Published Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 | 9:13 p.m.
Both teams tacked on touchdowns in the fourth quarter but it didn't matter much, as UNLV wrapped up an easy 52-24 victory over UTEP.
Armani Rogers finished with three touchdown passes and a TD run, while Lexington Thomas finished with 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Rebels ran for 414 yards as a team, the highest total since Tony Sanchez became coach.
UNLV is now 1-1 on the season, with a visit from Prairie View A&M on the schedule for next week.
UNLV blowing out UTEP, 45-17
UTEP got on the board again with a touchdown run late in the third quarter, but it hardly made a dent. Heading into the fourth, UNLV still has a 45-17 lead.
Armani Rogers was still in the game on the Rebels' final drive of the third quarter, but with the game firmly in hand he will likely head to the bench soon. Lexington Thomas has already taken a seat for the night with 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
UNLV leads UTEP, 45-10
UNLV tacked on another quick touchdown to open the second half, and this one is now pretty much over.
UTEP received the opening kickoff, but a fumble on the first play from scrimmage allowed the Rebels to take over at the 12-yard line. Lexington Thomas scored two plays later, spinning around a defender at the goal line to put an exclamation point on the game.
Thomas now has 127 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. UNLV has 287 rushing yards as a team on 8.0 yards per carry.
UNLV up big over UTEP at halftime
UNLV played some defense in the second quarter, and a late touchdown pass from Armani Rogers has given the Rebels a 38-10 lead heading into halftime.
After allowing UTEP to score on each of its first two drives, the Rebels clamped down in the second frame, forcing a pair of 3-and-outs and then nabbing an interception (courtesy of linebacker Javin White). After the pick — which was UNLV's first takeaway of the season — the Rebels marched 86 yards before Rogers hit Darren Woods for a 23-yard touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half.
Rogers finished the first half with two touchdown passes and a TD run, while Lexington Thomas ran for more than 100 yards, including a 40-yard scoring scamper.
UTEP subbed out starting quarterback Kai Locksley late in the half and went with backup Ryan Metz. Unless Metz has some serious magic in his arm, it looks like UNLV will stroll to an easy win today.
UNLV leads UTEP, 28-10
A 40-yard touchdown run by Lexington Thomas has extended UNLV's lead to 28-10 midway through the second quarter.
Thomas took a handoff and ran right, squeezing between two defenders before breaking into the open and turning on the jets. UNLV now has more than 180 yards rushing with 8:55 left to play in the half.
The Rebels' defense has also flashed, forcing consecutive 3-and-outs on the last two UTEP possessions. Gabe McCoy picked up a third-down sack to end the Miners' last drive, leading to Thomas's trademark long touchdown.
Rebels lead UTEP after first quarter
UNLV's defense got the first "stop" of the game, holding UTEP to a field goal, and the Rebels have a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After the teams traded touchdowns (rather easily) on the first three drives, UNLV finally forced UTEP into a 3rd-and-long situation late in the quarter. Gabe McCoy brought down UTEP quarterback Kai Locksley on a keeper, the Miners settled for a field goal and UNLV now has the ball in UTEP territory as we start the second quarter.
UNLV, UTEP trading touchdowns early
UNLV and UTEP have traded touchdowns in the early going, with the Rebels enjoying a 14-7 lead as we draw near the end of the first quarter.
Armani Rogers got UNLV off to a fast start by throwing a perfect 51-yard strake to Mekhi Stevenson less than three minutes into the game. UTEP answered with a nine-play, 79-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by QB Kai Locksley.
On the Rebels' ensuing drive, freshman receiver Tyleek Collins took a handoff on a sweep and walked into the end zone from six yards out for his first career touchdown.
If the offenses keep up this pace, we're in for quite a shootout.
Previewing UNLV vs. UTEP with reader questions
Heading into UNLV’s home opener on Saturday, we solicited reader questions to find out which storylines Rebels fans will be following throughout the game. As it turns out, Armani Rogers, the defensive backfield and the odds of another Howard situation were at the forefront.
Before the Rebels kick off against UTEP (6 p.m., AT&T Sports Net), check out the Q&A:
What do you think is a bigger concern, the offense or the defense for UNLV?
In this game, I’m more interested in seeing how the offense fares, and the passing game in particular. The Rebels didn’t get much production through the air in Week 1, but some of that can be chalked up to USC’s superior pass defense. Quarterback Armani Rogers should have a much easier time against UTEP; if the passing game struggles again this week, that will be a cause for concern.
For the season overall, the defense is the bigger question. That unit played extremely well through three quarters at USC, but can the Rebels sustain that level of play for an entire game? For an entire season? If they do, they’ll sail to a bowl berth. Beating up on the hapless UTEP offense won’t prove much, but it would at least keep the defensive momentum rolling.
Is a Howard-type let-down possible for this game?
UNLV goes into this game as a 23.5-point favorite, and anytime the Rebels are expected to win with such ease it makes the fan base uneasy. Head coach Tony Sanchez said earlier this week that the players aren’t thinking about last year’s historic upset loss to Howard, but I have a hard time believing any player on the field that day can really put it completely out of their mind.
This Rebels team has a chance to be different, however. In addition to today’s gimme game against UTEP, they’ll be big favorites next week against Prairie View A&M as well. Win both games comfortably to get to 2-1 on the season and the ghost of Howard will begin to fade.
Do you believe adding Alex Perry to the backfield will ultimately help keep the starters fresh which in turn will help from being fatigued and getting burnt deep late in games?
This is one of the big issues Sanchez hit on after the USC loss, and I wrote about it earlier this week. Though the defense wasn’t on the field for an absurd amount of plays (75 snaps), the defensive backs didn’t get much rest throughout the game. That led to fatigue, and USC passed for nearly as many yards in the fourth quarter as it did in the first three quarters combined.
Perry will make his season debut today, and he will help immediately in that regard. He’s a talented cornerback who looked great in training camp, and assuming he’s fully healthy — he missed Week 1 while in concussion protocol — he’s got the chops to be the No. 2 or even the No. 1 cover guy by the end of the season. For today, Sanchez said Perry will mix in with the second team and give top corner duo Jericho Flowers and Jocquez Kalili a series or two of rest. That will help a lot.
In spite of Sanchez's hand waving it's clear Armani is the same passer he was last year. Would we be better off with one of his backups that can make the throws but can't run as well? If so, who?
I actually agreed with Sanchez’s assessment that Armani Rogers played better than his box-score numbers in Week 1, but it’s understandable for fans to want more. For anyone expecting another quarterback on the roster to outperform Rogers, however, we can put that to bed right now — no other Rebel is capable of matching his production right now. Rogers just went up against the best defense he’ll face all season, and though he managed just 97 yards passing, he did run for more than 100 yards (before subtracting sack yardage) and toss two touchdown passes. Let's not start calling for the backups just yet.
We recruited a couple of athletic TE’s awhile back. Are any of them about to become good targets in the passing game? Also what are the odds that Armani ever learns to put touch on his balls?
Only one UNLV tight end caught double-digit passes last year (Tim Holt, 11 receptions, 100 yards), so it’s safe to say that’s not a focal point of the offense. Sophomore Giovanni Fauolo did pull down a TD pass in Week 1, so maybe he’s someone to watch as a red-zone target. As for Rogers’ passing touch, remember that he’s still just entering his second season as the starting QB. I bet his stats will look much better two weeks from now.
UNLV hasn’t blown out a lot of opponents during Sanchez’s tenure, so there isn’t a long track record. But when the Rebels beat Jackson State, 63-13, in the 2016 season opener, Sanchez kept the starting offense in the game through the first three quarters. UNLV had a 63-10 lead at the start of the fourth before the subs went in. I think you’ll see something similar against UTEP, as the offense needs reps early in the season. The only player who might sub out sooner is senior running back Lexington Thomas; the coach staff is counting on big things from Thomas this season, and they spent all of training camp protecting him from wear and tear. Once the game is in hand, Thomas will probably head to the bench in order to stay fresh later in the season.