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5 burning questions for Saturday’s UNLV-San Diego State game

Five burning questions as UNLV’s football team prepares to play against San Diego State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego:

1. Can the Rebels stop Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey?

UNLV held Fresno State to 64 yards rushing and two yards per carry in Saturday’s 45-20 win and ranks 42nd in the country in rushing defense, allowing 133.4 yards per game. But the Rebels will face their toughest test yet in trying to corral Pumphrey, a shifty, speedy back from Canyon Springs High School who leads the nation in rushing (750 yards) and rushing yards per game (187.5) and has eight touchdowns in only four games.

2. Will UNLV be able to run the ball?

The Rebels have the nation’s No. 9 rushing offense with an average of 273 yards per game and have rushed for 364 yards in each of their last two games while producing four individual 100-yard rushers: running back Lexington Thomas (160) and quarterback Johnny Stanton (131) against Idaho and running back Charles Williams (153) and quarterback Dalton Sneed (147) against Fresno State. But UNLV will be challenged by a San Diego State rushing defense that’s ranked 14th in the nation, allowing only 99.3 ypg and three rushing touchdowns.

3. How will the Rebels handle the loss of another starting wide receiver?

UNLV’s receiving corps was expected to be the strength of the squad this year but has already lost three starters to season-ending injuries in redshirt freshman Darren Woods Jr. — who went down with a knee injury in Saturday’s game — junior Kendal Keys (knee) and sophomore Brandon Presley (foot). Junior Devonte Boyd (18 catches, 329 yards, three touchdowns) is the only wideout remaining with more than seven career catches and will be joined in the starting lineup by true freshmen Mekhi Stevenson (seven catches, 73 yards, TD) and Elijah Trosclair, who reeled in a 61-yard TD reception Saturday for his first career catch.

4. What will UNLV quarterback Dalton Sneed do for an encore?

The redshirt freshman made two big plays in his first collegiate start: a sensational 91-yard touchdown run that was the longest offensive play from scrimmage in school and Sam Boyd Stadium history and a 61-yard touchdown pass. Take away the long touchdown toss and Sneed completed only 7 of 15 passes for 68 yards. He’ll have to do more with his arm Saturday for the 14½-point-underdog Rebels to pull out their first win at Qualcomm Stadium since 2000.

5. Which team will complete more deep balls?

With both teams proficient at running the ball and defending the run, the game could hinge on which team is able to complete more throws downfield. UNLV has struggled against the deep ball this season, allowing 14 pass plays of 20 yards or more in its last three games alone and incurring several pass interference penalties along the way. The Aztecs pass defense hasn’t been much better, ranking 94th in the nation in passing yards allowed (261.8 ypg). The Rebels rank 95th (264.2 ypg) and both teams have allowed 11 passing touchdowns.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow on Twitter: @tdewey33

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