Cougar Defense Ready for UNLV

Coming off a bye week, the Cougars will host the Rebels of UNLV at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday. A young Cougar team looks to improve on its 3-5 record, and will be going against a 1-7 Rebel team.

The Cougar defenders feel good about Saturday's game, but that doesn't mean that they're taking the Rebels lightly.

"We're pretty confident going into the game against UNLV," Brandon Ogletree said. "They can put up points on the board in a hurry and we think their offense can move the ball really, really well. Unfortunately for them, they've had games where they've gotten penalties that had really set them back a bit in some games. I know it's kind of been a thorn in their side, but despite that, we respect the heck out of these guys."

The Rebel offense has averaged 16.9 points per game, 3.0 yards per rush and 106.5 rushing yards per game (105th in the nation). In the passing game, the Rebels come in four spots better at 101st nationally. In total offensive ranking, the Rebels are currently ranked 116th. So, what are the Cougars expecting?

"It could turn into a running game or it could turn into a passing game," said linebacker Austin Jorgensen. "It's whatever they want to do, so we have to get ready for anything."

UNLV freshman running back Tim Cornett leads the team in rushing and averages 4.7 yards per rush, but has only rushed for 263 yards on the season. Deante Purvis reportedly has 4.3 speed and is considered to be the fastest player on the UNLV roster. He has rushed for 169 yards on 42 carries. Needless to say, the Rebels have yet to establish a run game threat and are trying to find that identity.

"It's a lot of the same stuff as far as how they like to run the ball and set up the run," said Jorgensen. "They like to do a lot of power run and try to hit you up the middle. Then they'll hit you with the play action to try and set up the passing game.

"They like to run out of the single back a lot with the quarterback in the shotgun," continued Jorgensen. "It's not a pistol offense like Nevada ran, but more of a single back with three receivers out to the side, so they like to run the spread offense. They're not a big option team but like to run the ride a lot off the defensive end to see if he crashes down or not."

Senior dual-threat quarterback Omar Clayton currently ranks sixth in UNLV history in passing yards, needing just 256 to move into the top five. He also has the most rushes on the team this season with 65.

"Yeah, they have an athletic quarterback that can run when things break down," said Ogletree. "They have a good o-line. I mean, their o-line is solid and their o-line is as good as any other o-line in our conference.

"It all starts up front and if you have a good o-line, and that's just the basics of football. Our job as a front seven is to knock them backwards, and if we do that then they'll try and throw the ball to their athletes and try and beat us that way."

"They like to do some play action off the run, but I'm not biting on that," said Jorgensen. "It's pretty much things we've seen all year, but [Clayton's] a playmaker for them. He can run and get outside the pocket and hurt you that way. He's got a pretty good arm."

The Cougars will also look to shut down two key Rebel wide receivers in the passing game.

"They're definitely dangerous and they have some weapons," said Ogletree. "I mean, we're definitely keying on [Michael Johnson] and [Phillip Payne]. Man, if we're not careful they can really hurt us with some of their weapons."

Last season Johnson, a 5-foot-8-inch, 175-pound speedster, had 43 receptions for 484 yards. Johnson was 12th in the MWC with 40.3 yards per game through the air. Against BYU last year, he caught a 75-yard touchdown and finished the game with 113 yards on six catches.

Meanwhile, Payne is a 6-foot-3-inch, 205-pound receiver that had 58 receptions for 661 yards last season.

"I know [Payne and Johnson] are their big playmakers," Jorgensen said. "I don't know how well their running back plays, because they've struggled to get the run game established, but the key to beating UNLV is stopping [Payne and Johnson]."

Coming off the bye week, the Cougars will be ready as they look to add a game to their win column. The Cougar defense has had ample time to scout out and prepare for the Rebel offense.

"Yeah, one advantage the bye week gave us was we were able to watch one more film on a game they played and analyze that, where they don't have that [advantage]," Ogletree said. "We didn't start working on UNLV until Thursday of last week. Prior to that it was more about us. The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the bye week it was more BYU vs. BYU kind of stuff. Once we started doing reps on UNLV, I think our sharpness and our accuracy has picked up as far as defending some of the intricacies in the passing game UNLV likes to do, just those things that we're not really used to that they like to do."

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