UNLV practiced Wednesday night at the new-look Sam Boyd Stadium, a place that often has felt like a neutral site for the Rebels.
First-year coach Tony Sanchez intends to change that, and the first true sign came earlier Wednesday when the school released a graphic of what the field will look like when UCLA visits Sept. 12 for the home football opener.
The field has a Las Vegas casino look with a take on the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign in both end zones and the yard markers in diamond form. The numbers already are painted on the turf, and the other elements will be added later.
These changes are part of Sanchez’s efforts to sell Las Vegas the city as well as UNLV the program, and he promotes both every chance he gets.
By doing so, maybe Sam Boyd truly can be the home stadium, which is a major reason the Rebels practiced there Wednesday.
“You talk to the guys, they’ve only been there six times a year,” Sanchez said. “They’re excited. We’ve got the new turf in. We’ve got Vegas diamonds on it, and we’ll be cranking the music just like we are here (at Rebel Park).”
Senior quarterback Blake Decker took the Wednesday morning session off during team periods while sophomore Kurt Palandech ran the first team. “We know where (Decker is) at,” Sanchez said. “We needed Kurt to come in and get more (repetitions).” Sanchez said Palandech has areas in which he needs to improve. “He’s just got to relax a little bit,” Sanchez said. “He’s more than capable. He’s a darn good runner. The biggest thing about him is he’s got to be sure of himself. He’s too hesitant in his decision making. He’s got to do a better job in his pre-snap read, and when he sees it, he’s got to go. He’s got to throw those balls into small windows and not be hesitant.” … Senior linebacker Najee Johnson didn’t practice because of turf toe on his right foot. … Sophomore defensive lineman Jacobie Russell will miss the first four games of the season because of “undisclosed reasons,” Sanchez said. … Incoming freshman running back Lexington Thomas had an electrifying 50-yard touchdown run. He quickly hit the hole in the middle and went all the way untouched. … UNLV takes today off for an event at Sam Boyd Stadium that is closed to the public.
Decker needs to cut down on the 18 interceptions he threw last season, but he also passed for 2,886 yards, the third-highest total in UNLV history.
Blake Decker Sr. 6-2 215
Kurt Palandech So. 6-2 185
Kevin Thomson Fr. 6-1 185
Dalton Sneed Fr. 6-0 185
Player Pos. Injury
Kyle Anderson TE Ankle
Najee Johnson LB Toe
Torry McTyer CB Knee
Marc Philippi FB Foot
Jeremiah Valoaga DE Foot