A big win for either team: Can Rebels keep their momentum?

A win by UNLV this week could send the Rebels bowling for the first time since 2000. Standing in their way is San Jose State, and QB David Fales, the hottest passer in the Mountain West. The Spartans have won their last three contests, and Fales has been on fire. He’ll enter Sam Boyd Stadium having thrown for over 300 yards in each of his last five games.

Saturday’s matchup will be shown live, here on reviewjournal.com. We talked to CampusInsiders.com color analyst Doug Chapman to find out what to expect Saturday.

Which team has more riding on this game?

“This game is really important for both teams. Obviously, UNLV needs one more win to become bowl eligible.”

Chapman stressed the importance of that sixth win for UNLV.

“This is a team that was 2-11 last year. At the beginning of the season, if you told someone that this team would be bowl eligible — not at the end of the season, but possibly with three games remaining — they would have thought you were crazy.”

The Spartans, on the other hand, are seemingly going in the other direction, coming off an 11-win season.

“San Jose State is 4-3. They need two more wins, and the schedule isn’t getting easier for them. With Fresno State looming in the finale, this is a game they would really like to win.”

What is the key to the game for UNLV?

“For UNLV the key is to keep Fales on the sideline. They need to put together long drives. They’ve been really successful at picking up at least 5 yards on first down. If they can continue to do that, it doesn’t matter who your offensive coordinator is, 2nd and 5 is the easiest situation in football. If UNLV can consistently get to 2nd and 5, they can control the clock and put together the drives they need to slow down Fales and win.”

For San Jose State?

“For SJSU to win, they need to keep Fales on a pitch count. When he throws over 40 times, they lose. The key for the Spartans key is to get the running game going. They need to keep balance on the offense and not force Fales to win the game by himself.”

Who are the players to watch in this game?

“(Running back) Tim Cornett is a player to watch for UNLV. I’m not sure how healthy he is, but if he gets to 100 yards, they win. He keeps the pressure off of (UNLV QB Caleb) Herring and makes the defense play honestly.”

We’ll avoid the obvious with SJSU and pick someone other than Fales. When the Spartans are on defense, linebacker Keith Smith is the guy to watch. This defense gave up 600 yards last week, but he had 12 total tackles. This is a bend-but-don’t-break defense, and he’s the key to that.”

Give us an under-the-radar player that could make a difference in the game.

“A guy I like a lot is Shaquille Murray-Lawrence. I haven’t seen a whole lot of him, but from what I have seen, he has the talent to change a game. The Rebels count on Cornett, but Murray-Lawrence is the home-run hitter. If they put some packages in for him to take advantage of his speed and skills, he can be a real difference maker.”

Both of these teams are playing with a lot of confidence. Who has the momentum?

“Confidence is extremely important for both of these teams. SJSU is really starting to get their swagger back. This is a team that won 11 games last season. I’ve talked to people who have Fales as high as the No. 1, 2 or 3 QB prospect in the draft. With the way they’ve played lately, they’re really starting to get their confidence back. They play a lot of freshmen, and they seem to be starting to find themselves.”

Coach Bobby Hauck is doing a great job this year at UNLV. This team won only 2 games last year. The biggest difference between this year and last year is that this is now a team that knows how to win. I give UNLV a slight edge in confidence going into this game since they were able to go to Reno and get that cannon back. That was a huge win that they’ve been waiting nine years for.”