The game will feature a UNLV offense that had many missed opportunities in the first game of the season. The Runnin' Rebels held tight with the Minnesota Golden Gophers through the first half, but fell apart in the second half when the deficit grew. With the pressure growing, UNLV was unable to close the gap in a 51-23 loss.
One of the main factors in the UNLV offense is sophomore quarterback Nick Sherry. The signal caller is not an all-conference player, but has the ability to run the Rebel's offense perfectly fine.
In the season opener, he completed 35 of 50 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, although most of the passes were short yardage plays.
"We have different check calls and different formations," Arizona linebacker Derrick Turituri said about defending Sherry. "We should be able to check into something to get those short passes.
"It is similar to our offense with the speed of the passes and the tempo of the game. I think we will be ready."
Sherry had a fine game up until the fourth quarter. With his team trailing 30-16, the quarterback threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Sherry returned to the field and almost immediately threw another interception, putting the game out of reach.
UNLV had a chance in the game due to junior college transfer Shaquille Murray-Lawrence. The running back had just four carries, but finished the game with 108 yards. He could have another big game against Arizona if he is not properly accounted for on the field.
The Rebels starting tailback will be Tim Cornett. The senior is a powerful runner that has the ability to carry multiple defenders with him for extra yards. Arizona will need to key in on stopping Cornett on first and second downs in order to let the SWAT Team get on the field.
"He's a great running back," Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers said of Cornett. "We have to play physical and hit him to get him on the ground. He is definitely a good back. He runs hard, so it will be a good test for us."
On the defensive side of the ball, Arizona should have a decent test on its hands. The Runnin' Rebels gave up 51 points to the Golden Gophers, but 21 of those points came off of special teams or defensive touchdowns.
The UNLV defense held Minnesota to just 320 total offensive yards on the day, though it forced just a single turnover in the game.
The Rebel defense did a wonderful job against the opposing passing game, but gave up 221 yards on the ground, which may prove to be the breaking point against Arizona.
With the Wildcats passing for just 87 yards in the opener, it could be beneficial for them to keep the ball on the ground against the Rebels.
"We go into every game and do what we need to do to win," Arizona Head Coach Rich Rodriguez said. "If we have to run 100 times to win, we'll run 100 times. If we have to pass 100 times to win, we'll pass 100 times. I said that before last year."
The game against UNLV may be the toughest test before conference play starts for Arizona. If the Wildcats can come home with the victory, they will be one step closer to sweeping the non-conference slate and one win closer to being bowl eligible for the second straight season.
Players to watch:
#3 – QB, Nick Sherry: The Runnin' Rebels will put all of their faith in Sherry and it may pay off. The sophomore is not a bad quarterback, but his youth has shown itself when the pressure is on. Throwing interceptions in consecutive possessions against Minnesota lets Arizona know that it needs to bring the pressure early.
#35 – RB, Tim Cornett: The featured back for the Rebels, Cornett wasn't the leading rusher in the last game. He struggled to get much farther than the line of scrimmage on a regular basis and was slowed considerably. He will need to have a big game for UNLV to keep it close.
#81 – WR, Devante Davis: Being the most athletic of the receiving corps, Davis will be called upon plenty of times throughout the game. He has big play potential, but his threat will be limited if Sherry is having a rough time making his reads.
#29 – CB, Tajh Hasson: The junior cornerback is one of the more talented defenders on the team. He already has an interception this season and will be looking for another one against Arizona if the Wildcats decide to air it out.
#4 – CB, Sidney Hodge: If Arizona decides to throw the football more, Hodge could be the defender to get picked on the most. He only stands at five-foot-eight and would be an obvious target if he were lined up with a much taller receiver like Terrence Miller.
Keys to the game:
1. Maintain composure: Arizona will be on the road for the first time this season. It will need to focus on the task at hand and not let the home crowd get to it. It will be a long game if the fans are allowed to make an impact.
2. Contain Cornett: The Wildcats did a great job in the opener, slowing down NAU's running game. Cornett is a very efficient running back that can hurt Arizona if given the chance. The Wildcats will need to slow him down in order to stop the defense.
3. Be mindful of short plays: When UNLV moved the ball effectively against Minnesota, the offense moved down the field with a series of short passes and runs. Although a five yard pass does not seem very effective, it adds up.
4. Open the offense: Arizona was very vanilla with its play calling against NAU. The game against UNLV will be the toughest of the three non-conference games and the coaches should call the game that way. The Wildcats should throw downfield and let Ka'Deem Carey run free in order to jump to a big lead.