Decker starts at quarterback for Rebels despite chance of reinjury

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The debate during the week was not only whether UNLV senior quarterback Blake Decker could play but also whether he should play.

He suffered an injury near his groin a week ago against UCLA, and even if he became reasonably healthy in time for Saturday’s visit to Michigan, the Rebels had much more winnable football games on the schedule than this one.

An injured Decker does them no good, but he was ready to go for this game and given the start in what turned out to be a 28-7 loss.

And the chance of further injuring himself? Decker said that wasn’t a worry.

“I talked to the training staff,” he said. “It’s kind of a weird spot to injure it. It’s not a very common injury in football, just the way that I tweaked it. So after testing it out in practice, I felt good coming out here.”

Decker completed 8 of 16 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. His backup, sophomore Kurt Palandech, was 6 of 10 for 47 yards.

Both quarterbacks had trouble finding open receivers. Michigan’s cornerbacks pressed at the line of scrimmage and were seldom beaten.

“We’ve pretty much beat ourselves as receivers,” UNLV wide receiver Devonte Boyd said. “We’ve got to get open on press coverage.”

The good news for the Rebels is they’re unlikely to see such effective press play the rest of the season. Mountain West coaches could try to duplicate the Wolverines’ success, but they don’t have cornerbacks on Michigan’s level.

Not that it was any consolation in this game for Decker and his offense, which gained just 235 yards.

More important, Decker made it through unscathed, and that was a major accomplishment.

Coach Tony Sanchez said early in the week that he expected the decision on whether to play Decker to go until game time, but as the quarterback progressed physically, the determination was made Thursday to put him in the starting lineup.

“On Thursday before we jumped on the plane, we let him go a little bit (in practice),” Sanchez said. “At that point, we felt comfortable that he could go.”

Decker just wishes he had gotten the victory as well as the ball, but three-fourths of the season remain, so he will have chances.

“We’ve got some scrappers,” Decker said. “We’ve got some kids that want to fight and want to win.

“We’re looking at our schedule the rest of the way out with opportunities to win every game.”

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65

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