Opponents mostly have chosen to play UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis straight up, and he has made them pay.
But don’t necessarily look for a change in strategy.
With fellow junior Marcus Sullivan back in the lineup, the big-play receiver can punish opponents if they place too much attention on Davis.
“Sometimes, it’s pick your poison,” coach Bobby Hauck said. “When Marcus is in the game, you have to account for him because he’s an explosive player. It opens things up a little bit.”
Sullivan, a Cheyenne High School product, didn’t play in the season’s first four games because of an undisclosed personal issue.
He made his season debut Sept. 28 at New Mexico, and Sullivan (5 feet 9 inches, 195 pounds) impacted the game nearly from the start. He gave the Rebels their first score with a 69-yard end-around run for a touchdown.
Sullivan later completed a 27-yard pass to set up UNLV’s second touchdown, and he caught four passes for 48 yards. Two receptions occurred on third downs on what became the game-winning drive.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Sullivan said of contributing in so many ways. “There are so many things I can do on the field (opponents) aren’t expecting.”
Sullivan’s presence made it more difficult for the Lobos to zero in on Davis, who caught 10 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Davis also hauled in the go-ahead 7-yard pass on third-and-goal with 4:46 left of the 56-42 victory.
Even without Sullivan, most teams played man-to-man on Davis, with Western Illinois being the notable exception. Its strategy limited Davis to one catch for 8 yards, but the Rebels won 38-7.
That was Davis’ only subpar game. He has 28 receptions for 473 yards and eight touchdowns, three TDs shy of UNLV’s single-season record that Sam Greene set in 1980.
Davis wasn’t aware he was closing in on that mark, saying team goals are his concern. He did write out personal goals before the season but later discarded them.
His expectations are “to go further than even I could imagine. I hold myself to a standard to want to be a great player, and in order to do that, I have to continue making plays, never ... put a cap on what I want to do. I need to make sure there’s no roof.
“When you think of numbers, you get complacent once you get close.”
His through-the-roof production might invite more than single coverage, but Davis disagreed.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done enough yet for it,” Davis said. “But if it does come, I need to be prepared to get open against double coverage.”
Even in tight man-to-man coverage, Davis has used his outstanding hands and his 6-3, 210-pound frame to muscle his way to make catches.
Senior quarterback Caleb Herring hasn’t hesitated to throw to Davis even when covered.
“That’s huge,” Herring said. “He comes down with the majority of the passes that are thrown up for him to make a play with. It definitely gives me a little more confidence.”
Hauck said he couldn’t hazard a guess on whether future opponents would devote more attention to Davis.
UNLV’s next game, against Hawaii at 5 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium, could provide a clue of what opponents will do now that Sullivan is back in the lineup with Davis.
“Every first quarter, I kind of get a sense for how teams are going to play you,” Hauck said. “One of the things we plan for is how do we adjust if they choose to do certain things.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.