UNLV (2-2) at New Mexico (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 8:08 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Stadium (39,224) -- Albuquerque, New Mexico. Television: ROOT Sports. Home Record: UNLV 2-1, New Mexico 0-1. Away Record: UNLV 0-1, New Mexico 1-1. Neutral Record: UNLV 0-0, New Mexico 0-0. Conference Record: UNLV 0-0, New Mexico 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 10-10.
GAME NOTES: It will be a showdown in the desert when the UNLV Rebels clash with the New Mexico Lobos in a Mountain West Conference battle at University Stadium.
After dropping their first two games of the season, UNLV has rebounded in its last two, with wins over Central Michigan (31-21) and FCS foe Western Illinois (38-7) in consecutive weeks. This will be the MWC opener for the Rebels, who are looking to break a bad habit they have had in league play the last three years. Since 2010 UNLV is just 5-18 against other teams in the MWC.
New Mexico return home to Albuquerque after a difficult trip across the country. The Lobos traveled into unfamiliar territory to face Pittsburgh two weeks ago and suffered a 49-27 setback. The Lobos are sporting just a 1-2 record as they enter the league schedule, and like the Rebels, have struggled in conference play recently with just three wins in the previous three seasons.
Last season UNLV rolled New Mexico in a 35-7 victory behind 530 yards of total offense. The win was the fourth in the last five meetings for UNLV and evened the all-time series at 10 wins apiece.
There has certainly been a nice balance to the Rebels' offense this season, although that does mot mean heavy production. UNLV is averaging 384 total yards of offense per game with a slight preference for passing (195 ypg) over rushing (189 ypg).
Nick Sherry and Caleb Herring have shared quarterback duties but it seems like Herring has finally won that battle. Herring has made all but one passing attempt in the last two games and has now completed 42 of-54 for the season, totaling 420 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Sherry had struggled, throwing five picks as the starter.
Herring has developed a nice rapport with Devante Davis, who has proven to be a reliable receiver with big-play ability. Davis has 309 receiving yards on just 18 receptions and has found his way into the end zone five times. Maika Mataele (14 receptions, 24 yards) is the only other player with more than 10 catches or 100 yards.
Tim Cornett (69 carries, 319 yards, four TDs) has been the primary back out of the Rebels' backfield. However, Shaquille Lawrence-Murray has shown plenty of promise with 265 yards on just 22 carries. Both will have opportunities on Saturday.
The defensive side of the ball has been a weak point for the Rebels. UNLV is allowing fewer yards (378.5 ypg) then it gains but is being outscored by more than a touchdown, as foes are putting up 34.6 points per game. An inability to stop foes from converting on third down (30-of-66) and in the red zone (13- of-16) has hurt the Rebels.
Tyler Gaston has handled most of the pass rushing duties himself, with a team- high three sacks. Meanwhile, Peni Vea (32 tackles) and Tim Hasson (30 tackles) have been the most efficient defenders in terms of tackles.
Balanced has not been a word that accurately describes New Mexico's offense. The Lobos are averaging 343.3 yards per game, but have just 229 yards through the air overall. That is fewer than the Lobos are averaging per game on the ground (267.0 ypg).
Kasey Carrier has one of the more fitting names in college football, as he has been the primary rusher for the Lobos. Carrier has totaled 367 yards and four touchdowns on 68 carries. He currently leads the MWC in rushing yards (122.3 ypg).
Clayton Mitchem took the majority of the snaps at quarterback for the Lobos last time out. He has completed 14-of-27 pass attempts for 171 yards this season , while totaling 50 yards and two scores on the ground. Cole Gautsche (4-of-13, 65 yards) will also get time under center as he has rushed for 168 yards on 26 carries, both totals good enough for second on the roster.
On defense New Mexico has been near the middle of the pack in the MWC. The Lobos rank ninth in points allowed (35.0 ppg) and seventh in total defense (440.8 ypg). The Lobos have had issues in creating negative plays, as they are tied for last in the league with just nine tackles for loss.
Dallas Bollema (21 tackles, INT), David Guthrie (16 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack) and Dante Caro (19 tackles, INT) are the major playmakers for this defensive unit.
A year ago when UNLV glided past New Mexico, the Rebels still had Sherry under center as well as Davis and Cornett at the skill positions. Not much has changed this season, except for an upgrade at quarterback for the Rebels. This game will be a closer one, but still one that favors the Rebels.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNLV 24, New Mexico 21
09/25 10:37:03 ET