Date: Saturday, Sept. 7
Kickoff Time: 10 p.m. ET
Location: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
Watch it here: Facebook (Stadium College Football page)
Line: UNLV -1.5, O/U: 63.5
Series: Tied 1-1
Red Wolves look to bounce back
Arkansas State fell short of SMU last weekend by seven points and about 19 yards.
To turn things around, the Red Wolves have two glaring issues from their opener to address: rushing and third down defense.
Quarterback Luke Bonner looked solid enough in his starting debut, throwing for 324 yards, four TDs and just one INT. His continued maturation in the stAte offense must continue.
However, the Red Wolves must look to the ground more often to open things up. Sophomore Marcel Murray had 77 yards on 17 carries—not a light load, especially considering the score and how the game played out.
Regardless, feeding Murray in the first half and letting the Arkansas State offensive line really lean on that UNLV defensive front could pay huge dividends in the second half.
Murray got all but one of the non-QB carries (which went for negative-3 yards), so spelling him with a change-of-pace back for 6-8 carries could prove useful as well.
Defensively, the Red Wolves allowed SMU to convert nine of their 17 first downs (52.9%). The defensive line needs to pin their ears back to pressure and contain UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers to help them get off the field so Murray and Bonner can go to work.
Oh, and after four touchdown catches last week, don’t forget to ride the hot receiving gloves of Omar Bayless.
UNLV out for vengeance
Trailing 20-19 in the fourth quarter of last season’s contest in Jonesboro, the Red Wolves rallied for a 27-20 win with a 39-yard run from Murray and a strong final frame put up by the stout stAte defense.
Arkansas State forced four turnovers in the last contest, including three costly INTs from Rogers.
Rogers was able to exploit the Red Wolves on the ground, finishing with 181 yards rushing on 26 carries. His 5-for-23 showing through the air, however, left much to be desired.
That said, Rogers will need to roll out and complete a few early, easy passes to keep the Arkansas State defense guessing. Even with marginal success passing in the first half, look for a lot of UNLV play action to open up in the final two quarters.
UNLV’s opening week win against FCS Southern Utah, 56-23 will most likely not reveal a whole lot about how the Rebels will game plan for Arkansas State.
Expect a wide open UNLV playbook on both sides of the ball.
With Georgia looming on the horizon that is the following week, the time is now for the Red Wolves to get on track.
After taking a somewhat scary hit in the opener against SMU—in which the opponent was ejected for targeting—Kirk Merritt’s health will be a factor in the passing and return game.
Very little has come out of Jonesboro definitively about whether he will play on Saturday. If so, look out Vegas.
Coach Blake Anderson released an expression of thanks this week for everyone thinking of his family after his wife Wendy’s recent passing.
Anderson will not coach Saturday, but he is still firmly on the minds of Red Wolves Nation.
Any adversity, albeit the opening loss, the Las Vegas heat, etc. are certainly minor for this team.
And they will respond.
Expect stAte to disrupt the Rogers offensive attack and grind out a win in the fourth quarter.
Arkansas State 31, UNLV 26.