Denis Poroy, Associated Press
Published Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 | 10:10 p.m.
UNLV’s lone score was a defensive touchdown and the offense never made much of a threat all night as San Diego State notched a workmanlike 26-7 victory against the Rebels.
The Aztecs (4-1, 1-0) dominated the game but didn’t pull away on the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. There was little doubt they were in control, but still the Rebels (2-4, 1-1) were a lucky play or two away from making something happen and only trailed by six at halftime.
Of course, no luck came. Instead it was just an inept offense trying and failing to move the ball, which left the UNLV defense on the field for too long until it finally crumbled. SDSU finished the game ahead 460-122 in total yardage and 22-9 in first downs.
It was just a dismal performance from UNLV’s offense. We knew this would be a step up for redshirt freshman Dalton Sneed in just his second career start, but clearly it was a step much too far as he didn’t even complete a pass until late in the third quarter.
Check lasvegassun.com later this morning for a full report on the Rebels’ defeat.
The Rebels are 1-0 in Mountain West play and this week they head to San Diego State as 14-point underdogs. Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer and reporters Case Keefer and Taylor Bern discuss their expectations for freshman quarterback Dalton Sneed's second start and how the nation's No. 9 rushing offense will do against the No. 14 rushing defense.
The Rebels are on the road this weekend to face a team coming off a loss, but San Diego State has won 11 straight in Mountain West play and the Aztecs are big favorites to get to 12.
UNLV (2-3, 1-0) and San Diego State (3-1, 0-0) will kick off at 7:32 p.m. with the game airing on ESPNU. The Rebels, who are 16-point underdogs as of Friday evening, are trying to win at Qualcomm Stadium for the first time since 2000, a factoid that elicited a slight chuckle from second-year coach Tony Sanchez.
“We play a lot of teams where we have stats like that,” Sanchez aptly quipped. “… There’s a ton of trends to start breaking around here.”
This is the most I’ve looked forward to a battle in the trenches all season.
On one side you have UNLV’s offensive line, the Orcas, who have steamrolled their way to 273 rushing yards per game this season, the ninth best mark in the nation. On the other side is San Diego State’s defensive line, animal-based nickname unknown, which leads a unit that gives up only 99.3 yards per game.
If UNLV can’t run the ball they can’t win or probably even stay close. It’s imperative that the running backs and quarterback Dalton Sneed be able to get first downs on the ground, and doing so requires the Orcas winning many battles up front.
As they always do, turnovers could make or break the game, but aside from that UNLV’s ability to run the football is the single-most important factor.
In three games against UNLV, San Diego State senior running back Donnel Pumphrey has averaged more than eight yards per carry (49 for 393 yards) and scored seven touchdowns. The good news is he does stuff like that to everybody as the Canyon Springs High grad is currently leading the country in rushing, so the Rebels shouldn’t beat themselves up.
One thing UNLV has done well against the diminutive back is limit him in the passing game, and SDSU once again doesn’t have much of a passing attack overall. In fact, the teams are very similar on both sides of the ball through the air, which means we’ll see a good number of deep balls chucked up in hopes of making something happen.
Both sides give up those kinds of big plays through the air, so a couple of long completions or a few pass interference calls could do a lot to shift field position.
Not only does the season-ending injury to freshman receiver Darren Woods Jr. hurt UNLV’s offense, but it also leaves the Rebels without the best kick returner.
Woods averaged 27.2 yards over six returns while the Rebels’ other regular returners Torry McTyer and Charles Williams have averaged 23.3 and 18.6 per return, respectively. We may see up close how impactful a good returner can be in this game because the Aztecs have two of them in Rashaad Penny (39.5 yards per return) and Juwan Washington (31 yards per return).
You know about Pumphrey, but there are also six other former Las Vegas high school players on SDSU’s roster. That includes senior linebacker Randy Ricks (Legacy High), senior defensive lineman Sam Tai (Liberty High), junior linebacker Tyler Morris (Foothill High), sophomore defensive lineman Noble Hall (Valley High) and a pair of freshmen from Green Valley High, receiver Isiah Macklin and kicker Conor Perkins, who originally committed to UNLV in 2013 before serving a two-year Mormon mission.
And of course the Aztecs’ coaching staff has two former UNLV head coaches — associate head coach/offensive coordinator/running backs coach Jeff Horton and special teams coordinator Bobby Hauck — plus former Canyon Springs High coach Hunkie Cooper, once a Rebel under Horton, is in his second year as SDSU’s receivers coach.
“I feel like a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition.”
— Sanchez on losing a third receiver to a long-term injury
They’ve only had seven attempts, but the Rebels are one of the worst punt return teams in the country. They rank last in the Mountain West and 125th nationally with an average of -0.1 yards per return.
San Diego State 31, UNLV 16
(2-3 ATS, 3-2 SU, 2-3 O/U)
San Diego State 31, UNLV 28
(4-1 ATS, 4-1 SU, 1-4 O/U)
San Diego State 28, UNLV 17
(1-4 ATS, 4-1 SU, 2-3 O/U)
San Diego State 39, UNLV 19
(1-4 ATS, 4-1 SU, 1-4 O/U)