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Scouting UNLV: BYU has owned series against the Rebels

November 9, 2017 GMT

Location: Las Vegas, Nev.

Facilities: Sam Boyd Stadium (35,500)

Coach: Tony Sanchez (3rd season)

2017 Record: 4-5, 3-3 MWC West

Series: BYU is 16-3 against UNLV all-time and 8-0 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

What’s the big deal?

BYU has owned UNLV lately, having won seven in a row against the Rebels. The Cougars are a perfect 8-0 at Sam Boyd Stadium. But in a year BYU is 2-8, just about anything goes on Friday in Vegas.

Cougar fans usually flock to Sam Boyd Stadium when BYU comes to town, but will they this year? With three games left, UNLV is pushing hard to become bowl eligible and needs two wins to get there. The Cougars are playing out the string in their final three games with pride their only motivation. With all the problems, injuries and losses, can the BYU coaches keep the players focused and excited to keep playing? This is uncharted territory for the Cougar football program.

Numbers to ponder

This is the third Friday night game of the year for BYU. … BYU and UNLV have three common opponents — San Jose State, Fresno State and Utah State. The Cougars are 1-2 in those games, UNLV 2-1. … 36 different BYU players have missed significant time due to injury — 24 from the two-deep and 13 starters.

He said it

“Yeah, it’s a good feeling (back-to-back wins). But we don’t want to take this game too lightly, (and we) don’t want to get caught up in the success. (We need to) just keep that mindset of grinding out the week.” — UNLV defensive lineman Mike Hughes Jr.

What you need to know about the Rebels

One thing the Rebels do really well is run the ball, averaging 252.6 yards per game. Junior Lexington Thomas isn’t big (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) but his numbers are impressive: 1,063 yards, 6.6 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns. Freshman Armani Rogers started out well at quarterback for UNLV but has had concussion issues. That’s provided an opportunity for senior Johnny Stanton, who led the Rebels to wins over Fresno State and Hawaii. He’s got some good receivers in Devonte Boyd (26 catches, 493 yards, 2 TDs), Brandon Presley (24-373-2) and Kendel Keys (22-214-2). UNLV is averaging 30.1 points per game and it will be a challenge for the BYU defense to slow the Rebels down.

Defensively, UNLV has struggled. The Rebels are 104th in third-down percentage defense (.444), 124th in sacks (11 total) and giving up 32.4 points per game.

BYU might be able to make some big plays on special teams, where UNLV is plain awful. The Rebels are dead last in the country in net punting (29.5 per kick), 126th in punt return defense (15.43 yards per return) and 124th in kickoff returns (16.77).

Sanchez’s Final Word

“We’d love to keep the momentum and stacking the wins all the way through the end of the year. But I think if you try and do it all at once it becomes a big heavy weight, so we’re just going to carry the weight of BYU this week and worry about the next one when it comes.”