UNLV sophomore cornerback Alex Perry was driving last Thursday when he received a call from coach Tony Sanchez, getting news he was hoping to hear.
Sanchez told the Arizona State transfer that the NCAA declared him eligible to play this season rather than having to sit out a year.
“It was real good because now I have something to work for,” Perry said. “I don’t have to use my redshirt, and I can actually play.”
Having Perry available could be a tremendous boost for the Rebels, who play Texas-El Paso at 6 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. He was a four-star recruit out of Bishop Gorman who returned to Las Vegas after one year to tend to a family issue.
Perry has practiced with the second team since the beginning of training camp, and he and junior Ty’Jason Roberts will be expected to spell junior Jericho Flowers and senior Jocquez Kalili.
“One of the things we talked about, we want to get more guys in the back end,” Sanchez said. “I think limiting some of Jericho’s reps and limiting Kalili a little bit — I’m talking a series here and there — will be a big difference. With Ty’Jason and Perry back there, it gives us a chance to keep those (starters) fresh for a longer duration.”
Perry (5 feet 11 inches, 170 pounds) wore a yellow no-contact jersey in Wednesday’s practice as he finishes the concussion protocol that kept him from playing in Saturday’s 43-21 loss at Southern California. Sanchez said Perry will play against UTEP.
Improving special teams
Senior kicker Evan Pantels’ missed 39-yard field goal that would have extended UNLV’s lead over USC to 17-12 late in the second quarter was the special teams shortcoming that stood out. But it wasn’t the only one.
The Trojans had a 73-yard kickoff return and averaged 21 yards on three punt returns. UNLV junior Hayes Hicken had a punt that was supposed to land deep in USC territory but instead bounced into the end zone for a net of just 18 yards.
“We were really poor in our ball placement last week,” Sanchez said. “I cannot tell you how many times we put the ball in the middle of the field, and it’s supposed to be down a hash. We’re supposed to be punting in a certain direction, and we end up miskicking it to the other side. We’ve got to do much better because it really affects your coverage units.”
Singer making progress
Sanchez said Monday it was highly unlikely that senior left guard Zack Singer would play against UTEP because of an injured left ankle. But the swelling has diminished, and he’s now considered a game-day decision.
Junior Jaron Caldwell will start at left guard.
Celebrating the big five-oh5-0
The 1968 UNLV team, then called Nevada Southern, will be honored Saturday on the 50th anniversary of the school’s first team.
Those who played on that team will be recognized at halftime. A member of late coach Bill Ireland’s family also is expected to take part in the pregame coin toss.
Nevada Southern pennants will be given at the Rebel Block Party before the game to season-ticket holders and those who bought three-game plans.
That first team, which went 8-1, was inducted into the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame in 1987.