Offense Unresponsive in Loss at San Diego State

Dalton Sneed

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UNLV’s offense was shut out in an ugly loss at San Diego State on Saturday, as the defense accounted for the Rebels’ only score in a 26-7 beatdown.

Freshman quarterback Dalton Sneed was completely overwhelmed in the his second career start, completing just 2-of-12 passes for nine (!!!) yards, and the ground game didn’t provide much support, as the running back duo of Lexington Thomas and Charles Williams managed just 48 yards on 18 combined carries.

For the game, San Diego State outgained UNLV 460-122 in total yardage, and the Aztecs won the time of possession battle, 38:02-21:58.

A few quick thoughts on the loss, which dropped UNLV to 2-4:

Sequel blues
Dalton Sneed provided a spark last week against Fresno State, making big plays with his arm and his legs and generally raising the excitement factor of the offense. It was a breath of fresh air for the Rebels. Against a much better San Diego State defense, however, there was only despair.

The horrors began early, as Sneed’s first pass was intercepted when he severely underthrew a deep route. It didn’t get much better from there. He didn’t complete a single pass in the first half and finished the game just 2-of-12. With no viable passing game to speak of—Sneed was working with an injury-thinned receiving corps—it was a miracle that UNLV even converted five of their 14 third-down opportunities.

It was a demoralizing performance from the entire offense and a terrible showing from Sneed, but I still think he’ll get the starting nod next week over Kurt Palandech. Sneed brings more upside to the offense with his running/scrambling ability, and he should find the Hawaii defense to be more agreeable. Another bomb like this could put his job in jeopardy though.

Defense tires
The final score may not reflect it, but the Rebels’ put forth one of their most spirited defensive performances of the season. The focus was on slowing down Heisman candidate Donnel Pumphrey, and UNLV did a pretty good job of it (relatively). The Rebels didn’t stop Pumphrey, but they did make him work for it, limiting the nation’s leading rusher to 141 yards on 31 carries (4.5 yards per carry, more than two yards below his season average of 7.7 coming into the game).

Tau Lotulelei was the star, as the senior linebacker played one of the best games of his career. Lotulelei was a monster in stopping the run, crashing downhill on just about every play and doing damage at or behind the line of scrimmage.

And even when San Diego State managed to get a blocker on him, Lotulelei did stuff like this:

Lotulelei finished with 11 tackles (four solo) and three tackles for loss. The defense also provided the Rebels’ only points, as Dominic Baldwin’s 20-yard fumble return actually gave UNLV a pulse by cutting the SDSU lead to 10-7 in the second quarter:

Football is a complementary game, however, and UNLV’s offense did nothing to help the defense. The Rebels’ offense couldn’t stay on the field, which allowed San Diego State to run 25 more plays than UNLV (74-49). Lotulelei and the rest of the defense eventually tired, and SDSU was able to tack on a pair of touchdowns in the second half to put the game out of reach.

No run
The Rebels came into the game with one of the top 10 rushing attacks in the country, but they were unable to gain any traction against San Diego State. Sophomore running back Lexington Thomas produced 27 yards on nine carries, and freshman Charles Williams contributed 21 yards on nine carries. As a team, UNLV finished with a scant 113 rushing yards, and 56 of those yards came from Sneed, who was often running for his life.

This is the second straight underwhelming game for Thomas, but this had more to do with the blocking than anything that could be construed as poor play by the backs. San Diego State has a strong run defense, and they met Thomas (and Williams) in the backfield regularly.

The Rebels are a running team, first and foremost, and when they can’t run the ball, it’s going to be difficult to win. That’s not a lesson the team needed to learn, as every player and coach already knows that. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Look for Tony Sanchez and the offensive staff to double down on the running game next week against Hawaii.

Vegas Seven


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