BYU vs. UNLV: The Breakdown

Coming off of a bye week, the Cougars return to action against UNLV tomorrow. The boys in blue are rolling while the Rebels are reeling. Here are the G-man's breakdowns of each position as well as his predictions for what will likely happen during the game.


UNLV: Heading in to the season, USC transfer Rocky Hinds was touted as the savior of the Rebels offense. As yet, he has not lived up to the early billing. Through the first half of the season, Hinds has only completed 50% of his passes for 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. He was pulled in favor of Shane Steichen last week. Steichen has 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions this season for just under a 60% completion percentage.

Steichen has subbed in for Hinds in all but one of UNLV's games this season as. As of Thursday afternoon, Head coach Mike Sanford had not decided whether Hinds or Steichen will start. It will likely be a game time decision.

BYU: John Beck is far and away the best quarterback in the Mountain West Conference and is playing his best ball coming into this game.

Conclusion: UNLV's quarterback situation has been a definite weak spot although Steichen is coming off a good performance last week. Meanwhile, Beck is proving to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

Edge: BYU

Running Back:

UNLV: The Rebels will split the RB duties between Erick Jackson and David Peeples. Both are under 200 pounds and are scat-back types who will look to beat you with their speed around the edges. UNLV's rushing attack is last in the conference and is not the focus of the offense.

BYU: The Cougars boast the best running back duo in the conference in Curtis Brown and Fui Vakapuna although it is not clear if Vakapuna will play tomorrow due to a high ankle sprain suffered during the San Diego State game.

Conclusion: UNLV's running game is the weak spot of their offense while the Cougar running backs get more ball than anyone else in the BYU attack.

Edge: BYU

Wide Receiver:

UNLV: The Rebel passing game is led by freshman Ryan Wolfe who has 28 receptions and 4 touchdowns this season. Wolfe has established himself as UNLV's go-to guy in their pass-happy offensive system. Other receivers who will contribute are Aaron Straiten and Justin Marvel. All three are over 6-0 tall and could pose problems for Justin Robinson if he is isolated against any of them in single coverage.

BYU: The Cougars are distributing the ball remarkably evenly among its outside receivers as the four-man-rotation. Matt Allen, Zac Collie, McKay Jacobson and Michael Reed have 51 grabs between them with the highest individual total being 15 and the lowest being 11.

Conclusion: While UNLV definitely has some viable weapons on the outside, BYU's receivers are emerging as real play-makers and have more receptions as a unit than the Rebels.

Edge: BYU

Tight End:

UNLV: UNLV does not use a tight end in their base offense. In the tight end's place is an H-back that BYU's fans should be familiar with watching Sanford's offense while at Utah. They will use a tight end on occasion and that tight end is Rodelin Anthony who has 8 catches and 1 touchdown so far this season.

BYU: Although Jonny Harline and Daniel Coats were the headliners of the Cougar offense going into the season, constant double-teams and focused defensive game-planning have limited their production so far. Both have had their moments, and they have 30 catches between them. If left in single coverage both have proven capable of beating most defenses.

Conclusion: Not really a fair comparison considering UNLV uses its tight ends only on rare occasion while BYU's tight ends are a main focus in their offensive system.

Edge: BYU

Offensive Line:

UNLV: The Rebel offensive line has allowed multiple sacks and not mounted much of a running attack in each game this season.

BYU: The Cougar offensive line has been good in its protection of John Beck although the run-blocking took a noticeable hit when Eddie Keele was lost for the season. A week of rest should help the Cougar offensive line a lot as Jake Kuresa and Ray Feinga were both recovering from nagging injuries.

Conclusion: The offensive line is the catalysts for any offense. UNLV is last in the conference in rushing offense while allowing close to twenty sacks so far this season. The Cougar offense is rolling in large part due to the play of its offensive line.

Edge: BYU

Defensive Line:

UNLV: The Rebels are led by a stud Outland Trophy candidate Howie Fuimaono, who is the leader of the UNLV defensive line. Other than Fuimaono, the Rebels have struggled defending the run or mounting a good pass rush. UNLV is second-to-last in the conference in both passing and rushing defense.

BYU: BYU's defensive line play has suffered a bit since Ian Dulan went out with back spasms. Dulan will be back this Saturday and BYU's defensive line play will therefore improve.

Conclusion: Neither group has proved dominant so far this year, although BYU's DL has held its own against every opponent thus far while UNLV's has been run over by most teams.

Edge: BYU


UNLV: The Rebels are led by stud linebacker Beau Bell who leads the team in tackles. UNLV only uses two LBs in its 4-2-5 base defensive system.

BYU: BYU uses a 3-4 system because it allows more linebackers on the field at once, and the Cougar LBs are the team's strongest defensive unit. The Cougar linebackers have proven to the strength of BYU's defense.

Conclusion: Not a bad set of LBs on UNLV's side, but BYU's linebackers have proven to be the best in the conference.

Edge: BYU


UNLV: The Rebel secondary will be without its best player in Eric Wright as he's hurt and unable to play. It is a unit that plays two true freshman safeties which John Beck should be able to exploit with regularity.

BYU: The Cougar defensive backs have been solid in every game this year. They rarely get beat over the top and keep the opposition's passing attack in front of them.

Conclusion: The Rebels rank second-to-last in the conference in pass defense while the glaring Cougar defensive weakness of year's past has performed well all year long.

Edge: BYU

Five Predictions:

1. BYU will rush for over 200 yards

As mentioned BYU's offensive front has scrambled a bit due to the injuries to Eddie and Jake Kuresa. With the bye week Kuresa looks healthy again as does Ray Feinga. With a full, organized and healthy offensive line, the Cougar ground game should roll as they face a weak run defense.

2. Curtis Brown will get the majority of those yards

With both Fui Vakapuna's and Manase Tonga's status in doubt Curtis Brown should see more reps this game than he otherwise would and will have his first huge running game of the season. Brown has done most of his damage catching passes out of the backfield, but Saturday's game will see Brown doing most of his work running the football. All signs point to a huge day for Mr. Brown.

3. Mike Hague will get at least 10 touches

With Vakapuna and Tonga questionable and Ray Hudson not practicing all week, Hague should see plenty of reps and touches as Curtis Brown will likely be pulled early.

4. Steichen will start for UNLV

Steichen as been far and away the better of the two UNLV quarterbacks. Coach Sanford needs a win badly and Steichen gives him the best chance to win. If Steichen does start or even sees most of the reps, he will be productive and throw for over 200 yards.

5. The game will be over by halftime

UNLV is the worst team in a weak Mountain West Conference. They have been hapless in most of their games so far this season against average competition. The game will follow the same course as the San Diego State game two weeks ago.

Top Three

The top three Cougar performers on offense other than Beck will be Curtis Brown, Mike Hague and McKay Jacobson.

Final Score: BYU 56 UNLV 13


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