The UNLV football team put on the pads Saturday night for a live scrimmage at Sam Boyd Stadium, but their first opportunity to play in a game-like setting didn’t go very well.
After nine days of training camp, the Rebels looked out of sorts as they fumbled snaps, tossed interceptions, missed kicks and struggled in short-yardage situations.
After watching his team play mistake-filled football for two 30-minute halves, head coach Tony Sanchez gave his assessment: Not good enough.
“It was sloppy,” Sanchez said. “We put more balls on the ground than we have in all of our practices combined, threw some picks that we haven’t been throwing. I just thought the flow and some of the situational stuff was bad. In the red zone, some of the stuff we did was not good.”
It seemed no one was immune from negative plays, including starting quarterback Armani Rogers. The junior never quite got comfortable throwing from the pocket, something Sanchez said will be a focus in upcoming practices.
As a sophomore last year, Rogers completed 44.4 percent of his passes and threw 10 touchdowns along with four interceptions.
Despite the struggles in the passing game on Saturday, Sanchez defended his quarterback’s overall progress thus far in training camp.
“If you’ve been out at practice every day, you know how well he’s done,” Sanchez said. “I think the lowest [completion percentage] day he’s had is 68 percent, but then you come out tonight and he doesn’t have that. You saw some balls in the dirt, you saw that leg get locked again…I think we’ve got to settle him in.”
Rogers did flash his trademark speed on a 70-yard touchdown run in the second half of the scrimmage, as he kept the ball on a sweep off right tackle and split two defensive backs before breaking into the open field untouched.
Though the offense as a whole didn’t perform as well as he would have liked, Rogers is confident the Rebels will get it worked out.
“We made some mistakes that we know we have to pick up,” Rogers said. “It’s just practice, so we’re going to watch film tomorrow, correct what we did wrong and we’re going to get back to it.”
After the conclusion of the live scrimmage period, Sanchez gathered the team for a post-practice huddle and delivered his honest message.
“We’ve got to clean it up,” Sanchez said. “I was pretty tough on them right there [in the huddle], and deservedly so.”
White stands out on D
Javin White was one of the Rebels who stood out for the right reasons on Saturday. The senior linebacker is known for making big plays, and he almost came up with a huge one in the first half of the scrimmage.
After blitzing into the backfield and tipping a Rogers pass straight up in the air, White was just inches away from securing an interception and racing the other way for a touchdown. Rogers smartly knocked the batted ball away at the last second, however, leaving an empty-handed White to think about what could have been.
“I should have picked it,” White said with a smile. “I felt in my hands.”
White came on strong at the end of last season, and his two-interception performance in the finale against UNR cemented his reputation as a game-changer.
Now entrenched as a leader on the defense, White is determined to make splashy plays on a regular basis in 2019.
“I plan on getting a lot of picks this year, a lot of forced fumbles. I just plan on doing a lot and I plan on being in the end zone a few times.”