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Rebels football:

Blog: Central Michigan dominates UNLV 44-21

Image

Roger Hagerman / The Morning Sun via AP

Central Michigan’s Mark Chapman crosses the goal line for a touchdown against UNLV.

Updated Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 | 6:36 p.m.

Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush set a stadium record with six passing touchdowns and the Rebels devolved in all three facets as the game wore on, losing 44-21 today at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Rush finished 20-of-33 for 352 yards and six scores, most of them easy tosses to receivers who either had good position or were wide open. UNLV’s defense forced two straight three-and-outs to start the game and it got ugly quickly after that.

The offense and special teams weren’t much better. After scoring their first touchdown on a blocked punt, the Rebels racked up several penalties and gave up very good field position in the kicking game.

And other than Lexington Thomas’ 85-yard touchdown run there wasn’t much offense to speak of. Junior quarterback Johnny Stanton finished 11-of-41 for 131 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, and Devonte Boyd didn’t get a single catch.

This was thought to be a key game for the Rebels’ bowl hopes, and if that’s the case then Central Michigan gave UNLV a resounding answer. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from today’s game.

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.

UNLV’s hopes of reaching a bowl game for just the fifth time in program history could very well rest on today’s results.

There will certainly be surprises along the way, but when looking at the Rebels’ schedule this offseason today’s game always figured to be a turning point. Win and UNLV could be approaching bowl eligibility by Halloween. Lose and that day might never come.

The game kicks off at 12:04 p.m. Las Vegas time and will stream on ESPN3. Here’s a look at the matchups:

OFFENSE

It's still too early for any declarations, but this feels like it has some make-or-break potential for quarterback Johnny Stanton's junior season. Central Michigan's run defense has been solid, and if that holds then we will be able to see what Stanton can muster after two weeks of disparate results.

The Jackson State game was great, and then as expected UCLA brought a dose of reality. Which of those performances is closer to the real Stanton? The Chippewas are the level of opponent that should get us closer to an answer.

I wouldn't say Stanton was awful for an inexperienced quarterback last week, but neither could anyone declare 11-of-28 with two interceptions a success. He nearly connected with Devonte Boyd for a huge gain on UNLV's first play, and Stanton's running game remains an important wrinkle to keep defenses honest and (hopefully) open up some passing lanes.

UNLV wants to be a running team first and that's what it will try to do against Central Michigan. If that doesn't work then it'll be on Stanton and the passing game to go over the top, and I'm very interested to see if they can do it.

DEFENSE

Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush has been around awhile. The NCAA’s active leader in passing yards made his first start three years ago in Las Vegas in the game that turned around the Rebels’ bowl season.

Since then Rush has steadily moved his way up Central Michigan’s record books to No. 2 in touchdown passes and total yards. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he’s getting a little buzz as solid NFL Draft choice and so far this season Rush has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 598 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions.

UNLV’s pass rush didn’t dramatically improve from week one to two and the tackling got worse, so there are legit concerns about letting Rush stand in the pocket and pick apart the Rebels’ secondary. And if it goes down to a final play, UNLV better be prepared after Rush last week orchestrated the second wild ending of his career with a hail mary and lateral

SPECIAL TEAMS

It hasn't come up a whole lot yet, but through two games UNLV has done nothing in punt return. Less than nothing, actually, as the Rebels have -11 yards on three returns.

The good news is UNLV isn't getting beat by returns, either. There have only been two return attempts on Evan Pantels' six punts, totaling -1 yards, and opponents are retuning UNLV's kickoffs for an average of 22.8 yards per return.

That's about four yards fewer than the Rebels' kick returns, which last week saw Charles Williams enter the fray. The freshman backup running back took four of the five kick returns (Torry McTyer had the other) for an average of 24 yards per return.

We have yet to see Pantels attempt a field goal, but odds are that in order to pull off an upset UNLV is going to need a great game either from him or someone in the return game.

Quotable

“You have to have vision and you can’t expect people to go out and do it for you. I think that’s always been a problem here with this job is people come in and think I’m going to coach football. It’s a lot more than that. You’re going to coach football, you’re going to fundraise, you’re going to engage the community, you’ve got to recruit at a high level and you can’t make excuses, because nobody wants to hear them.”

— Sanchez on the approach that helped UNLV announce a $10 million gift and plans for a new football facility this week

Song and Beer Recommendation

Drink Bell’s Two Hearted Ale while listening to the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army". Two Hearted Ale is made in Kalamazoo and it’s one of my favorite IPAs in the entire country, and while the White Stripes definitely have better songs, “Seven Nation Army” has been attached to sports for several years yet somehow I’m not tired of it.

Random Stat

UNLV is 0-10 in the Eastern Time Zone, including last year’s 28-7 victory at Michigan. Meanwhile, Central Michigan is looking for its first 3-0 start since 2002, a season that quickly went south with the Chippewas finishing 4-8.

Game Predictions

Click to enlarge photo

UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez ponders the situation on the sidelines as they face Jackson State at Sam Boyd Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

Ray Brewer

UNLV 32, Central Michigan 29

(1-1 ATS, 2-0 SU, 1-1 O/U)

Case Keefer

Central Michigan 38, UNLV 16

(1-1 ATS, 2-0 SU, 1-1 O/U)

Jesse Granger

Central Michigan 28, UNLV 24

(1-1 ATS, 2-0 SU, 1-1 O/U)

Taylor Bern

Central Michigan 27, UNLV 20

(1-1 ATS, 2-0 SU, 1-0-1 O/U)

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

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