As far as the UNLV football team is concerned, Rudy Carpenter has nothing on Diondre Borel or Austen Arnaud.
Those quarterbacks, unlike Arizona State’s Carpenter, actually put a scare into the Rebels and made them look silly at times.
UNLV was able to pressure Carpenter, a more traditional dropback passer, and limit the Sun Devils’ offense in a 23-20 overtime victory at then-No. 15 Arizona State on Sept. 13.
But the Rebels (3-1) have struggled against athletic quarterbacks such as Utah State’s Borel, Iowa State’s Arnaud and Utah’s Brian Johnson.
UNLV faces another dual-threat quarterback Saturday when it hosts Colin Kaepernick and UNR (1-2) in a 7 p.m. game at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“I think there are some things you’ve got to do specifically against (UNR), and then we’ve got to play better against athletic quarterbacks,” UNLV coach Mike Sanford said.
Kaepernick, a 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pound sophomore, has been the key to the Wolf Pack’s increased emphasis on running the option.
He passed for 2,175 yards and 19 touchdowns last season and rushed for 593 yards and six scores. This season Kaepernick has thrown for 538 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 214 yards and four TDs.
“He’s similar to Iowa State’s quarterback in that he can run,” Rebels linebacker Ronnie Paulo said.
Kaepernick was unavailable for interviews with the Las Vegas media. UNR coach Chris Ault restricts out-of-town interviews to players’ hometown media affiliates.
But, one way or another, Kaepernick figures to have a big say in the outcome of Saturday’s game.
UNLV’s struggles against athletic quarterbacks surfaced in their Aug. 30 season-opening 27-17 victory over Utah State, in which Borel came off the bench in the second half to pass and run for 150 yards.
Johnson totaled 263 yards and three touchdowns in Utah’s 42-21 win over the Rebels on Sept. 6 in Salt Lake City.
Arnaud combined for 206 yards and four touchdowns in Iowa State’s 34-31 overtime loss to UNLV on Saturday.
UNR would seem to have plenty of areas to attack, but Ault said the Wolf Pack — even with a bye week to prepare — wouldn’t devise a special plan to take advantage of UNLV’s defensive weaknesses.
“We’re just going to run our offense,” Ault said. “We’re fortunate to have an athletic quarterback, but offensively speaking, we’re going to do what we can do.”
Some of the Rebels’ most maddening moments have come when the down and distance were seemingly in their defense’s favor.
On Utah State’s final touchdown drive, Borel converted a fourth-and-10 with a 31-yard completion and threw a TD pass on fourth-and-goal from the 6.
Utah faced a third-and-12 midway through the second quarter when Johnson escaped a sack and rushed 56 yards for a touchdown to wake up the Utes’ offense. Johnson passed to convert a third-and-8 and a third-and-5 on another scoring drive.
Iowa State kept alive its game-tying, 98-yard drive when the Rebels let Arnaud run 25 yards on fourth-and-2.
Rebels defensive coordinator Dennis Therrell expects UNLV to face some trying times against Kaepernick and the Wolf Pack and said how the Rebels respond could determine the game’s outcome.
“He’s what makes their offense go whether it’s scrambling or running the option,” Therrell said. “He may be the most athletic quarterback we’ve faced. We’re trying to come up with some schemes to control him. You’re not going to stop him.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914.