Gary Kazanjian / AP
Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Coming off an ugly 26-7 road loss, the Rebels are heading to Hawaii (3-3, 2-0), where UNLV hasn't won since 2000. Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer and reporters Case Keefer and Taylor Bern discuss the Rebels' likelihood of winning their remaining toss-up games like this one.
Former UNLV starting quarterback Kurt Palandech made his season debut in garbage time of Saturday’s 26-7 loss at San Diego State, and coach Tony Sanchez said Palandech would play a more prominent role this weekend at Hawaii.
Making just his second career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Dalton Sneed didn’t complete a pass until the third quarter against the Aztecs and finished the game 2-of-12 for nine yards with an interception plus 56 rushing yards. UNLV’s offensive line struggled more than it has all season, Sanchez said, so the mistakes weren’t all on Sneed, but it’s obvious that the Rebels need more from that position and they’re hoping two is better than one.
“He’s still a freshman, he’s still figuring this thing out,” Sanchez said. “They did a lot of high pressure-type stuff to really get him to overthink a bit this last week. So I think knowing that he’ll be able to come out … hopefully it takes a little off his plate and settles him in.”
UNLV (2-4, 1-1) is an eight-point underdog at Hawaii (3-3, 2-0), which currently leads the Mountain West’s West Division despite getting picked last in the preseason. The game kicks off at 9:07 p.m. Las Vegas time and KVVU-Fox 5 will carry the Hawaii telecast locally.
Sanchez said Tuesday that the coaching staff was figuring out exactly how the split would work but that Palandech would likely come in for UNLV’s third offensive series or its first series in the second quarter. Palandech, who has had to overcome shoulder and biceps injuries, was expected to share duties in a similar fashion two weeks ago against Fresno State, but Sneed and the offense were doing so well that it didn’t make sense to disrupt them.
That scenario played out in the opposite way at San Diego State, with Sanchez citing UNLV’s 19 first-half offensive plays as not enough time for Sneed to get into a rhythm. The Rebels remained within one score for most of the third quarter until SDSU started to pull away, and realistically a change to Palandech, who completed 49.3 percent of his passes last season, probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference against the Aztecs’ defensive front.
“A lot of it was them, they were really committed to loading up the box and forcing (Sneed) to have to make quick decisions and us to have to do a good job pass (protecting) and we just didn’t do it,” Sanchez said. “… Physically, they kicked our butt.”
Last season, Palandech was pegged as the change-of-pace quarterback to come in for a series or two and give defenses a different look than Blake Decker. Of course, Decker’s injuries led to both guys playing about the same number of snaps over the season, but Palandech’s mobility at least did provide something different.
Now it’s basically exchanging one mobile quarterback for another, and the idea is to give Sneed extra time to process things while also seeing what Palandech can do. And it should be an interesting test case, because while UNLV hasn’t won at Aloha Stadium since 2000 (four straight losses) the Rainbow Warriors’ defense doesn’t stack up to that of SDSU.
Hawaii allows 235.7 rushing yards per game (116th in the country), 38.5 points per game (115th) and 244 passing yards per game (85th). Those numbers are a little inflated from some blowout losses, but the fact remains that the Rainbow Warriors will be susceptible if the Rebels can just figure out how to throw the ball.
“I wouldn’t be shocked one bit to see them copycat some of the stuff that San Diego State did. They’re going to load the box, I’m sure they’re going to play with a lot of one-high (safety) stuff and force us to make some throws on the outside, some throws to the middle of the football field,” Sanchez said. “… (Running lanes) only open up if you can throw the ball a little bit, and we need to throw the ball more than a little bit. We need to make some plays.”