Published Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 | 10:51 p.m.
Armani Rogers had the breakout game Rebel fans have been waiting for, scoring four total touchdowns to lead UNLV to a 41-13 win over San Jose State Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Rogers completed 11-of-16 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 71 yards and two scores on the ground. In his fourth career game, the redshirt freshman set career marks in touchdowns (2), completion percentage (68.8) and quarterback rating (216.6).
UNLV raced out to a 35-6 lead in the first half behind Rogers and a great performance by running back Lexington Thomas.
Thomas danced through the Spartans defense for two touchdown runs (56 yards and one yard) on his way to a 146-yard day. As a team UNLV rushed for 345 yards.
Devonte Boyd led the way receiving with five catches for 105 yards. Brandon Presley caught two passes for 52 yards including a 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
The Rebels’ defense struggled to stop San Jose State between the 20-yard lines, surrendering 462 yards of total offense, but regularly held the Spartans out of the end zone.
UNLV defensive backs Jericho Flowers and Chauncey Scissum intercepted Spartans quarterback Josh Love. The defensive line turned San Jose State away on a fourth-and-short in the red zone, and forced a fumble on the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter.
The win brings the Rebels record to 2-2. It’s the earliest they have reached the two-win mark since 2013, when they reached a bowl game.
Behind Rogers, Rebels in control at halftime against San Jose State
Armani Rogers is playing the best football of his young UNLV career.
The Rebel quarterback completed 7-of-7 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in the first half tonight against visiting San Jose State, leading the Rebels to a 35-14 halftime advantage.
Rogers also carried the ball 10 times for 53 yards with two touchdowns.
Lexington Thomas has already rushed for more than 100 yards, gaining 105 yards with two touchdowns on 10 carries.
The game is still far from over.
UNLV has surrendered 241 yards and 18 first downs in the first half, including a late San Jose State touchdown to trim the deficit to 21 points.
Pregame: 5 keys for a UNLV win against San Jose State
San Jose State (1-4) has won seven consecutive meetings against UNLV (1-2), a streak so long that it predates the Mountain West Conference, but the Rebels should be primed to snap that skid today in the league opener for both teams.
Can UNLV take care of business in its first home game in 28 days? A few keys as the Rebels look to get back to .500:
These are two teams without defenses—San Jose State ranks 126th out of 130 Division I teams in yards per play allowed, while UNLV ranks 118th—so this matchup could be decided by which squad maximizes its offensive opportunities.
UNLV has been hit or miss in the red zone so far this season, but the Rebels need to cash in consistently against SJSU. Through three games, Tony Sanchez’s crew has had 12 possessions in the red zone and scored only six touchdowns. All six scores have come on the ground, which shows where the weakness lies. Do the Rebels have pass plays that they trust to work around the goal line? If so, this may be the game to break them out.
If UNLV fails to execute close to the end zone, settling for field goals could cost them points and allow the opponent to hang around, which is exactly how Howard managed to upset the Rebels in Week 1. Better to score touchdowns and force San Jose State to keep up.
San Jose State has been forced to defend more snaps than any other team in the nation so far this season (441), and while having already played five games factors into that number, it’s still an astounding amount of time on the field (88.2 plays per game).
UNLV can exploit that by wearing down the SJSU defense with the run game and taking over in the second half. The Rebels rank fifth in the nation in second-half scoring with 24.0 points per game after halftime, and that’s while possessing the ball less than half the time (48.8 percent second-half time of possession).
San Jose State can’t stop the run — the Spartans allow 5.2 yards per carry — so Lexington Thomas and Amani Rogers should feast on the ground today. And when the fourth quarter rolls around, UNLV should hold onto the ball for nine or 10 minutes and grind a tired SJSU defense into dust.
The UNLV defense doesn’t need to force 3-and-outs all night long, but they will need to make a handful of impactful “splash plays” in order to give the offense some breathing room. A few sacks, turnovers or other disruptions should be enough to make the difference.
The good news is that UNLV has been pretty good at generating turnovers this season. The Rebels have registered at least one takeaway in all three games so far this season, and they rank 43rd in the nation with 2.0 turnovers forced per contest. San Jose State can’t protect its quarterbacks, as the Spartans rank 85th in sack percentage (6.85 percent), and they are dead last in Division I with 3.8 giveaways per game, so UNLV will have plenty of opportunities to make game-changing plays.