A look at who has the advantage at each position when UNLV hosts Hawaii for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
UNLV QB Johnny Stanton didn’t receive a lot of respect before last game (including in this space), but helped lead his team to an impressive road win at Fresno State. Now coach Tony Sanchez will have to make a decision between him and freshman Armani Rogers (124.8 passer rating). Hawaii starter Dru Brown (135.9 rating) is the most trustworthy QB in this game though.
Rainbow Warriors’ senior Diocemy Saint Juste ranks seventh nationally in rushing yards per game (141.75) and is averaging 5.67 yards per carry. The Rebels have their own explosive runner though in Lexington Thomas, who averages seven yards a carru.
Hawaii’s leading receiver, John Ursua, is out for the season, making the team’s passing attack less potent. The Rainbow Warriors use their receivers more than UNLV does though, and their deeper group of pass catchers should help pick up the slack.
The Rebels average 71.6 more rushing yards per game than Hawaii, thanks to a stout and experienced group up front. UNLV has also allowed four fewer sacks this season.
Neither team is great at stopping the run, with both allowing more than 200 yards per game on the ground. Hawaii at least can rush the passer though, with 20 sacks on the year compared to the Rebels’ seven.
Junior Jahlani Tavai is a stud for the Rainbow Warriors, with 71 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks on the season. He’s on the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski (both best defensive player) watch lists.
Whoever Sanchez decides to play at QB will have the chance to do some damage through the air. Hawaii ranks third worst nationally in yards per pass attempt against (9.6) and opposing passer rating allowed (172.32). Only six QBs in the country (minimum 15 passes per games played) hold a passer rating better than that.
UNLV kicker Daniel Gutierrez is the reigning Mountain West special teams player of the week after going 4-for-4 on field goal attempts last week. The Rainbow Warriors are very limited in the kicking game, going only 1-for-5 on field goals this year.
You can never discount the time zone changes when the Rebels play Hawaii and the adjustment the visiting team always needs to make. UNLV now faces a winnable two-game homestand with the Rainbow Warriors and Brigham Young that could push the team to the brink of bowl eligibility.
Bruce Marshall (goldsheet.com): UNLV 31, Hawaii 30 — Bipolar UNLV is like a spin of the roulette wheel at Circus Circus. The Rebels looked good again last week at Fresno State but they have only once recorded back-to-back straight-up wins in the Tony Sanchez era. Hawaii has not covered its last six games, but it has a balanced offense thanks to capable QB Dru Brown and RB Diocemy Saint Juste. Plus, the Rainbow Warriors’ local support base always shows up at Sam Boyd Stadium. Its tough to lay meaningful points with UNLV, which is just 3-6 in its last nine games as chalk.