Ray and Mike discuss UNLV’s suddenly wide-open quarterback competition and whether the Rebels have a chance at Northwestern.
Beginning with Saturday’s game at Northwestern, the Rebels are entering a brutal stretch in which four of their next five games will be played on the road, and all against what should be quality opposition. Expect UNLV to be an extreme underdog all five of those games — they are minus-19.5 at Northwestern — but that doesn’t mean the Rebels should be counted out entirely.
During Tony Sanchez’s four-plus seasons at the helm, UNLV has figured out a way to spring big upsets at the most unexpected times.
Here are five games the Rebels had no business winning:
UNLV 27, San Diego State 24
UNLV entered this game in San Diego as a 24-point road underdog, making it the Rebels’ biggest upset win under Sanchez by point spread. In three previous matchups under Sanchez, San Diego State was 3-0 by a combined score of 119-31, and this meeting was expected to be more of the same, as the Rebels entered with an 0-5 Mountain West record (against SDSU’s 4-1 mark). Instead, Lexington Thomas ran wild (133 yards, two touchdowns), including a 75-yard sprint in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory.
UNLV 26, Fresno State 16
Fresno State was in the midst of a stunning turnaround season under coach Jeff Tedford, riding a 5-2 record and a 4-0 mark in conference play. Meanwhile, the Rebels were 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the Mountain West, and an injury to starting quarterback Armani Rogers forced UNLV to suit up senior Johnny Stanton — who had played on special teams the previous two weeks. Stanton took the helm and completed 17-of-29 passes for 155 yards, and he rushed for a touchdown while leading the Rebels to the win as 20.5-point underdogs.
UNLV 41, Hawaii 38
Injuries forced freshman Dalton Sneed to start five games in 2016, and the results were not pretty. The week before this contest, Sneed completed just 2-of-12 passes for nine yards in a 26-7 loss at San Diego State, so it’s no surprise the Rebels were 10-point underdogs heading into this road game at Hawaii. But Sneed captured lightning in a bottle, passing for 279 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for an additional 61 yards in this back-and-forth affair.
UNLV 69, Wyoming 66 (OT)
Wyoming was favored by 8 points as the visiting team, and it seemed like the Cowboys would outgun UNLV thanks to 334 passing yards and four touchdowns from future first-round draft pick Josh Allen. But Allen was matched by Rebels QB Kurt Palandech, who threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 157 yards and another score. Palandech threw touchdowns in the first two OT periods, and UNLV started the third OT with a field goal; Allen’s subsequent attempt at the end zone was intercepted by Torry McTyer to cap the second-highest scoring game in NCAA history.
UNLV 23, UNR 17
Expectations were low for Sanchez’s first campaign at UNLV, and the team was 1-3 heading into this early-season rivalry matchup at UNR (with the lone win coming against Division-II Idaho State). But the Rebels played their best game of the season, and when the UNLV defense knocked down a Tyler Stewart pass in the end zone on fourth down with less than a minute to play, it kicked off a celebration that saw Sanchez hurdle a field barrier on his way to claiming the Fremont Cannon for the first time.