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UNLV Football Game Preview: Rebels on the road against unbeaten Spartans

UNLV faces off against San Jose State, who has been one of the most surprising teams in college football this year.

Fresno State v UNLV Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

Game Information

UNLV Rebels (0-3) at San Jose State Spartans (3-0)

CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, California

Saturday, November 14, Kickoff at 7:35 PM PT

TV: Fox Sports 2, Radio: ESPN Las Vegas 1100 AM/100.9 FM

Series History: Overall, the Spartans hold a 16-7-1 series advantage over the Rebels. But, UNLV has won two of the last three meetings, including last year’s 38-35 win in Las Vegas which was the final UNLV home game at Sam Boyd Stadium

Significance of the Game

UNLV played its best game of the season last week against Fresno State, however, they stumbled down the stretch in the fourth quarter and were unable to fight for the win late. It is by far an improvement from the opening game against San Diego State and the home opener against UNR, which felt like UNLV was never really in the game, but it is still frustrating to be 0-3 to start the season and the Rebels know there is a lot of work to be done to put a complete game together and get the program going in the right direction. The Rebels do not get any favors in this week’s game, as they face the red-hot and undefeated San Jose State Spartans.

The Spartans have been led by the steady quarterback play of quarterback Nick Starkel, they are not blowing the doors off their opponents, but they have done just enough this year to start the season off 3-0. UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo is not stranger to San Jose State quarterbacks, as he was their quarterback when he was in college. Arroyo said he does not think too much of going back to his old school, as he is more focused on trying to get a win. The Rebels are hungry for a win and it will be a tough task for UNLV as San Jose State has been one of the biggest surprises of college football this year. And UNLV would love the opportunity to get its first win while handing San Jose State their first loss of the year.

Who’s In? Who’s Out?

There are not many changes or updates to the depth chart. Senior linebacker Ferrell Hester, who has missed the first three games with an apparent knee injury, could be back on the field for tomorrow’s game against the Spartans, as reported by Joe Arrigo of Franchise Sports Media. Freshman running back Dylan Downing has entered the transfer portal, he appeared in the first two games for UNLV accumulating eight yards on three rushes.

What To Watch For

UNLV has shown improvements through each of its first three games this year, but it has not been enough to get that first win of the season. Against UNR, the Rebels showed more confidence and comfortability with the offense. And against Fresno State, the defense was able to make some plays. While it has been a welcoming sign that the team is getting better each week, it has been tough not to see those improvements transition into wins. It is going to take time to make UNLV a consistently competitive program and we should not get on Arroyo for the win-loss record in his first year, but we still need to see the improvements. We need to see UNLV be in games late and fight for wins and we need to see the team continuing to improve to build momentum into the future.

Three Keys to a Rebel Victory

Stay Diverse on Offense

One thing that has stood out in recent weeks from UNLV’s offense is the run game, and I’m not talking about Charles Williams, but Max Gilliam. The senior quarterback has made plenty of great plays with his feet the past two weeks, like getting key first downs. But Gilliam stole the show on a 71-yard touchdown run last week. It’s one thing Arroyo did last year with Justin Herbert at Oregon, which was developing the quarterback run. While it has been great to see UNLV add that to it’s arsenal, Arroyo does not want all big plays to come from the quarterback run. He wants to get more people involved in the big play department. Expect to see more Charles Williams getting the ball to establish the run and create chances for him to make big plays and continue to push the ball down the field to the wide receivers.

Create Havoc Plays

What stood out the most from the Fresno State game was the defense getting pressure. Between defensive end Adam Plant and linebacker Jacoby Windmon, the Rebels were able to accumulate four sacks, it is something we haven’t seen all season and it is something the Rebels need to continue this week. Arroyo has been pleased with the improvement of defensive communication and that UNLV is creating more havoc plays and plays for loss. With a group at San Jose State that is much more experienced and in their fourth year under coach Brent Brennan, they have shown to be a disciplined group so far this year. And UNLV must work to create more pressure and possibly get some takeaways.

Play Four Quarters

UNLV’s second half last week against Fresno State began with a fumble on the opening possession of the half that led to a Bulldog touchdown. And in the fourth quarter, they were held scoreless after tying the game at 27-27 in the third quarter. As Arroyo is building the program into what he wants, he has learned various lessons along the way, and last week’s game against Fresno State was a lesson in needing to play a complete game to beat good teams. In game adjustments will be essential as UNLV goes throughout the game, especially when the opposing team takes something away from UNLV, like when the Bulldogs were able to take away the quarterback run for UNLV. Arroyo said it has been a great experience for the players to get to learn on the field in game action, but it is now time to apply what they have learned and translate it to a complete game.

Prediction

At the beginning of the year, I thought this would be a game UNLV had a great chance of winning, and while they still have a chance to upset San Jose State, I still think they are too much ahead of the Rebels and will fend off all UNLV has to offer in this game. UNLV is still young in some areas and San Jose State will expose them in those areas. While I am a predicting a Rebel loss, they will show more improvement and still have what it takes to get a win or two before the year ends. My final score prediction is San Jose State 30, UNLV 27.