Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 | 11:47 p.m.
For the second time since Tony Sanchez took control of the UNLV football program, the Rebels' record is above .500.
The first time was Week 1 of the 2016 season — Sanchez’s second campaign — when UNLV opened with a win over Jackson State to move to 1-0 (the Rebels quickly lost their next two games). This time feels a little more legitimate, as UNLV notched its second consecutive blowout victory, 46-17 over Prairie View A&M on Saturday, to improve to 2-1 on the year.
The Rebels didn’t have to do a whole lot in order to win. Prairie View played a mess of a game, including three botched punt snaps, a fumbled quarterback exchange, a muffed punt and a field-goal attempt that was blocked. With the Panthers committing so many unforced errors, UNLV simply had to avoid getting dragged down into the mire.
The Rebels managed to clear that bar rather easily. Armani Rogers accounted for five touchdowns (four rushing, one passing), and the offense racked up more than 300 rushing yards for the third straight game. UNLV dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 39:18 to Prairie View’s 20:42.
Rogers was a big part of the ball-control attack, totaling 122 yards on 17 carries. He set two school records in the process — most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single game and most career 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback (four).
Rogers downplayed his individual accomplishments after the game.
“It’s a good thing to have in your back pocket, but that’s not a thing I look forward to,” Rogers said. “I just go out there and play football, and if I break a couple records while doing it, it’s a good thing to do.”
UNLV took a 34-0 lead into halftime thanks to three rushing touchdowns from Rogers, but a scoreless third quarter allowed Prairie View A&M to close within 34-17. Rogers slammed the door shut with 4:15 left in the game, taking a QB keeper around the left end and bulldozing through a defender at the goal line for his fourth rushing TD of the game.
Sanchez said the win was all that mattered, though he pointed to the second-half offense as an area that needs improvement.
“We played a really good first half,” Sanchez said. “One of the challenges is getting the guys to stay focused when you have that type of lead, going back out [for the second half]. I thought the defense did. The offense moved the ball down the field, sputtered when we got inside the red zone…Kind of got stale for a little bit. We’ll clean that stuff up.”
The defense played a solid first half, helped out by Prairie View’s perplexing game plan. Panthers’ running back Dawonya Tucker came into the game as one of the nation’s hottest running backs, with consecutive 200-yard performances the last two weeks, but PVAM chose to throw the ball on eight of its first nine plays. That resulted in two punts — the first of which was snapped over the punter’s head, allowing UNLV to recover at the 1-yard line. Thomas scored two plays later to make it 13-0.
Once Prairie View fell into a deep hole, Tucker took a backseat. He finished with 61 yards on just 12 carries.
Sanchez said Tucker was a main focus for defensive coordinator Tim Skipper.
"The guys did a good job of taking that running back away," Sanchez said. "Going into the game he had 500 yards rushing the last two weeks, and we held him to  yards rushing. We talked about making them one-dimensional, taking him out of the equation, and Skip and the crew and the defense did a good job of that."
Senior running back Lexington Thomas wasn’t able to break away for a long run, but he did carry the offense with tough running between the tackles. Thomas logged his third-straight 100-yard performance to open the season, posting 124 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 30 carries.
UNLV will now shift its attention to a key matchup at Arkansas State next week. The Rebels will go into the game as underdogs, but the team is surging after back-to-back victories.
“I feel like we’re more confident than we’ve ever been,” Rogers said. “Everybody’s together, nobody’s fighting with each other. The chemistry is there right now.”