Monday, Oct. 1, 2018 | 4:07 p.m.
For the next six weeks, UNLV will be counting on Max Gilliam to keep its bowl hopes alive.
Rebels coach Tony Sanchez announced Monday that starting quarterback Armani Rogers suffered a toe injury against Arkansas State and will be out indefinitely. Gilliam, a 6-foot-3 sophomore who played at Saddleback College last year, will assume the No. 1 QB job in Rogers’ absence and start on Saturday against New Mexico.
The expected timeline for Rogers’ injury — a torn plantar plate — is about six weeks, though UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez didn’t want to put a timeline on Rogers’ return.
“Best-case scenario, maybe six weeks,” Sanchez said. “It could be longer or shorter, but right now we’ll put the ‘indefinitely’ on it.”
Rogers was having a tremendous sophomore season running the ball, as he led the team with 488 yards and six touchdowns through four games. His passing was less effective, as he hit on just 41.5 percent of his passes for 369 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.
Gilliam started his college career at Cal before transferring to junior college. At Saddleback last year, he completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 1,185 yards and 10 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
Gilliam earned the Rebels’ No. 2 job during spring practice and training camp, and Sanchez said the team is ready to line up behind him for the foreseeable future.
“We have a lot of confidence in Max and what he can do,” Sanchez said, “and I know our whole team does too. We’re excited to watch him go out and play.”
Sitting at 2-2 entering conference play, UNLV needs to win four of its final eight games in order to qualify for a postseason bowl. After hosting New Mexico this week, the Rebels’ next five games are at Utah State (Oct. 13), vs. Air Force (Oct. 19), at San Jose State (Oct. 27), vs. Fresno State (Nov. 3) and at San Diego State (Nov. 10).
If the six-week timeline holds up, Rogers could potentially return for the final two games of the season, at Hawaii (Nov. 17) and vs. UNR (Nov. 24).
Rogers missed three games due to a concussion last season. With senior Johnny Stanton filling in, UNLV went 2-1 during that stretch.
Sanchez said the Rebels may scale back on some of their designed quarterback runs, but the rest of the offense should remain largely intact with Gilliam at the controls, despite the stylistic differences between he and Rogers.
“We’re very comfortable in his abilities,” Sanchez said. “He throws the ball well. He’s got a very quick release. Probably not as elongated as Armani. Obviously Armani is an elite runner; Max is a good runner. I think there are some things that Max gives you just a little bit different.”
The timing of UNLV’s bye week should help Gilliam settle into the role of No.1 quarterback. With two weeks of full reps in practice, the Rebels’ coaching staff has plenty of time to tailor their game plan to suit Gilliam’s strengths.
Senior running back Lexington Thomas said Gilliam will be prepared on Saturday.
“He can zip the ball,” Thomas said. “He competes. He’s a great quarterback. He came to compete. He’s going to be ready.”
Sanchez said the team is fully behind Gilliam and that expectations for the season haven’t changed in the wake of Rogers’ injury.
“Now we game plan and we move on,” Sanchez said. “I truly believe in our team. We’re going to be fine.”