Sunday, April 15, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The UNLV football team may not be in mid-season form, but the Rebels were still very recognizable during Saturday’s spring showcase.
Five weeks of spring practice came to a close with a full-contact live scrimmage in front of fans at Peter Johann Memorial Field, and the play looked a lot like the UNLV team of the past three years under head coach Tony Sanchez, as the offense moved the ball with ease while the defense fought against the current.
Sophomore quarterback Armani Rogers played sparingly but commanded the offense well, leading one touchdown drive while completing 3-of-7 passes. Receivers dropped two short passes from Rogers on the opening possession of the scrimmage, and a long bomb to junior Brandon Presley bounced out of his hands in the end zone.
“I feel like we started off a little slow offensively, and then we picked it up as the second half went along,” Rogers said. “Everybody just had to get their head together. I guess with the fans out here everybody was a little jittery, but as the day went along we picked it up.”
Top running back Lexington Thomas suited up but did not play, as the coaching staff is looking to limit the amount of hits the senior takes during the offseason. Sophomore back Charles Williams was also in pads but did not see action, as he is still coming back from the ankle injury that ended his 2017 season.
Despite the absence of Thomas and Williams, the Rebels’ running game was revved, as usual. Senior Xzaviar Campbell got to work with the first-team offense and made the most of his opportunity. Known primarily for his power running, Campbell showed some speed and elusiveness as well, as he broke long runs of 48 and 37 yards and finished with 115 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Campbell said he was hoping to deal out more collisions to hold him over until fall training camp, but that six carries was enough to prove his point.
“I didn’t get enough,” he said with a laugh. “It’s never enough. In fact, I wanted to keep going even more, but everyone has to eat. So it was perfectly fine with me.”
Backup quarterback Max Gilliam did not have as much success as Rogers. Operating with the first- and second-team offenses, Gilliam completed 5-of-9 passes but also committed two turnovers. Gilliam underthrew a receiver over the middle and was intercepted, and one possession later he threw a lateral pass over the head of his running back, allowing the defense to pick it up and run it back for a touchdown.
The recipient of Gilliam’s turnovers was junior defensive back Soli Afalava, who picked off the first pass and returned the fumble.
Beyond Afalava’s splash plays, the defense wasn’t able to gain much traction. The offense ran the ball 43 times for 311 yards, an average of 7.2 yards per attempt. In the passing game, four UNLV quarterbacks combined to complete 18-of-29 passes (62.1 percent) for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Freshman Kenyon Oblad, the first early enrollee in program history, looked sharp in his first spring game. The 6-foot-3 Liberty product used his strong arm to complete 7-of-10 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
After blowing the whistle to bring the spring season to a close, Sanchez didn’t focus on the results of the game, instead praising the amount of work the Rebels put in.
“There’s some good and bad,” he said. “We’re going to watch film and we’re going to see a lot of things we like and a lot of things that need to be corrected. The biggest thing today was getting over 80 snaps. I think I counted 84, give or take one or two. We got a good number of snaps. A lot of guys got out there and got reps.”