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UNLV football searches for answers – and their first win in two years – vs. Utah State

Breven Honda
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Sep 24, 2021; Fresno, California, USA; UNLV Rebels head coach Marcus Arroyo stands on the sideline during action against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the fourth quarter at Bulldog Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

After a much-needed week off, the UNLV football team is back on the field preparing for its next opponent, the Utah State Aggies on Oct. 16 inside Allegiant Stadium at 4 p.m.

Following three of its first five games against the ranked opponents, the Rebels are focused on turning their attention to what’s ahead than what has happened with the rest of the season consisting of Mountain West Conference games.  

Not only did UNLV have a bye week prior to Saturday’s tilt, but so did Utah State. So, both teams have had two weeks to prepare.

The Aggies enter Allegiant Stadium with a 3-2 overall record and a 1-1 MWC record. Utah State currently sits in a tie for third place with Boise State. The Rebels are winless at 0-5 and 0-1 in conference play. On Oct. 2, the Rebels lost at UT-San Antonio, 24-17.

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Oct 1, 2021; Logan, Utah, USA; Utah State Aggies quarterback Logan Bonner (1) scrambles out of the pocket in the third quarter against the Brigham Young Cougars at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Utah State began its conference schedule by defeating Air Force in a 49-45 shootout on the road in Colorado on Sept. 18. The Aggies came back after trailing at halftime 24-13.  

In the following week, the Aggies faced Boise State and could not score until early in the fourth quarter, en route to a 27-3 loss at home in Logan, Utah, in a morning matchup on Sept. 25.

UNLV football will need to contain mobile QB Bonner

The Aggies are led by junior quarterback Logan Bonner, a mobile quarterback who has the ability to complete plays not just with his arm, but also with his feet.

Two weeks ago, against then-No. 13 BYU, Bonner completed 21-of-41 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns to along with eight rushes for 13 yards. Utah State almost had a balanced offense with 48 plays coming via the pass and 35 plays via the rushing attack.  The Aggies lost the game, 34-20.

One of keys for head coach Marcus Arroyo and UNLV will be to have success in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams.  

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Sep 18, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; UNLV Rebels running back Charles Williams (8) looks to evade the tackle attempt of Iowa State Cyclones linebacker Aric Horne (20) during a game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In addition, now that Cameron Friel has locked himself in as the UNLV football team’s starting quarterback, he needs to take that next step as a freshman quarterback. One of those ways is to get the ball to sixth-year senior Charles Williams, who recorded 15 carries for 48 yards and one catch for four yards two weeks ago to Texas-San Antonio.

Williams, who leads all current FBS players with 3,344 career net rushing yards, needs to find a way to get him at least 20 carries and rush for at least 70 yards.     

Teams that can force turnovers on the defensive and special teams aspects of the game and can turn those turnovers into points, have a good chance of winning this college football game.