Breaking down the UNLV-Arkansas State game by position

Updated September 21, 2018 - 12:52 pm

Quarterbacks

Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen is one of the better quarterbacks UNLV will face. He has completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 754 yards (251.3-per-game average), and makes enough plays with his feet in averaging 4.7 yards per carry to keep opposing defenses honest. UNLV’s Armani Rogers is a much better runner at 6.8 yards per rush and 102.3 per game, but is completing 47.5 percent of his passes.

Advantage: Arkansas State

Running backs

Lexington Thomas (383 yards, 6.3 per carry) is on pace for one of the greatest seasons in UNLV history, and there isn’t much dropoff when Xzaviar Campbell (129, 5.9) and Charles Williams (117, 5.8) are in the game. The Red Wolves also have a quality run game in averaging 188.7 yards, but nothing like UNLV’s 345.3.

Advantage: UNLV

Receivers

Neither team’s receivers have produced eye-popping numbers. UNLV doesn’t even have a receiver with 100 yards in catches. Arkansas State has three in its quick-passing game, with Kirk Merritt leading the group with 13 receptions for 112 yards.

Advantage: Arkansas State

Offensive line

The Rebels aren’t completely healthy, but their increased depth will keep this unit from becoming a liability. Arkansas State has done a good job in keeping Hansen upright, allowing only five sacks. The Red Wolves also average 4.8 yards per rush, though that’s not quite as good as UNLV’s 6.4. The Rebels, though, have given up eight sacks.

Advantage: Arkansas State

Defensive line

UNLV is getting really good play off the edge, with end Roger Mann already having recorded four tackles for loss that include 3½ sacks. Arkansas State has an NFL prospect in end Ronheen Bingham, who has 1½ tackles for loss, including a sack. He’s not the only one. Red Wolves linemen have combined for 7½ sacks.

Advantage: Arkansas State

Linebackers

Gabe McCoy starts at linebacker, but is versatile enough to often be used as a stand-up end. He leads UNLV with six tackles for loss, and the Rebels also have received quality across the board. Derrick Bean leads Arkansas State linebackers with two tackles for loss.

Advantage: UNLV

Secondary

Safety Darren Jackson leads the Red Wolves with 28 tackles, and Dalton Baker is first at UNLV with 29. It’s a pretty even matchup all around, with the Red Wolves allowing 218.7 yards passing per game and UNLV 214.3. The Rebels also have a slight edge in pass breakups at 13 to 9.

Advantage: UNLV

Special teams

It’s been more miss than hit for the Rebels thus far, but there is potential. Despite missing two field goals and an extra point, Evan Pantels is still a quality kicker, and Hayes Hicken averages 46.1 yards per punt. Arkansas State has had its own struggles with Sawyer Williams missing two field goals and being replaced by redshirt freshman Blake Grupe, who made both his tries in last weekend’s 29-20 victory at Tulsa. Cody Grace’s punt to the 4-yard line also set up a key safety.

Advantage: Arkansas State

Intangibles

There is no real pressure on UNLV. The Rebels won the games they had to in nonconference play, and a victory in Jonesboro is the chance to take a major step forward in their program. But a loss does little to damage UNLV’s bowl hopes because it’s not an expected victory anyway. Also, rain is in the forecast, which benefits the Rebels as a running team.

Advantage: UNLV

Handicapper’s take

■ Bruce Marshall (goldsheet.com):

UNLV 32, Arkansas State 31 — Legitimate signs of progress at UNLV, with the Rebels avoiding the usual flat spots the past two weeks that have contributed to their undoing in recent years. After staying with Southern California into the fourth quarter of the season opener, and having also covered numbers lately at Michigan, UCLA, Ohio State and Fresno State, this trip to Jonesboro won’t spook Tony Sanchez and his troops, who are 12-4 as a road underdog since 2015. Arkansas State’s Hansen is dangerous, but there’s also plenty of pressure on Red Wolves’ defense to slow the potent Rebels’ big-play combo of Rogers and home run back Thomas, both of whom have 100-plus yards rushing in each of past two games.

More Rebels: Follow all of our UNLV coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Mark Anderson Las Vegas Review-Journal

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