Good news has been tough to come by for UNLV the past two weeks, so word that running back Lexington Thomas’ head injury was not serious was especially welcome.
Thomas, who was injured in Saturday’s 59-28 loss at Utah State, is probable for Friday’s 7 p.m. game against Air Force at Sam Boyd Stadium. Coach Tony Sanchez said that a decision will be made by Wednesday.
“He was pretty clear right after that hit during the game,” Sanchez said Monday. “We weren’t going to put him back in. He jumped on the bike and was very communicative with the medical staff. He came in Sunday and had no symptoms at all. He looked really good today. Obviously didn’t practice, but he was clear in the meeting and all that.”
UNLV (2-4, 0-2 Mountain West) has a short week to prepare for Air Force (2-4, 0-3) and its tough-to-defend triple option offense. The Falcons are 13-point favorites in the game that will be televised by CBS Sports Network.
Having Thomas likely available is a big plus.
He has rushed for 552 yards this season, the second back in school history to reach at least 500 yards all four seasons. Tim Cornett (2010-13) is the other player. Thomas also is third in school history with 3,040 career yards.
His production has dropped off with quarterback Armani Rogers out with a toe injury. With Rogers in the lineup, Thomas averaged 116.3 yards through the first four games. Rogers averaged 122 yards, making it difficult for defenses to key on Thomas.
Without Rogers, Thomas has rushed for 87 yards combined over the past two games, though Thomas did have 51 yards on 12 carries before going out early in the third quarter against Utah State.
Rogers was injured in the 27-20 loss at Arkansas State on Sept. 22 and is believed to be out for about another month, but he will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
“He’s not anywhere near being cleared next week or anything like that, but he looks good,” Sanchez said. “The swelling’s gone down, and the level of comfort has come up. We’re hoping that thing is stable and we get some good news (Tuesday).
“He was having a heck of a year. He was sitting there the No. 8 rusher in the country when he went out. So it’s a shame to see a guy work that hard (and get hurt). On the flip side, it’s a great opportunity for Max (Gilliam).”
Gilliam will make his third consecutive start. He has completed 47.2 percent of his passes for 373 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. All five touchdown passes occurred in the second half of the past two games.
“It was good to see Max as the game went on throw the ball better,” Sanchez said. “He started to hit some guys. For us to win games when Max is in there, Max is going to have to be productive throwing the football. Regardless of who’s in there. Armani would’ve had to be productive. But it’s even more so with Max just based on skill set.”