Offensive Line Grades: Week 6

Pocket

On UNLV’s opening drive against San Jose State on Saturday, the Rebels handed off five times. On those five plays, the running backs gained 49 yards, including George Naufahu’s 1-yard touchdown dive to put UNLV up 7-0.

It was an impressive march, as the backs averaged 9.8 yards per carry on the drive. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the running game could not come close to sustaining that level of production throughout the course of the game. After the first drive, UNLV running backs got 25 carries and totaled just 90 yards—an average of 3.6 yards per carry.

The ineffectiveness of the ground game forced the UNLV coaches to call more than 30 pass plays for quarterback Kurt Palandech, who was starting only because first-stringer Blake Decker was out with an injury. Palandech finished 15-of-30 with a pair of interceptions, including one bad pick inside the red zone that likely took points off the board for UNLV.

After re-watching the game, I think it’s fair to say the offensive line was responsible for the struggles on the ground, which in turn led to an over-reliance on Palandech’s passing. Take a look at the blocking grades:

Offensive line grades vs. San Jose State

Player Position Snaps Positive pass plays Negative pass plays Positive run plays Negative run plays Total
Kyle Saxelid LT 80 +9 0 +2 -5 +6
Eric Noone LG 76 +1 -3 +5 -3 0
Will Kreitler C 80 +1 -3 +3 -2 -1
Nick Gstrein RG 72 +1 -3 +2 -2 -2
J’Ondray Sanders RT 73 +4 -3 +2 0 +3
Chris Lopez RG/LG 12 0 -1 +2 0 +2
Patrick Carroll RT 7 +1 0 +1 0 +2

Ironically, the Rebels’ pass blocking was better than it has been in any other game this season, though Palandech struggled to take advantage of it. As pointed out in my Game Rewind piece, Palandech had a perfect pocket on his costly first-quarter interception.

Left tackle Kyle Saxelid was flawless in pass protection, with nine positive plays and zero negative plays. But the interior linemen—left guard Eric Noone, center Will Kreitler and right guard Nick Gstrein—took a step backward from last week’s performance against Nevada-Reno. That trio recorded a cumulative +3 in the run game after posting a +16 last week.

For the season, Saxelid is still the rated as the Rebels’ top offensive lineman:

Offensive line grades through six weeks

Player Position Snaps Positive pass plays Negative pass plays Positive run plays Negative run plays Total
Kyle Saxelid LT 348 +21 -10 +10 -9 +12
Eric Noone LG 332 +4 -9 +21 -11 +5
Will Kreitler C 354 +3 -8 +20 -10 +5
Chris Lopez RG 220 +1 -14 +6 -8 -14
J’Ondray Sanders RT 324 +12 -17 +13 -3 +5
Nick Gstrein RG 138 +2 -3 +9 -5 +3
Patrick Carroll RT 30 1 -1 1 0 +1
Alex Neale LG 18 0 -2 +1 0 -1
Nathan Jacobson LT 6 0 -2 0 0 -2

For the season, UNLV running backs have carried 191 times for 1,052 yards (5.5 yards per carry). With Palandech slated to start again on Friday against Fresno State, look for the Rebels to try to fire up the running game again.

Vegas Seven

DTLV

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