The news broke Tuesday, with UNLV coach Tony Sanchez announcing that quarterback Johnny Stanton had a knee injury and was out for three to four weeks.
He will not start Saturday against Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference opener for two 1-3 teams.
Sanchez had a backup plan ready – redshirt freshman Dalton Sneed will start and junior Kurt Palandech also will play. That left the Bulldogs’ staff scrounging for information and trying to think along with the Rebels, maybe a little outside the box, wondering if Sneed was, in fact, the guy.
The Rebels could play Palandech, who started against the Bulldogs last season and was the No. 2 quarterback last week. UNLV could rally freshman Armani Rogers, a four-star recruit who has been in redshirt mode to this point, and push to get him ready to play.
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UNLV quarterback Dalton Sneed, in line to make his first career start Saturday against Fresno State, holds Arizona 5A prep records for touchdown passes in a game with seven and a career with 87.
“You have to assume what they’re telling the press is true, that (Sneed) is going to be the guy,” said Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter, who several times over the past two seasons has stayed mum on his quarterback plans through a week of game prep. “It’s always a guessing game until Saturday.”
Fresno State did find some high school video on Sneed and saw an athletic quarterback who is 6-feet tall and 195 pounds, much smaller than Stanton but with a live and accurate arm. They gleaned some info from Jimmy Morimoto, the Bulldogs’ director of player personnel, who held the same position at UNLV when the Rebels recruited Sneed.
And they will go from there.
“I don’t think they’re going to change their offense drastically, but you have to be ready to adjust based on what you see,” DeRuyter said.
At Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sneed ran a spread similar to what the Rebels run. Given the difficulties that Fresno State had last week against Tulsa and the week before that at Toledo, why should UNLV change?
Tulsa churned out 617 yards of offense in a 48-41 overtime victory over the Bulldogs, gaining 336 yards on the ground and 281 through the air.
They’re not going to switch up their game plan too crazy, and if they do we just have to adjust.
Fresno State linebacker Jeff Camilli
Toledo racked up 619 yards in a 52-17 victory – 318 rushing and 301 passing.
The Bulldogs made some adjustments on how they fit the run against one- and two-back offenses, believing that they have their issues against the run fixed.
“Just some miscommunication, but I think it cost us the game,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
Fresno State also believes they will see more of the same from the Rebels, who will be playing in their homecoming game and wearing all black uniforms for the first time in school history.
UNLV has averaged 250 rushing yards in four games, including a matchup against a Power Five program in UCLA. Sophomore Lexington Thomas has carried much of the workload, running 66 times for 453 yards (6.9 average) and six touchdowns.
Stanton was second with 40 carries, gaining 231 yards (5.8 average) with one touchdown. How that role in the offense translates to Sneed, or Palandech or Rogers, is to be determined.
260.5 Rushing yards allowed per game by Fresno State, 11th of 12 in the Mountain West
“They’re not going to switch up their game plan too crazy, and if they do we just have to adjust,” inside linebacker Jeff Camilli said. “You really just have to be ready for anything. You go into every game hoping they’re going to do something, but everyone is going to throw in some twists and turns. He’s a new guy, but he has been running the same offense as those other guys.”
Fresno State, which had not allowed 300 rushing yards in back-to-back games since 2007 when Texas A&M and Oregon went for 318 and 307 yards, is prepared for anything.
“It’s always an interesting situation when you’re playing an unknown,” DeRuyter said. “(Sneed) is a heck of an athlete, ran for a ton of yards and threw for a ton of yards, too. He’s a dual-threat guy that a lot of offenses want, so I imagine they’re still going to run the offense that we’ve studied, that they were running before with Stanton, but we have to wait to get into the game to see.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Mountain West opener
FRESNO STATE AT UNLV
- Saturday: 7:30 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium (35,500)
- Records: Bulldogs 1-3, Rebels 1-3
- TV/radio: CBS Sports Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: Fresno State is 5-3 at UNLV as part of its 13-5 series lead. A 30-27 overtime loss in 2014 was the Bulldogs’ first visit since 1996. The last time UNLV won three straight at Sam Boyd vs. Fresno State was during a run from 1980-84.