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UNLV aims to tighten run defense vs. Prairie View A&M


Steve Marcus

UNLV’s Gabe McCoy (25) and Dalton Baker tackle UTEP quarterback Kai Locksley during a game at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.

There wasn’t much to nitpick about UNLV’s 52-24 win over UTEP on Saturday, as the Rebels racked up more than 500 yards of total offense and led by multiple touchdowns for the entire second half. It was a great example of a superior team taking care of business from beginning to end.

Well, not quite from the beginning. The Rebels struggled to contain UTEP’s running game in the first quarter, allowing the Miners to compile 123 rushing yards on their first two possessions, including a pair of 41-yard runs. The leaky run defense allowed UTEP to stay within 14-10 into the second quarter despite UNLV’s offensive dominance.

The Rebels’ defense eventually settled down and held UTEP to a more reasonable 142 yards on 27 carries the rest of the way, but that sloppy first quarter was still weighing on Tony Sanchez’s mind on Monday as he looked ahead to UNLV’s Week-3 matchup with Prairie View A&M.

Though Prairie View plays at the FCS level, the Panthers have proven to be a solid running team through their first three games. PVAM has averaged 225.3 rushing yards per game, and their lowest yards-per-carry in any contest was 4.8 (against Sam Houston State).

Sanchez noted that UNLV missed 10 tackles against UTEP and said the Rebels would have to emphasize that against Prairie View A&M.

“We’ve got to do a better job of that,” Sanchez said. “We’re improving. I like that we’re better than we’ve been in the past, but we’re still not where we want to be.”

Prairie View’s rushing attack is spearheaded by junior running back Dawonya Tucker, who has compiled 542 yards already this season on a ridiculous 10.2 yards per attempt. At 5-foot-6, Tucker is tough to bring down because of his elusiveness and ability to slip past defenders.

On Monday, both Sanchez and linebacker Jameer Outsey compared Tucker to UNLV running back Lexington Thomas, who at 5-foot-9 possesses some of the same qualities.

“He’s probably a little bit smaller than Lex from what I’ve seen, but he’s really shifty,” Sanchez said. “He’s dynamic … If he gets out in open space, he can cause some problems. So we’ve got to do a really good job of corralling him.”

Prairie View’s second-leading rusher is quarterback Jalen Morton, who has scrambled for 147 yards and a touchdown on 41 carries. UNLV allowed UTEP quarterback Kai Locksley to run for 119 yards on Saturday, so containing the QB is another priority for the Rebels.

Outsey believes the Rebels can slow down the Prairie View running game if they execute the coaching staff’s game plan.

“I think we’re still getting better every game,” Outsey said. “I think we’re just focusing right now on the details and the little things to try to execute our game plan to the fullest.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

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