UNLV has the difficult task of trying to defend UNR’s Ty Gangi, who has thrown for 2,836 yards and 21 touchdowns with eight interceptions. The Rebels have an elite running quarterback in Armani Rogers and an effective passing quarterback in Max Gilliam, and how the coaches balance using the two will help determine the Rebels’ success.
Lexington Thomas is just the third Rebel to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, and his 40 career touchdowns is tops in school history. The Wolf Pack also have a strong running back in Toa Taua, who averages 5.4 yards per carry and and has rushed for 786 yards.
Kaleb Fossum (62 catches for 667 yards) is a really good possession receiver, and McLane Mannix (18.2-yard average, six touchdowns) can stretch the field for the Wolf Pack. They also are deep at the position with strong contributions from Romeo Doubs (39 receptions for 490 yards) and Elijah Cooks (21 for 335).
Despite having called 427 pass plays, UNR has given up just 13 sacks, a big reason the Wolf Pack average 284.6 yards passing. UNLV has given up 31 sacks. As run-blocking fronts, the lines are quite similar.
Dom Peterson has made eight tackles for loss and leads a UNR front that allows 3.4 yards per carry and 126.9 per game. That’s quite a difference compared to the 4.8 and 188.2 the Rebels give up.
The Wolf Pack have one of the Mountain West’s finest units, with Malik Reed, Gabe Sewell and Lucas Weber having combined to make 28½ tackles for loss that include 14½ sacks. UNLV counters with Bailey Laolagi, Javin White and Gabe McCoy, who have totaled 24 tackles for loss, including 7½ sacks.
Both teams have been susceptible against the pass, giving up roughly the same types of passing stats. UNLV has been hit hard by injuries, but its starting unit is back intact, and using wide receiver Drew Tejchman at safety proved a real benefit at Hawaii when he intercepted a pass and broke up another one.
UNLV punter Hayes Hicken (43.9-yard average) is having an all-conference type of season. UNR kicker Ramiz Ahmed has made 11 of 16 field goals, but the numbers look better when considering three misses were from 50-plus yards.
UNLV, finally, is the underdog. And given the Wolf Pack’s domination in this series, having won 11 of the past 13 meetings, expect a UNR team that probably won’t take the Rebels seriously. This also is UNLV’s bowl game.
Handicapper’s take: Bruce Marshall (goldsheet.com):
UNR 38, UNLV 20 — It’s not lost upon Wayne Newton and other UNLV supporters how Jay Norvell at rival UNR has gotten the bowl-bound Wolf Pack up to speed a lot faster than Tony Sanchez has with Rebels. At this stage of the season, also have to wonder how UNLV responds after hard-to-comprehend fourth-quarter collapse at Hawaii last week. UNR has owned the Fremont Cannon lately, and won six straight at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Mark Anderson Las Vegas Review-Journal