Loss stirs doubt in pro­gram di­rec­tion

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - REBELS REPLAY - By Mark An­der­son Con­tact Mark An­der­son at man­der­son@re­viewjour­nal.com. Fol­low @markan­der­son65 on Twit­ter.

Three take­aways from UNLV’s 50-14 loss to New Mex­ico on Sat­ur­day at Sam Boyd Sta­dium:

1 UNLV is in trou­ble.

This was sup­posed to be the sea­son to take the next step and make a bowl and set the stage to com­pete for the Moun­tain West ti­tle in 2019, and then UNLV could take mo­men­tum into the new sta­dium the fol­low­ing year.

Get­ting blown off the field by New Mex­ico changes the en­tire pic­ture, be­cause even with­out quar­ter­back Ar­mani Rogers (toe), this is a team the Rebels should have beaten if they were se­ri­ous about mak­ing a bowl.

San Diego State took a backup quar­ter­back and run­ning back into Boise State and beat the de­fend­ing con­fer­ence cham­pion 19-13 on Sat­ur­day.

UNLV’s loss was bad on many lev­els, from com­ing out flat af­ter a bye week to be­ing out of sync in all three phases.

“We know we’re a bet­ter foot­ball team than that,” Rebels coach Tony Sanchez said. “It doesn’t feel like it right now. We feel like we’re a pretty damn bad foot­ball team right now. We’re all em­bar­rassed. I’m em­bar­rassed, and our play­ers are em­bar­rassed.

“We’ve got to fig­ure out where our lead­er­ship’s com­ing from. It starts with me, and it goes to our se­nior class, and there wasn’t a lot of it to­day.”

A sea­son of hope quickly be­came one of de­spair and doubt about where this pro­gram is head­ing. This is not where UNLV should be at this point in a coach’s fourth sea­son, get­ting dom­i­nated by a team led by a coach whose job has been in ques­tion.

“We’re all dis­ap­pointed by this loss,” Rebels ath­letic di­rec­tor De­siree Reed-Fran­cois said. “You heard coach say it. We have a lot of foot­ball left to play when we look at the pro­gram and the sea­son in its en­tirety. We’re only in game five, so we’ve got to re­group, and we’re go­ing to fo­cus on Utah State.”

2 No Rogers, no ground game.

Op­po­nents had to ac­count for whether Rogers (av­er­ag­ing 122 yards rush­ing) or Lex­ing­ton Thomas (116.2) would carry the ball. With­out Rogers, New Mex­ico wasn’t wor­ried about what Max Gil­liam would do at quar­ter­back and loaded the box.

UNLV rushed for 43 yards; the Rebels were av­er­ag­ing 336.5. Thomas rushed for 36 yards on six car­ries, but 26 came on one run.

“You’ve got to run harder, and I talked to him about that,” Sanchez said. “It’s not only him, it’s ev­ery­thing, and we talked to our guys about it.”

3 UNLV must con­sider play­ing Kenyon Oblad.

Sanchez said once the game got away, he didn’t want to in­sert the fresh­man backup quar­ter­back in case he could still red­shirt. Play­ers can ap­pear in four games and pre­serve a sea­son of el­i­gi­bil­ity.

“Kenyon’s prob­a­bly go­ing to play at some point this year,” Sanchez said. “If (Rogers) doesn’t (re­turn), he may end up play­ing more than four games. We’ll see. If Ar­mani does, you can use Kenyon in four games and not have to get into the fifth. That’s the best-case sce­nario for the pro­gram.”

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