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5 things to watch in Saturday’s UNLV-Fresno State game

Five things to look for when UNLV’s football team plays Fresno State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium:

1. How Rebels quarterback Dalton Sneed handles his first collegiate start.

With starter Johnny Stanton sidelined for at least three to four weeks with a knee injury, redshirt freshman Sneed will grab the reins of the UNLV offense in its Mountain West opener. Sneed has been described by teammates and coaches as confident, fearless and passionate. A three-star recruit out of Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., the 6-foot Sneed holds Arizona prep records for touchdown passes in a game (seven) and career (87) and passing yards in a season (3,740) and career (8,377).

2. If Lexington Thomas runs wild.

Tulsa running back D’Angelo Brewer rushed for 242 yards on 46 carries to help the Golden Hurricane erase a 31-0 deficit Saturday in a 48-41 double-overtime win at Fresno State. Thomas, the Rebels sophomore running back who is 12th in the nation in rushing yards (453), could be in a for a big night against a Bulldogs’ rushing defense that ranks among the worst in the country in allowing 262.5 yards per game.

3. How many times Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil goes deep.

Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan threw 11 deep balls against UNLV’s struggling secondary Saturday in the Vandals’ 33-30 overtime win over the Rebels. He completed three of them and also drew two pass interference penalties on UNLV. Until the Rebels prove they can defend the long passes, teams will continue to air it out. Virgil, a redshirt freshman, threw for 276 yards and a 65-yard touchdown to receiver Jamire Jordan against Tulsa.

4. How UNLV fares in the red zone.

After scoring eight touchdowns in 10 trips into the red zone in their first three games this season, the Rebels scored two touchdowns and settled for three short field goals in five red-zone possessions against Idaho. UNLV also allowed the Vandals to score three touchdowns and a field goal in five trips into the red zone. Opponents have scored 10 touchdowns and two field goals in 16 red-zone possessions against the Rebels this season.

5. If the Rebels can limit mistakes.

UNLV has been hampered by dropped passes, ranks 103rd in the country in penalty yards per game (70.75) and is tied for 80th in turnovers lost with seven. Stanton lost a fumble in the opener and threw two interceptions in each of the last three games. Improving ball security could go a long way in the weak Mountain West.

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

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