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Rebels football:

UNLV’s Greene a good weapon to have at Central Michigan

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez is pumped after a quick touchdown over Jackson State at Sam Boyd Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

The Rebel Room

If You Build It...

UNLV announced a $10 million donation from the Fertitta family towards a new football facility that's expected to be completed by next fall. Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer and reporters Case Keefer and Taylor Bern discuss what that means for the program and also look ahead to this weekend's game at Central Michigan.

Four times against UCLA, the Rebels’ offense faced third or fourth down with only one yard to go. Four times did they convert, and the answer was the same each play: fifth-year backup running back David Greene.

One of the bright spots to come out of last week’s 42-21 loss to UCLA, which UNLV trailed by only a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, is Greene’s emergence as a steady part of the offense. A week after scoring the first touchdown of his career, Greene secured short-yardage first downs on four of his five carries, and three of them helped keep alive UNLV’s touchdown drives.

“He had one third down where he flat-out got hit in the hole, it looked like we weren’t going to have it and he bounced off and made the play,” said coach Tony Sanchez. “Then you watch the plays he made on special teams, running down on kickoffs and such, the most unselfish guy we have on our roster and that’s why he’s a team captain. That speaks volumes when you’re not a starter yet you’re unanimously a team captain.”

It’s not always going to work that smoothly, but Greene has certainly made himself a piece of the gameplan as the Rebels (1-1) go back on the road Saturday to face Central Michigan (2-0). Kickoff is at 12:04 p.m. Las Vegas time and the game will stream on ESPN3.

Listed as the fourth-string running back, Greene out-carried both Charles Williams and Xzaviar Campbell last Saturday. While sophomore Lexington Thomas is the clear No. 1, the rest of the carries will shift week-to-week.

Thomas will always be the big play-making threat — for example, he converted a third-and-25 with a 37-yard carry — but at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds he can’t always break tackles. Listed at 6-0 and 210, Greene is solidifying himself as the bruiser Sanchez so desperately needs.

“Mostly it’s not me, it’s the guys up front getting in the way of their guys and making the big holes that they made,” Greene said.

Either way it’s something the Rebels need as a weapon as they continue to break in junior quarterback Johnny Stanton, who went 11-of-28 with a touchdown and two interceptions against the Bruins. Sanchez detailed how the first pick was on the receiver for not bending the route once the safety moved backwards, but there were also two or three other pass attempts that easily could have been picked off.

Relying on the running game limits risk through the air. Stanton is a big guy and he’s averaging 40.5 rushing yards per game, but the Rebels need other short-down options, too. Greene, who started his career as a defensive back, is that guy.

The Dallas native was the team’s co-Special Teams Player of the Year during the 2013 bowl season, and the following spring he moved over to running back before knee injuries sidelined him for the year. Now, in two games, Greene has nearly as many carries as he did all of last season, and odds are his next one will be to keep a drive alive.

“Sheer toughness,” Sanchez said of Green’s style. “At the end of the day, they know what we’re doing.”

Stopping it is another matter.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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