The Lobos and Rebels kick off Mountain West Conference play on Saturday afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNM enters the game on the heels of an exciting 52-43 loss at home to Liberty in which the Lobos nearly overcame a 42-10 halftime deficit, while the Rebels enter play after a disappointing road loss to Arkansas State.
In addition to losing their previous matchups, both schools lost their respective starting quarterbacks to injury and will be forced to rely on second and third string options. Rebel starter Armanti Edward will miss upwards of a month of action after sustaining an ankle injury, while Lobo QB Tevaka Tuioti will miss the remainder of the season with a broken collarbone.
Max Gilliam, a former four-star recruit who began his college career at California before transferring to UNLV via a junior college, will get the start for head coach Tony Sanchez. Thing string quarterback and Juco transfer Sheriron Jones will get the start for Bob Davie’s Lobos. Although technically third on the depth chart behind Tuioti and Coltin Gerhart, Jones leads the team with 540 yards on 37 of 65 yards passing, with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
Jones led the furious second-half comeback against Liberty with 312 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, Jones did throw three interceptions in the game – something he will need to avoid for the underdog Lobos to pull the upset over the nine-point favored Rebels.
The Rebels under Gilliam will be a much different opponent than when Rogers was under center, as Rogers is a dynamic running quarterback who leads his team in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Gilliam is a good athlete, but he lacks the explosiveness that Rogers possesses as a runner, and UNLV may need to alter their plan to a more pass-heavy attack.
The Lobos will continue to air it out with Jones targeting Elijah Lilly and Delane Hart-Johnson on the outside. With a full week of practice under his belt as the starter and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee preparing a game plan to take advantage of Jones’ skills as a dual-threat, Jones should be able to find some success against a UNLV team that ranks 82nd in the nation in yards allowed per game.
Kickoff is set for 2:00 pm MT, with television coverage provided by AT&T SportsNet.