SDSU (5-0, 1-0 MWC) vs UNLV (2-2, 1-0 MWC)
Saturday, October 7th 7:45 PM PST on ESPN 2
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas Valley, Nevada
The thoughts and prayers of a nation will be with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and San Diego State football teams as they take the field days after the recent tragic events that took place at a country music festival across from the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
In the wake of this tragedy that took the lives of 58 people and injured hundreds more, the teams will be relied upon to aid in the healing of a city and a nation. Sports has helped people recover from tragedy in the past, using competition to help comfort those who need to feel a sense of normalcy.
From Virginia Tech to Hurricane Katrina to 9/11, sports has played a vital role in the healing process because regardless of race, gender, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status, it brings a community together to support one team in achieving one goal. It’s a representation of everything that is great about this country: teamwork, the will to overcome adversity, and the American spirit. UNLV Coach Tony Sanchez said, “We have a job to do and a great opportunity to go out Saturday night and give some people in our community a little bit of a reprieve and a little bit of a break from it.” In remembrance of those injured and passed, both teams will be wearing scarlet ribbons with the words “Las Vegas” on their helmets.
No. 19-ranked San Diego State (5-0, 1-0 MWC) goes to UNLV (2-2, 1-0 MWC) tied for first place in the MWC standings. The Rebels would love nothing more to come away with a victory and distance themselves from the Aztecs and win one in honor of those who have suffered a mere three miles away from their campus. There will be plenty of motivation for UNLV in what is sure to be the most emotional game they will play all year. “The tragedy that happened in Las Vegas changed the feel of this game,” said SDSU head coach Rocky Long.
The Aztecs are 17-9 in the series and have won the last three vs UNLV. The last time they met, the Aztecs won at home 26-7, and defeated them 52-14 the last time they played at Sam Boyd Stadium. SDSU last played at Sam Boyd Stadium in the Las Vegas Bowl, where they defeated the University of Houston 34-10.
The Rebels are coming off the best game they played all year. A 41-13 drubbing of San Jose State. In that game, UNLV had 548 yards of total offense, 345 of which came on the ground. The Rebel rushing attack was led by junior running back Lexington Thomas (5’9″ 170 lbs), who had 146 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. The offense starts with their star freshmen quarterback Armani Rogers (6’5″ 225 lbs), who last week accounted for four of the Rebels’ scores. He threw two touchdowns while passing for 203 yards and added two more rushing for a total of 78 yards. Rogers’ favorite target was senior wide out Devonte Boyd (6’1″ 185 lbs), who reeled in five catches for 105 yards.
The Rebels have improved every week this season, primarily due to the progression of Rogers. For the season, the quarterback has 704 yards passing and four touchdowns, adding three more touchdowns on the ground rushing for 261 yards. Rogers uses his size well and won’t hesitate to pull the ball down and run someone over if his receivers are covered. Rogers has a lot to learn in regard to running this offense. His coaches will have to put him in situations that will enable him to make his reads quickly and create running lanes for him to escape. The Rebels are averaging 36.5 points per game.
Lexington Thomas is quietly having a good season (571 yards rushing, 9 TDs, 8.4 avg.) leading the Rebel rushing attack. He is averaging 142.8 yards per game and UNLV ranks sixth in the nation in rushing. It will be the third week in a row that the Aztec defense will face a good rushing team.
Devonte Boyd (365 yds, 2 TDs) will be a favorite target for Rogers, and is a deep threat that will keep the Aztec secondary busy all game. He has deceptive speed, but lacks size and strength to overpower corners off the line.
UNLV will have their hands full when the Aztecs are on offense. The Rebels’ struggles over the years has been on the defensive side of the ball, and this year has been no different. They have problems putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, ranking no. 113 out of 129 in team sacks. UNLV’s 31.5 points per game allowed ranks no. 100 in the FBS rankings. This doesn’t bode well for the Rebels and they will be pressed to win time of possession.
On paper, the Aztecs look every bit of the 10+ point favorite going into this contest. What the line doesn’t account for is motivation. The Rebels will have plenty. SDSU will need to be careful to avoid an upset. Emotions will be high and the Rebels will be the sentimental pick of everyone watching. The Aztecs will see the best UNLV has to offer. The Aztecs are aware of the importance of this game to Las Vegas and will show them the utmost respect and pay homage to those whose lives have been impacted.