Desert Donnybrook! UNLV Rebels Battle The Arkansas State Red Wolves
Last year’s clash was a sloppy mess in the wind and rain with the Red Wolves coming out on top.
Armani Rogers, the multi-threat signal caller for the UNLV Rebels, arrived to Jonesboro last year on a magic carpet of mystique. The Rebels had averaged 48 points their last two games, with Rogers accounting for 9 TDs (five rushing, four passing). Nobody knew how Arkansas State was going to handle him.
Turned out, Hurricane Wind & Rain became the 12th Man for the Red Wolves, reducing Rogers to just five completions for 23 yards and three picks. Rogers did manage 181 yards and a score on the ground, but the Red Wolves defense put on the brakes to hold on for a messy 27-20 victory.
The game time forecast for Saturday’s game: 94ºF and sunny.
Them Rebels Can Run
UNLV’s ground game ranked 29th in the nation last season, racking up 4.9 yards per carry. That attack was led partially by Rogers (though he spent much of the season injured) but mostly by RB Lexington Thomas, who put up 1,000+ yards and a dozen scores.
Today. Lexington is gone, but junior Charles Williams looked strong in the Week One opener against Southern Utah, gaining 143 yards and 3 TDs on just 15 carries. Rogers (all healthy again) wasn’t stationary either – he put up 114 yards and two TDs as well. The combo of Williams and Rogers will keep the Red Wolves run defenses busy all evening.
Them Rebs Ain’t Much For Throwing
In the Week One matchup against SMU, Red Wolves quarterback Logan Bonner chucked the ball a whopping 50 times for 324 yards and four TDs. By contrast, against an FCS team that went 1-10 last season, Rogers totaled 144 yards on just 11 attempts (one TD, no picks).
Will Armani Rogers choose to mix up the formula more evenly against a Red Wolves secondary that invites short yardage plays? Or will they stick to the Rebel Way, which is to mercilessly grind out yards behind Mountain West preseason all-conference beef-muffin Justin Polu? I’m guessing beef muffins.
What SMU Revealed About Arkansas State
As mentioned above, the Red Wolves will throw, with Logan Bonner feeling pretty confident even behind an offensive line that performed inconsistently against the Mustangs. Red Wolves senior receiver Omar Bayless snagged all four of Bonner’s TD passes. He and junior Brandon Bowling accounted for 69% (#nice) of Bonner’s passing yards. The pass game could use a bit more diversity.
Enter Dahu Green and Kirk Merritt, two wild and crazy guys looking to catch some footballs. Green, who missed Week One with a gimpy ankle, and Merritt, who was knocked out of Week One on a targeting call, are both expected in the lineup on Saturday, giving Bonner two of the team’s most explosive offense weapons.
Also looking to make an impact: sophomore running back Marcel Murray, who ran a pedestrian 77 yards versus SMU. A revived Murray is needed to help balance the Red Wolves attack.
On defense, bend-don’t-break was clearly the initiative in Week One, with the cornerbacks providing plenty of space when operating between the 20s. Rogers may be inclined to take advantage here, moving the chains with short passes.
Like This Game is on Facebook, You Guys
Would I rather this game be broadcast on ESPN during prime time? Sure. Is it, instead, being broadcast on the same social network your aunt uses to expose the Deep State? Yes. Honestly, who cares? I am a citizen of the Sun Belt. I’ve perused darker corners.
You can find the game by clicking this link, I think.
The Final Analysis
The Red Wolves passing attack may be the perfect weapon against the Rebels, who are thought to struggle in the secondary. It’s hard to measure a performance against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, who finished 2018 with a 1-10 record. But the Thunderbirds did rack up nearly 300 passing yards against the Rebs, without a single pass picked. Bonner looks to be in a good day.
However, the end result may come down to how well Arkansas State stops the run. SMU only put up 148 yards rushing, but the Mustangs were finding their yards with the pass. Saturday will be the Red Wolves first real test against a meaty rush.
It should be a real game of bombers vs tanks in the desert.
Arkansas State Red Wolves @ UNLV Rebels, Saturday, 9:00 PM on Facebook, the natural network for sports.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.