UNLV hasn’t gotten much production out of its passing game this season. The constantly spinning quarterback carousel has been the main culprit, and a wave of injuries at the receiver position hasn’t helped. But another big issue has been an inability to take advantage of No. 1 receiver Devonte Boyd.
The junior pass catcher was named to the preseason All-Mountain West team, and he is undoubtedly one of UNLV’s best players at any position, but through nine games Boyd has compiled just 35 catches for 619 yards and four touchdowns. That’s not enough production from a veteran who should be making game-changing plays every week.
Some of it has been Boyd’s own doing, as he’s dropped a number of catchable balls this season. But the real problem has been finding a quarterback who can connect with him on a regular basis.
Can Kurt Palandech be that quarterback? The junior was named the starter for this week’s home game against Wyoming, and he showed an ability to hook up with Boyd in the Rebels’ last game, when he entered in relief of Dalton Sneed and almost led UNLV to a late comeback against San Jose State.
In the first half, Boyd was targeted three times by Sneed and all three passes fell incomplete. Palandech fared much better, completing six of nine passes thrown Boyd’s way, resulting in a career-high 136 yards for the star wideout in just a handful of series.
At the Rebels’ regular weekly press conference, Boyd said he and Palandech have a good feel for each other.
“[Our chemistry] is good,” Boyd said. “It was good last year. Me and Kurt put in a lot of work. The chemistry is there, from everything that we did the whole offseason, even when he wasn’t playing.”
The numbers aren’t so conclusive. Over the last two years, Boyd has caught passes from four different quarterbacks, and Palandech’s completion percentage when targeting Boyd is the lowest of the four at 44.4 percent.
Take a look at the stats:
|Devonte Boyd by QB||Comp.||Att.||Pct.||Yards||YPA||YPC||TD|
The good news is that when Palandech and Boyd do manage to connect, the completions go for 16.6 yards, which is a big step up from the 14.3 yards per catch he was averaging with Sneed.
Boyd said Palandech’s scrambling ability opens the door to make big plays downfield and that the Rebels need to be ready to take advantage of that.
“I think Kurt is real good on his feet,” Boyd said. “He can make a lot of guys miss, so I feel a play is never really dead with Kurt. It’s never really over. There’s no telling who he might make miss, and he could hit somebody on the scramble, so you know never to turn around or turn your back on him because he can make a lot of people miss with his feet.”
Will that lead to more long catches for Boyd and an improved passing game against Wyoming? With the Rebels now using their third starting quarterback so far this season, they’d better hope so, because they are running out of options.