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Armani Rogers, UNLV struggle in 43-17 loss to Arkansas State

Updated September 7, 2019 - 11:59 pm

The first boos, following an errant swing pass, came 11 seconds before halftime.

Another set followed when the clock hit all zeros and UNLV headed to the locker room.

The Rebels trailed by 20 points in a game that appeared to be a measuring stick on where the season and — in a larger context — the program stood under fifth-year coach Tony Sanchez.

Now there could be a major change.

Sanchez said after Saturday night’s 43-17 loss to Arkansas State before an announced crowd of 18,742 at Sam Boyd Stadium that he would re-evaluate the quarterback situation after starter Armani Rogers completed 8 of 23 passes for 42 yards.

He also had an interception returned 35 yards for a touchdown and was sacked six times for 40 yards in losses.

Backup Kenyon Oblad came in late and completed all three attempts for 70 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown to Randal Grimes with 1:53 left.

“We’ve got to find some rhythm in the passing game,” Sanchez said. “We can’t just rely on handing the ball off over and over and over. The thing that really frustrates me is the accuracy. There were some dropped balls. I know when a quarterback’s struggling to find himself, you’ve got to help himself out a little bit, but too many balls below the guys’ knees.”

Rogers said he thought he still was the best person for the job and was optimistic about the team, too.

“We’re going to go up,” Rogers said. “It’s a great team. We’ve been working our tails off this fall camp, this whole summer, and one game is not going to define us.”

The Rebels (1-1) play four of their next five games on the road, and the one at home is Oct. 5 against No. 24 Boise State. UNLV plays at Big Ten Conference member Northwestern next Saturday before taking a week off and heading to Wyoming on Sept. 28.

UNLV struggled to get into sync against Arkansas State (1-1), which received a major emotional boost when coach Blake Anderson showed up before the game. He had been away from the team since Aug. 19 when his wife, Wendy, died of cancer.

“They loved Wendy to death,” Anderson said of his team. “There are guys that treat her just like Mom, so I wasn’t nervous how they were going to respond. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t become a distraction. I wanted to make sure that they took it for what it was meant for, that I love them, and I wanted to be with them.”

Sanchez said during the week that the Rebels would need success through the air to beat the Red Wolves. He reiterated that point after the game.

“We have to do a better job in our game plan,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t think we took enough shots early. I thought they gave us some opportunities to throw the ball down the field.”

They also needed to win a shootout, and Arkansas State, at least, did its part. Quarterback Logan Bonner passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns, Omar Bayless caught six passes for 149 yards and a TD, and Ryan Graham rushed for 103 yards and a score.

Running back Charles Williams was one of the few highlights for UNLV. His career-best 78-yard run put him over the 100-yard mark in the third quarter and set up his 3-yard touchdown run a play later.

Williams finished with 168 yards on 19 carries, an 8.8 average, a week after rushing for 143 yards and three touchdowns against Southern Utah.

UNLV fans didn’t boo in the second half, but other than Williams, they had little to cheer for, either. Fans, the ones who remained anyway, were mostly quiet.

Which also spoke loudly.

“We came out here with a game plan, and we didn’t come out here and execute it with high energy,” UNLV cornerback Jericho Flowers said.

More Rebels: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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