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UNLV stagnant in 38-13 loss to No. 16 Boise State

Updated October 6, 2019 - 12:29 am

UNLV changed quarterbacks during the week, but the Rebels are still trying to figure out how to get their offense moving.

Quarterback Kenyon Oblad struggled to get into an early rhythm Saturday night, and the Rebels went on to lose 38-13 to No. 16 Boise State at Sam Boyd Stadium.

The loss was the fourth straight for the Rebels (1-4, 0-2 Mountain West). They play at Vanderbilt next Saturday.

Boise State improved to 5-0 and 2-0 in the conference.

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. The problems go beyond quarterback.

Oblad, playing in place of usual starter Armani Rogers (sprained knee), looked overwhelmed at times. By halftime, he had completed just 5 of 17 passes for 32 yards, and the Rebels were outgained 339 yards to 111. He played better in the second half and finished 24 of 55 for 262 yards and two touchdowns.

“I could be a lot better,” Oblad said. “It was good to be out there for my first start and see how it is playing a whole game.

“In the second half, I settled down and got more comfortable.”

The knock on Rogers has been his accuracy, especially with passes downfield. But at least Rogers could make plays with his feet, and coach Tony Sanchez said he might play both quarterbacks to take advantage of their different strengths. Rogers, Sanchez said, is at about 65 or 70 percent in his recovery.

“I’m tired of us losing, so however we want to win, let’s get it done,” Oblad said of possibly sharing snaps.

Both quarterbacks have had difficulty with receivers who have problems creating separation, and the occasional dropped pass has done nothing to help matters.

Because opponents don’t fear the passing game, they have been able to shut down UNLV’s run game, which has gone missing since the second quarter of the Sept. 14 game at Northwestern.

The offensive line also has disappointed. Coaches shuffled starters during the week, but against Boise State, those changes felt like the old line about shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Sanchez, though, said he thought the changes helped the line hold up against a quality Boise State defensive front.

The effect of the change in offensive coordinators can’t be overlooked. The Rebels’ offense had an identity under Barney Cotton, who had to step aside in July because he needs a heart transplant. UNLV hasn’t found one under Garin Justice.

“There are some hard conversations we’re going to have to have in the staff room about some of the things we’re going to do, and we’re going to do some things a little differently,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of returning guys. I know there’s a lot on Garin’s plate, and I’ve got to help with that. The transition there was definitely tough, and I think you’re starting to see in these tough games down the stretch, figuring things out offensively, that change definitely hurt a little bit. But I know we can come back and fix it.”

2. The countdown continues.

UNLV is inching closer to seven losses and a losing season. With what remains a demanding schedule, the Rebels will reach that number soon barring some sort of startling turnaround.

That means the talk about Sanchez’s future will only intensify, especially since athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois made clear after last season that she expected bowl eligibility. He already was asked about his future at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Fertitta Football Complex, and the topic has hung over the entire season.

UNLV’s players have heard the speculation, but they have played hard. Still, how such talk affects them will help determine how well they play in the second half of the season.

3. The Las Vegas Bowl will miss Boise State.

About 8,000 Broncos fans attended the game, making Sam Boyd Stadium busier than usual.

Boise State fans have done a good job of supporting the Las Vegas Bowl over the years, too, but the Broncos might have played in their final one. They last appeared two years ago, defeating Oregon 38-28.

Boise State is the top Group of Five school at this point to make a New Year’s Six bowl this season, which would keep the Broncos out of Las Vegas even if they win the Mountain West title. And this year’s Las Vegas Bowl is the final one involving a Mountain West team.

The bowl moves to Allegiant Stadium next year and will match a Pac-12 Conference team against one from the Big Ten or Southeastern conferences.

More Rebels: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

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

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