lot still to play for. However, there is still a lot of pride at stake between both teams. There is always a lot at stake when those two play and we will see that intensity on the field. Currently, UNLV has the Fremont Cannon in Rebel Red sitting in the middle of the weight room and Arroyo wants to keep it that way.
Who’s In? Who’s Out
There are still multiple players who were expected to be a crucial part of this UNLV team that are not listed on the depth chart. There is still no Randall Grimes, Mekhi Stevenson, Brandon Pressley, Brennon Scott, LeShaun Bell, Ferrell Hester, Drew Tejchman, and Greg Francis. The school has not announced if any of these absences are due to COVID.
A few players are back on the depth chart after not being on there last week. Senior offensive lineman Matt Brayton is back and could play. The Rebels get some depth back at tight end with Giovanni Fauolo returning (he will have to sit the first half due to his involvement in the fight against UNR at the end of last season), and freshman Alex Lines returns.
What To Watch For
Max Gilliam is listed at the number one quarterback position, so expect him to start the game again for the Rebels. But also expect both Kenyon Oblad and Justin Rogers to see some action Saturday night too. Arroyo said that for now he will continue to utilize the rotation for the position during the early part of the game.
“I think there’s glimpses from all three of them,” Arroyo said at his weekly press conference. “Unfortunately, none of them really went out there and took the job and that’s what we are trying to get these guys to understand. I want them to go out there and compete and show that they are willing to do everything they can to take it. I don’t think it’s a lack of effort, I think it’s more time together, I think its experience, I think that it’s adding to layers of learning that we need to make sure to grow.”
He will likely continue with the guy with the hot hand for the second half and remainder of the game, like he did against San Diego State. He said that he will continue to evaluate the position and push the quarterbacks until someone takes the job. It will be interesting to see who will step up against the Wolf Pack and which quarterback could earn the job as the season goes on.
Three Keys to a UNLV Victory
Control Time of Possession
We saw against Wyoming how explosive UNR’s offense can be. Carson Strong might possibly be one of, if not, the best quarterbacks in the conference. Strong was named the conference’s player of the week after his 420 yard and four touchdown performance against the Cowboys. So, what will UNLV have to do to make sure Strong does not torch them? Well, just make sure he and the rest of the UNR offense does not see the field. How is UNLV going to do that? Ride the “Chuck Wagon.” With more help coming back on the offensive line and depth at the tight end position, it should help the Rebel rushing attack out tremendously. Charles Williams needs to be utilized in the offense and Arroyo needs to give him 25 carries at a minimum. If Williams gets going, the Rebel offense can get going and control the time of possession and tempo of the game.
Contain Wolf Pack Receivers
It is known that Strong is a talent in this league, and his talented receivers certainly help is cause. Last week, two Wolf Pack receivers had over 100 reception yards, Cole Turner (119 yards with two touchdowns) and Romeo Dubbs (117 yards and a touchdown). And let’s not forget about Elijah Cooks who has given the Rebels problems in the past. All this talent at the position can give the Rebel secondary plenty of issues. UNLV’s defensive backs have been the achilles heel of the defense in the past and has had issues with depth. Right now, UNLV is very young in the secondary, and it has not helped that Francis and Tejchman are not out there. So, for the time being, they need to rely on freshman like Nohl Williams and Sir Oliver Everett to contain UNR’s receivers. There is a nice mix of some veterans back there like Aaron Lewis and Bryce Jackson. UNLV needs to be physical at the line of scrimmage and rely on the front six to get pressure on strong to help them out.
Control Line of Scrimmage
UNLV gave up five sacks against San Diego State, even though four of the starters had been in the program for a while, it was their first game in the new system. It also did not help them that they had to play one of the best defenses in the conference. But with a game under their belt, expect this veteran group to improve for their second game of the season. The Rebels are fortunate they do not have to face another defense like the one San Diego State had for a second week in a row. The line of scrimmage is an area that UNLV can make its presences felt and they need to set the tone by being physical up front. UNLV’s offensive line needs to be improved to help the success of the offense. They need to create running lanes for Williams and protect Gilliam and the rest of the quarterbacks.
The past few games between these teams have been close and I expect this one to be close throughout. I am pretty sure this is the exact same statement I made about UNLV’s game against San Diego State, but I truly believe this one will be close. When the rivalry is as intense as this one between these two teams, everyone will bring their “A” game and this one will be close late. However, I think UNR is the better team and they should be able to pull it out late. My prediction is UNR 34, UNLV 27.