Moving forward, that’s something we have to evaluate — which quarterback gives us the best chance to win. —Utah State head coach Matt Wells
LOGAN — After dropping two out of three games during their recent homestand, it feels like the Aggies will be putting all of their cards on the table Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas.
Utah State (3-4, 1-2 MWC) now has very little wiggle room left in its quest for six victories and bowl eligibility, thanks to back-to-back losses to Colorado State and Wyoming. And while the Aggies have a history of handling UNLV on the gridiron — USU has won three in a row, and 12 of its last 15 games against its longtime Big West and Mountain West rivals — this year’s version of the Rebels (2-4, 1-2) is very capable of putting some points on the scoreboard.
“This is a team that the first thing that jumps out at you are the guys on offense,” USU coach Matt Wells said of Rebels. “The quarterback (Armani) Rogers, the tailback and wide receiver, they are all very talented.”
A four-star ESPN recruit out of the Los Angeles area, Rogers is a redshirt freshman who can cause trouble for opposing defenses with both his arm and his feet. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback heads into this weekend’s action ranked sixth in the conference in both passing yards (171.0) and rushing yards (76.7) per game.
“Their QB is long and athletic and really talented,” Wells said. “I know you don’t want to let him get outside of the pocket.”
In addition, UNLV boasts the Mountain West’s third-leading rusher in junior Lexington Thomas (99 carries for 716 yards and 10 touchdowns), and one of the league’s top deep threats in senior wide receive Devonte Boyd (200 receptions for 415 yards and two TDs).
Overall, Tony Sanchez’s offense is second in the league in rushing offense (265.7 ypg) and fourth in total offense (436.7 ypg) and scoring offense (31.0 ppg). But much like the Aggies this season, inconsistency has been an issue, particularly last week when the Rebels blew a 27-0 halftime lead at Air Force on their way to a 34-30 defeat.
“That’s an emotional roller coaster for a team to go through,” Wells noted. “To have that big of a lead, lose it and try and get it back. At the end, you think you have it back and Air Force scores at the end to win the game. There are some emotional swings. We’ve certainly gone through ours.”
While the Aggies’ 23-16 lead early in the fourth quarter certainly wasn’t as substantial as UNLV’s at Colorado Springs, Utah State also failed to close out a victory in its first tight contest of the season. In the 28-23 loss to the Cowboys, Wells started senior quarterback Kent Myers, then plugged in Jordan Love in the second quarter and continued with the redshirt freshman until he threw back-to-back interceptions to open the second half.
Myers returned in the third quarter, but was unable to ignite the Aggie offense down the stretch, and neither Myers (11 for 20 for 94 yards) nor Love (8 for 18 for 109 yards and three interceptions) ended up with a very good stat line.
But Wells said two of Love’s interceptions were “scheme things that he had never seen before” and weren’t unusual for a young quarterback to struggle with, and that he liked how Myers handled the situation and had “probably his best drive of the night” after he was put back into the game.
“Moving forward, that’s something we have to evaluate — which quarterback gives us the best chance to win,” Wells said when asked about the Aggies’ quarterback situation heading into Saturday’s game at Sam Boyd Stadium. “We have to evaluate playing them both, playing one of them, sticking with Kent, moving onto Jordan or playing them as a combination. We’ll make the decision moving forward.”
Potentially working in the Aggies’ favor is UNLV’s defense, which is ninth in the conference in pass defense at 239.0 ypg and 11th in total defense at 484.3 ypg.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Utah State owns a 15-7 all-time advantage over the Rebels, including a 7-4 record in games played in Las Vegas.