Rebels Take Care of Business in Week 1 Win over Jackson State

UNLV defensive back Tory McTyer runs a Jackson State University interception back for a touchdown during their game Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. UNLV won the game 63-13. CREDIT: Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Photo by Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

UNLV was expected to look awesome in Thursday night’s season opener against Jackson State. After all, JSU is a bad non-Division I team from a bad conference, and the Rebels deservedly came in favored by 40ish points.

So while UNLV did in fact look awesome, rolling to an easy 63-13 victory, it’s important to keep the performance in perspective. The Rebels were bigger, faster, stronger and deeper at just about every position, and it showed on the field from the opening kick. That’s not going to be the case every week.

Still, it was a good show. Johnny Stanton was the headliner for UNLV, as the newly-minted starting quarterback tossed up a superstar stat line (10-of-12 passing, 217 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions) while leading the Rebels on six scoring drives. Devonte Boyd racked up 135 receiving yards and hauled in all three of Stanton’s TD passes, and the defense even got in on the action, scoring a pair of touchdowns on a fumble recovery and an interception return. It was an all-around beating, and the Rebels do deserve credit for taking care of business and not allowing things to become competitive at any point. For UNLV, that counts as progress.

And while there was clearly a talent discrepancy, that doesn’t mean the game was meaningless from an analysis standpoint. A few takeaways as the Rebels move to 1-0 on the season:

QB play
Stanton’s first career start could not have gone any better. The offensive line was dominant up front, opening up huge running lanes and forcing JSU to commit to stopping the run, and that left Stanton with clean pockets and plenty of time to pick apart the Tigers’ overmatched secondary.

That being said, Stanton still had to make the throws, and the 6-foot-2 junior was super efficient, completing 10 of his 12 attempts for 217 yards (18.1 yards per attempt) and three touchdowns. The Rebels made it a point to get the ball to junior wide receiver Devonte Boyd early, and Stanton delivered, connecting with his No. 1 option four times for 135 yards. Boyd caught all three of Stanton’s TD passes:

Stanton finally exited in the fourth quarter with the Rebels up big, and redshirt freshman Dalton Sneed got the call to mop up. The move was a bit of a surprise, as junior backup Kurt Palandech was expected to receive snaps, but a minor arm injury kept him on the sideline.

Running game
As we touched on above, the UNLV offensive line was dominant at the point of attack, and every running back who touched the ball was a beneficiary of the superlative blocking. Lexington Thomas got the start and set the tone, rushing for 68 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Thomas was able to consistently burst into the second level untouched—a credit to the O-line—and from there, the slippery sophomore was able to break off chunks of yardage:

When Thomas was done for the night, freshman Charles Williams got his turn. Williams carried 12 times and piled up a team-high 96 yards, including the first touchdown of his career:

For the game, UNLV rushed 44 times for a whopping 280 yards.

Defense chips in
While the offense put on a show, the defense wasn’t quite as dominant. Missed tackles, lack of pass rush and some lapses in coverage allowed JSU to mount a pair of scoring drives in the first half. A couple splash plays in the second half made up for it, as defensive tackle Nick Dehdashtian recovered a fumble in the end zone and cornerback Tory McTyer jumped a sideline route and returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown:

Without those plays, there would be a bit more concern about the performance of the defense in Week 1. But the numbers look good—the Rebels held JSU to 17-of-43 passing (39.5 percent) and 108 rushing yards on 35 carries (3.1 yards per carry)—and the coaching staff will now have nine days to fix the other stuff before UNLV travels to take on UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 10.

Vegas Seven

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