Key Matchups to Watch Against Wyoming

Lexington ThomasFresh off a bye week and change at quarterback, UNLV’s upcoming game against 7-2 Wyoming features a team still struggling to find footing against a team that is beginning to gain it.

Here are three key things to keep your eye on as Wyoming takes on the Rebels this Saturday at Sam Boyd stadium:

Bringing the Heat

UNLV’s lack of pass rush has been a reoccurring storyline throughout the year, as the team has not been able to consistently get after the opposing QB in any of their previous nine games. Four-man rushes, blitzes, sub packages, and other pressure schemes have resulted in very little productivity for the defense line, putting more stress on the back end.

Cowboys quarterback Josh Allen torched the Aggies of Utah State with both his arm and legs last Saturday, racking up four touchdowns through the air and another on the ground while consistently avoiding the rush.

A threat both in and out of the pocket, it is imperative for the Rebels to devise a pressure-oriented game plan in hopes of containing Allen and not allowing him to get too comfortable as his receivers and tight ends stretch the field. If given all day to throw, Allen will ensure that it will be another long afternoon for the UNLV defense.

Ground and Pound

While the ground attack has both shined and struggled against different opponents throughout the season, establishing it early and often is a must. Wyoming has showcased a strong defense in 2016, but they struggled to slow down Utah State last week, particularly in the second half.

In order for the Rebels to have any form of offensive rhythm, all who carry the rock on Saturday must contribute. Look for the usual duo of Lexington Thomas and Charles Williams to take on the load with complimentary piece David Greene taking handoffs when needed.

Power running is not conventional for this offense given the system and personnel, but utilizing a north/south approach could ultimately prove to be more efficient than focusing on the edge. Despite bringing a steady pass rush, the Wyoming defensive line lacks great size. Pushing around the Cowboy front would be a huge statement performance for this Rebel offensive line, which has been one of the few bright spots in what has been a tough season for several of the team’s units.

3.) Safety Policy

Great importance must be placed on the performances of both of UNLV’s safeties this week, as Kenny Keys and Troy Hawthorne will be frequently tested. Allen and the Wyoming passing game incorporate a lot of deep balls, many of which come from Allen’s ability to elude pressure and extend plays.

The secondary must stay disciplined on both designed and broken plays, as the Cowboys will look to take the top off a unit that has struggled mightily all year. If safety play is a liability, UNLV offers little defensively that suggests Allen will not have a field day against the Rebels as he did against Utah State.

Throws down the seam and over the top are something to pay very close attention to, as they not only will impact the Rebel defense but directly impact their offensive strategy and tempo late in the contest as well.

It will be a difficult task topping the Cowboys regardless of how the Rebels play, but proper execution of these vital keys will grant them a far better chance in this matchup against a quality, momentum-riding opponent.

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