Special to the Sun/Richard Brian
Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 | 2 a.m.
With the season potentially hanging in the balance, UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez said on Tuesday that he has yet to decide on a starting quarterback for Saturday’s home game against Hawaii.
Freshman Armani Rogers started the first seven games of the season, but suffered a concussion two weeks ago against Utah State. Senior Johnny Stanton stepped in as the starter at Fresno State last weekend and led UNLV to a surprising upset.
At his mid-week press conference, Sanchez said Rogers has been cleared to practice, but that he’ll have to prove he’s once again the team’s best option at the position before reclaiming the starting job.
“We’ve got to make sure we do the best job we can to get ready to win a game this week,” Sanchez said. “Whoever we feel like is going to give us that best opportunity is who we’re going to go with.”
Stanton didn’t make the type of big plays that have become Rogers’ calling card, but he was accurate and consistent in UNLV’s 26-16 win at Fresno. He completed 17-of-29 passes for 155 yards and didn’t turn the ball over. He also ran for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Sanchez said the team is confident that they can continue to win with Stanton. At 3-5, UNLV would have to win three of its final four contests in order to qualify for a bowl game.
“Johnny coming in obviously did a really good job of throwing the football early in the game, distributing it to a lot of different guys,” Sanchez said. “[He was] really efficient on third downs early in the game, so he definitely added some validity that he could have a spark for us.”
Rogers has battled inconsistency throughout his rookie campaign, completing 72-of-136 passes (52.9 percent) for 1,063 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. But he’s flashed serious big-play ability that bodes well for his future, and he’s a more dangerous runner than Stanton. So far this year, Rogers has rushed for 535 yards and six touchdowns.
Sanchez said Rogers is the program’s building block and that his development is still a priority, whether or not he gets the nod this week. Rushing him back onto the field too early is not an option.
“We won’t hamper his development no matter what we end up doing here,” Sanchez said. “We want Armani to be 100 percent. Sometimes after an injury like that, it’s the six inches between the ears that you’ve got to get right. Make sure he’s confident that he can go out there and play his game. He’s a physical quarterback, he’s a running quarterback, so he needs to have the confidence to go out there and play that type of football.”