As the Utah State football team enters the final three weeks of the regular season, there’s one goal the Aggies want to accomplish.
“We’re trying to be 1-0 against UNLV and find a way to win,” USU head coach Matt Wells said. “We’ve got the big picture and the narrow focus, which is on the Rebels this week. It’s a team that has had a resurgence. Coach (Bobby) Hauck has done of good job of flipping that thing. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Both teams enter the game with a 5-4 overall record looking to become bowl eligible with a win.
Right now we’re playing for the same thing as far as bowl eligibility, but we’re playing for the Mountain West race too,” Wells said. “You never know what’s going to happen here in a few weeks. It will be a big game Saturday. They’ll be fired up and it will be a home game for them. I’m sure they’ll want to get the taste out of their mouth from last week. We’ve got confidence going into it, so I’m sure it will be a tremendous matchup.”
But both teams will need help down the stretch to get to the title game. USU is tied atop the Mountain Division with Boise State at 4-1, but the Broncos hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
At 3-2 in MWC play, UNLV sits one game out of second and two games out of first behind 5-0 Fresno State.
The Rebels are coming off of a 34-24 loss to San Jose State at home last week, and will have an added motivator of revenge after being handed a 35-13 loss to the Aggies last season in Logan.
UNLV is averaging 29.4 points per game this season, and its offense is ranked No. 57 nationally with an average of 423.6 yards per game.
“Caleb (Herring) and Tim (Cornett) and Marcus Sullivan create a little bit of a trifecta. Anytime you have a quarterback, a real tailback and a real wide out, you’re explosive on offense,” Wells said. “I think their offensive line is playing pretty good right now. I’ve seen them quite a bit on exchange tape. I’ve seen them on offense quite a bit to know that already, early in the week. We’ll have our work cut out for us. We’re going to have a great week of preparation and go down there and try to find a way to win.”
The trio of Herring, Cornett and Sullivan have combined for more than 3,400 yards this season.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Rebels have had their share of struggles. Their defense is ranked No. 106 out of 123 teams, giving up 463.2 yards per game. Last week against the Spartans, UNLV allowed 492 yards — 312 rushing and 180 passing.
UNLV’s defense has allowed an average of 244.7 rushing yards per game, but are ranked No. 43 against the pass.
“They’re a four down front. They’re going to mix man and zone a little bit more. Last week was predominantly man,” Wells said. “They mix their pressures in and they do a good job of being sound schematically. There’s a little bit more of a balance in this defense compared to the last couple of weeks.”
The Aggies and Rebels are scheduled for a 6 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.