It was an ugly, ugly day for the UNLV offense. The final numbers, even though they are far from impressive, don’t even begin to tell the story of how much the Rebels struggled to find any sense of rhythm. UNLV had just 111 total yards after three quarters, with only 42 coming through the air. Blake Decker ended up throwing for 96 yards and a touchdown on the day, but 53 yards came on one play to Devonte Boyd in the final period with Michigan holding a big lead. He also threw a pair of interceptions. Kurt Palandech was more effective in limited duty, completing 6 of 10 passes for 47 yards. More importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over. UNLV actually ended up throwing for more yards than the Wolverines, but much of that was late in the game with the outcome no longer in doubt. The quarterbacks weren’t completely responsible for the passing game struggles. UNLV’s talented receivers were getting very little separation from Michigan’s defensive backs. Even the best quarterbacks would struggle under those conditions. The rushing attack was just as stagnant. The Rebels clearly wanted to establish the run and accumulated 36 carries in the game. It amounted to just 92 yards, however, an average of 2.6 yards per attempt.
Michigan was able to put up 377 yards of offense, including 254 on the ground. Ordinarily those numbers would be worthy of a far worse grade. The defense held up well, though. UNLV’s offense consistently went three-and-out, putting the defense in difficult positions. The secondary was particularly strong, allowing Michigan to throw for just 123 yards. Much of that can be attributed to Michigan running the ball with a lead and Wolverines’ quarterback Jake Rudock’s ineffectiveness. The Rebel corners and safeties really did play well, though. Even the run defense wasn’t bad except for on a 76-yard touchdown run by Ty Isaac in the second quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: INCOMPLETE
Nicolai Bornand made his only extra point and forced one touchback on his two kickoffs in the game. Logan Yunker had a pretty good day with eight punts for an average of 41 yards and pinned Michigan inside its own 20-yard line twice. He did drop one snap, though. Michigan wasn’t rushing and the drop was inconsequential, but those things need to be cleaned up. UNLV’s special teams just wasn’t put to the test enough to earn a full grade.
Disclaimer: This very well could be unfair and Tony Sanchez knows his team and players better than I ever could. Now that we have that out of the way, the decision to play Blake Decker deserves to be questioned. Sanchez said he knew very early in the week Decker was healthy and would be able to play on Saturday. That’s great. But why? UNLV was never going to win this game. There doesn’t seem to be much of an upside in playing him a week after a leg injury had his status in doubt. Decker made it through the game and appeared healthy. But results can’t always be a determining factor for whether a decision was correct. Had Decker been injured further and unavailable for upcoming winnable games, it would have been devastating. As it was, a healthy Decker didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard. As far as in-game coaching, there wasn’t a whole lot to criticize. Sanchez tried to run the ball in effort to shorten the game. UNLV just couldn’t execute in the running game. The defense figured to be pushed around by the physical MIchigan front, but the unit more than held its own most of the way. Give Sanchez credit: His team is competing. That’s really all you can ask for from a coach trying to build a program.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.