Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Kurt Palandech is back up to No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart, but there are no immediate plans to work him into Saturday’s game, coach Tony Sanchez said Tuesday afternoon. The Rebels are home this weekend to host Idaho with kickoff at 6 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium and the game streaming on MWN/UNLVRebels.com.
Palandech was in a tight battle with fellow junior Johnny Stanton through the offseason until shoulder and biceps injuries prior to the season bumped him down to a third-string emergency option. Sanchez has said that the Rebels were mostly protecting Palandech to try to get him back to 100 percent, and now that he’s there he moves ahead of Dalton Sneed as the backup, but Palandech isn’t expected to have designated series like he did last year.
“Right now there’s no urgency in that plan,” Sanchez said. “We’re preparing him so that if something were to happen to Johnny then he would go in that role. We’re not really game-planning to put him in at a certain time.”
Last season, Palandech was the backup to Blake Decker but he would come in as a change-of-pace option for a series or two because of his mobility. Of course, that plan rarely came to fruition because Decker was hurt so often that over the season the two quarterbacks played a similar number of snaps.
As a sophomore, Palandech completed 49.2 percent of his passes for 794 yards and nine touchdowns with five interceptions. He also ran for four touchdowns and 293 yards while averaging 3.6 yards per carry. With those passing numbers it’s no surprise that inserting Palandech wouldn’t be a priority, but the problem is that Stanton hasn’t been any better.
Through three games, Stanton has completed 44.4 percent of his passes for 501 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions. Take away the Jackson State blowout and Stanton’s completion percentage falls to 37.7, though receiver drops have also been an issue in the last two games.
Sanchez said UNLV charted seven drops in Saturday’s 44-21 loss to Central Michigan, and those plays could’ve extended drives or at least backed up a defense that shut down the Rebels’ run game minus Lexington Thomas’ 85-yard touchdown. Still, more of Stanton’s issues were decision-making and errant balls that Sanchez said seemed to get worse as the game went on.
“He was really indecisive in some of his reads; those are things we need to do a better job of in the film room,” Sanchez said. “A lot of those things were pass-run options where he should’ve just handed the ball off, and instead kept pulling them and throwing balls into small windows.”
The optimistic view on Stanton’s struggles is that he did play well against an overmatched Jackson State team and the schedule lightens up starting this weekend with Idaho. The Vandals rank 109th in the country, which is a few notches below UNLV’s own defensive unit, in passing defense at 277.3 yards allowed per game (7.4 yards allowed per attempt), and they’re one of only four teams in the country to allow at least 10 passing touchdowns.
This could be an excellent bounce-back game for Stanton and the Rebels, who are 14-point favorites. If it’s not, Palandech is ready and waiting in the wings.
• UNLV has been assessed 22 penalties for 225 penalty yards in three games. That’s nearly half as many penalties as the Rebels had during the entire 2013 season (45), and as the competition levels off it’s the kind of thing that could lose a game.
Sanchez said fixing the problem starts by getting more assertive on the practice field.
“These penalties don’t just happen in games they happen in practice, so if you see a guy holding you’ve got to get on him,” Sanchez said. “… You need to correct those things in practice and then they’ll be reflected in the games.”
• Safety Evan Austrie is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury and receiver Brandon Presley is still on the shelf with a foot injury. Austrie started Saturday’s game in place of Kenny Keys, who was suspended for the first half because of a targeting penalty at UCLA, but Austrie exited in the first half with a dislocated shoulder. Sanchez said they didn’t know yet whether it would be a short- or long-term injury, and former walk-on Dalton Baker is currently the backup behind Keys.