Who has the edge? UNLV Edition
LARAMIE – People like to say that the game of football is
not played on paper.
They are right -- but it’s still fun to look.
Today, we will breakdown the offenses of the UNLV Rebels
(1-2) and Wyoming Cowboys (3-1). The two squads will meet Saturday at 6 p.m. at
War Memorial Stadium in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
So, who has the edge on offense?
Let’s break it down real quick.
Armani Rogers is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who can drop back or hit the outside with his legs. Inconsistencies have plagued the 6-foot, 5-inch, 225-pound junior throughout the first three games. In week one against Southern Utah, Rogers hit 11-of-17 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. The following contest at home against Arkansas State, Rogers imploded – to say the least. He completed just 8-of-23 passes for 43 yards. Rogers also threw his first of three interceptions on the season that night in a 43-17 blowout loss in Sin City. Rogers bounced back against Northwestern on the road, passing for 120 yards on 16-of-26 passing. Where he has been most dangerous is with his legs. In 42 rushes, Rogers has tallied 175 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That’s good enough for 4.2 yards per tote. Kenyon Oblad played in the first two games for the Rebels. His stat line goes like this: 10-of-14 for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Did any of that above sound familiar? It should. Sean Chambers has also had his fair share of inconsistent play during the first four games of his redshirt freshman season. In a 24-21 loss at Tulsa last week, Chambers had by far his best passing day of the season, completing nine passes for 193 yards and his first touchdown pass of the season. In 2019, Chambers is 27-of-71 for 438 yards and a touchdown. He also has one interception, a last-second Hail Mary attempt before the half at Texas State. Chambers has also been effective with his legs, rushing for 279 yards on 42 attempts. He has also scored four touchdowns on the ground. Chambers is the Pokes leading rusher through the first four weeks. Tyler Vander Waal was inserted into the game in Oklahoma after Wyoming’s offense punted on eight of 11 possessions. He completed just one pass on two drives before Chambers was sent back in.
If UNLV has a serious threat on offense, it comes in the form of 5-foot, 9-inch, 190-pound running back Charles Williams. This guy has been good. Really good. Williams is averaging 9.1 yards per carry through three games. The junior has carried the ball 50 times for 455 yards and six touchdowns. He has eclipsed the 140-yard mark in all three games and scored a trio of touchdowns in the opener against Southern Utah. He can also hit the home-run ball. Williams has touchdown runs of 65 and 78 yards in the Rebels past two games. Three other UNLV tailbacks – Darran Williams, Tyree Jackson and Courtney Reese – have also carried the ball this season. Each average better than 3.0 yards per carry. UNLV has 10 touchdowns on the ground already this season.
Wyoming took a big hit in this department last Saturday with the loss of Trey Smith, who is out 6-to-8 weeks with an ankle injury. Smith was the Cowboys second-leading rusher with 227 yards on 44 carries. He also had three touchdowns on the ground, including a 75-yard jaunt in a home win over Idaho. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said he expects Xazavian Valladay to be “100%” against the Rebels, after suffering an ankle injury in a road win over Texas State. Valladay did not play against Idaho and was used sparingly in the Tulsa loss. Titus Swen, the true freshman from Ft. Worth, Texas, was also hobbled in Oklahoma. He is also expected to be full-go Saturday night. With the loss of Smith, Bohl said the Pokes might dress another true freshman tailback, Alphonzo Andrews. Walk-on Brett Brenton carried the ball three times in Tulsa, too.
WIDE RECEIVERS/ TIGHT ENDS:
UNLV, like the Cowboys, have struggled in the passing game so far in 2019. Twelve different pass catchers have snagged a throw from Rebel quarterbacks through three games, with Randal Grimes leading the way with eight receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. Grimes caught three passes for 74 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown grab. Steve Jenkins has caught six passes for 93 yards, and Mekhi Stevenson has hauled in five for 53 yards and a score. The Rebels have made hay with their duo of tight ends -- Noah Bean and Giovanni Fauolo – who have combined to catch nine passes for 93 yards.
Just nine Cowboys have caught a pass so far this season. Raghib Ismail leads all pass catchers with four grabs for 84 yards. Austin Conway has caught seven passes for 77 yards, and Ayden Eberhardt has hauled in three catches for 71 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown in Tulsa. Tight end Jackson Marcotte has three grabs for 58 yards in four games. Nate Weinman has not caught a pass yet this season, and fifth-year senior, Josh Harshman only has one catch for 14 yards. The Cowboys have only eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the passing game twice this season. Last week in Oklahoma, Chambers threw for 193 yards.
The Rebels have a veteran offensive line, anchored by seniors Sid Acosta (C) and Justin Polu (RG). UNLV has a pair of sophomores at the tackle position in Ashton Morgan and Justice Oluwaseun. These big guys up front have excelled at opening holes for Rebel running backs but have allowed 11 sacks through three games. Northwestern got to Rogers for five sacks and recorded nine tackles for loss in a 30-14 win in Evansville, Ill. Arkansas State was even more successful, sacking Rogers six times and tackling Rebel backs behind the line 10 times. UNLV has rushed for 729 yards on just 123 carries as a team. However, in the passing game, Rogers and Co. have amassed just 435 yards on 45 attempts.
Wyoming just got even younger on the offensive line. Frank Crum and Patrick Arnold will take over on the left side this week, replacing Alonzo Velazquez and Logan Harris, who were both hurt during the Tulsa game. This week, the offensive line lines up like this from left to right: redshirt freshman, sophomore, sophomore, sophomore, sophomore. Despite the pounding these guys have taken through the first four weeks, they have been sturdy and reliable, allowing just three sacks. Arguably the biggest improvement this season has been tackles-for-loss allowed. Wyoming has given up just 14 on the season, including just two in the season opener against Missouri. Wyoming rushers have recorded 867 yards on the ground this season in just 172 attempts. That includes nine rushing touchdowns. It will be interesting to see if the left side can hold up against a veteran four-man front of the Rebels Saturday night. So far, they have been the offensive MVP’s.