UNLV needs to refocus again on road Friday at New Mexico

UNLV has been here. This football season, in fact. More than once.

The Rebels responded to a potentially devastating season-opening loss to Howard with a 28-point victory at Idaho a week later.

They came back from wrenching defeats to Air Force and Utah State by beating Fresno State and Hawaii.

Two of those three victories came on the road.

And here the Rebels are again, off a 31-21 home loss to Brigham Young, needing to win back-to-back away games to make a bowl. UNLV (4-6, 3-3 Mountain West) next visits New Mexico (3-7, 1-5) at 6:30 p.m. Friday in a game that will be televised by ESPN2.

“There are a lot of distractions at home,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said Tuesday. “There are a lot of people around, people in the stands, family, friends, and those are good things. We’ve got to do a better job of being mature and understanding how to eliminate that during games.

“When you’re on the road, those things don’t really exist. It’s just you. Everybody who’s on the road is suited up and playing. There’s a different mindset in the locker room, so it’s one of those evolutions here of building a program and doing a good job of eliminating distractions at home. On the road, we’re locked in and play really good football, so I expect to do that again. Hopefully, we can continue that trend we started as of late.”

Johnny Stanton has started the past three games at quarterback, but Sanchez wouldn’t commit to a starter against the Lobos, who are favored by 2½ points. Sanchez said Stanton and Armani Rogers probably would play.

Stanton has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 724 yards and four touchdowns. Rogers has completed 52.5 percent for 1,100 yards and five TDs, and he has rushed for 538 yards (5.5 per carry) and six scores.

“There are going to be more quarterback run opportunities than there were last week,” Sanchez said. “We knew there weren’t going to be a lot of quarterback run opportunities against BYU. We’re working through it throughout the week and developing a game plan we think is going to give us the best chance for success.”

The Rebels face a Lobos team that won nine games last season and made the New Mexico Bowl for the second year in a row. This season, however, has gone the other way, with New Mexico on a five-game losing streak.

Should UNLV beat the Lobos, the Rebels will need to win the following weekend at UNR to become bowl eligible.

It’s a tough spot they’ve put themselves in, but in this unpredictable season, the one constant has been the Rebels’ ability to respond to adversity.

Particularly on the road.

“When we go into the huddle after our pregame warmup, we always say, ‘You’ve got my back. I’ve got your back,’” Rebels wide receiver Brandon Presley said. “It’s always the team against that entire stadium. It’s just a different environment.”

More Rebels: Follow all of our UNLV coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJRebels on Twitter.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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