Class of 2016 Prospect Troy Baxter Considering UNLV

Dalton Sneed

Photo via Twitter.com/unlvfootball

Dalton Sneed was the shining star of UNLV’s much-needed 45-20 win over Fresno State on Saturday.

Now, there are some caveats. Fresno State is a terrible team, especially defensively, and Sneed hit on some big plays that may not exactly be consistently repeatable going forward (to say the least). But still, the freshman quarterback was undoubtedly the driving force behind securing a conference win, and that’s saying something.

The Rebels still have plenty of issues, with the defensive backfield in particular sounding the alarm. But for one week, at least, all of that is going to take a back seat to Sneedlemania.

A few assorted thoughts on Sneed and the Rebels’ overall performance:

Sneed starter?
There’s an old rule in football circles that a player can’t lose his job because of injury, but that rule has been broken so many times it’s a wonder anyone even refers to it anymore. And so, despite the fact that it was technically a knee injury that sent starter Johnny Stanton to the sideline and gave Sneed his chance, Sneed absolutely has an opportunity to secure the starting gig for the rest of the season, and on Saturday, he made his move toward seizing it.

In his first career start, the redshirt freshman wasn’t the game manager many expected. Instead, he made big play after big play, putting an avalanche of points on the board and giving the Rebels something to get excited about at the quarterback position. For the game, he finished just 8-of-16 for 129 yards, but his positive plays made a huge impact.

Sneed got his first touchdown pass out of the way early with a 61-yard bomb to freshman Elijah Trosclair:

And while that deep ball announced his arrival, Sneed really made his mark with his legs, sparking the offense several times with acrobatic runs:

And then he did this beautiful thing:

Sneed’s 91-yard scramble (which was more like a 102-yard run, if you count the total yardage after he backpedaled into his own end zone) was the longest play from scrimmage in UNLV history and pretty much gave the coaching staff a heart attack, to hear Tony Sanchez recount it.

“I think [offensive coordinator Barney Cotton] said, ‘What’s he doing, what’s he doing?'” Sanchez said. “Then I said, ‘He’s getting the first down.’ Then I said ‘Oh my god, he’s scoring a touchdown’…He put us on his back on that play.”

Sneed finished with 147 yards on 15 carries, and even if you take out the God-like touchdown run, he still managed a respectable 56 yards on the ground.

So is all that enough to say the Rebels should roll with Sneed the rest of the way? If Stanton were healthy next week, I’d guess that Sneed would keep the job. But that’s a hypothetical situation. As it stands, Sneed will get another two or three weeks to audition for the full-time gig, including a much tougher test next week at San Diego State.

Williams workmanlike
Sneed wasn’t the only freshman to enjoy a breakout performance against the agreeable Fresno State defense. Running back Charles Williams, a Fresno native, racked up a team-high 153 yards on 18 carries, and the Rebels needed all of that production on a night when usual workhorse back Lexington Thomas managed just 19 yards.

Whereas Thomas seemed to struggle to break through the line of scrimmage, Williams burst through arm tackles with regularity and rolled downhill to the tune of 8.5 yards per carry. He also added some spectacular highlights of his own:

Williams is now averaging 6.4 yards per carry on the season. Thomas won’t be stymied to this degree very often, but still, look for UNLV to work Williams into the game plan as the true freshman gets more comfortable.

Deep ball concerns
The Rebels are still having issues in the secondary, and they’re pretty scary. The defensive backs can’t seem to figure out how to play the deep ball, and on Saturday they were lucky that Fresno State didn’t attack down the field more aggressively.

Fresno quarterback Chason Virgil completed 16-of-45 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder to Aaron Peck (five catches, 194 yards). He also hooked up with Peck for a 52-yarder over the top of cornerback Tim Hough, who had tight coverage on the play but never turned to locate the ball, allowing Peck to stop and elevate for an easy catch. Hough also got tagged for a pass interference on another deep ball in the third quarter because he didn’t locate the ball.

After the way they’ve been carved up at Central Michigan, picked apart by Idaho and now victimized by the lowly Fresno State passing attack, fixing the back end of the defense has to be the top priority for UNLV.

Vegas Seven

DTLV

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