Inside the Numbers: UNLV

Iowa State's season opener is in the record books, but a match-up with an explosive UNLV team looms just around the corner on Saturday night. With the Rebels coming to town, will a performance like last Thursday's be enough to pull out the win? Come see how the Cyclones stack up statistically with their next gridiron opponent.

Everyone knew that the Toledo game was going to be a tough battle and that the Rockets should not be over-looked, but no one could've guessed that it would take triple OT to shut the Rockets down.  Now that the dust has settled, we can look at the stats from the game. Has the passing game improved since last year?  How much better is the run game? Let's look at how this cyclone team stacks up to last years on a statistical basis after one week.

 

Cyclones Statistical Breakdown

 

Before I get started I just want to say that these stats can be viewed as "slightly skewed" because there were three overtimes. The numbers would not be as high if the game ended in regulation but the team did what was asked of them to win the game.  For the record, that was the first overtime win in cyclone history, as well as the only triple overtime game (count those as more demons that the Danny Mac has exorcised from this program).  The passing game put up 234 yards and two TDs (both by Blythe), which is right on track with last year's average (239.7 yards per game).  Oh yeah, and did I mention the Meyer had five total TDs with NO TURNOVERS (yeah, I would call that a good day!)  Blythe's two TDs are 22.2% of his total TDs from last year (nine). 

 

Between Hicks and Meyer, ISU rushed for 159 yards, an improvement from last year's 110.7 yards per game. Hicks alone managed to gain 92 yards on 23 carries, or four YPC. So the offense is doing well, but the defense….well, it was the first game, right? The D gave up 367 passing yards, which is a lot more than the 242.3 yards that opponent's averaged last year, but they did have an interception. The rush D only allowed 45 yards, which is a long way from the 102.7 yard per game average of last year's D. So, how do the total offense numbers stack up?  ISU had 393 yards, or 112.2% of last year's total offense average per game (350.3). Toledo had 412 yards of total offense, which is 120.3% of what last year's D gave up per game. In a nut shell, ISU's Offense is statistically better but the D has a ways to go.  Well, now that you know how ISU did, let's take a look at the next team to challenge the Cyclones on the gridiron.

 

Up Next

 

The next team up on the schedule is the UNLV Rebels. This is the fourth meeting between the two teams, with ISU leading the series 3-0. The good news is that Danny Mac was the head coach for all three victories over the Rebels, but that isn't that great of news considering that the Rebels instated a new head coach (Mike Sanford) at the beginning of last year and this is his first time facing ISU with the Rebels. UNLV is coming off a rough season, going 2-9 (1-7 in the MWC) with their only wins coming against Idaho and San Diego State (both were at home and by only three points…ouch). In fact, the Rebels haven't won on the road since playing at BYU on October 8th, 2004, and that BYU team ended the season only 5-6!  UNLV started their season last Saturday with a home win over 1-AA Idaho State (the Rebels pounded the Bengals 54-10!)  Yeah, Idaho State doesn't sound like much of a challenge to me either, so we probably won't be able to see too much from the stats of that game. So, let's look at what sort of team UNLV is returning from their 2005 campaign.

 

Offense

 

Like I said before, the Rebels have a second year coach in Mike Sanford that installed a new shotgun spread that didn't do so hot in its first year at UNLV. This year that same system will be in year two and should be much improved. Last year the passing game had more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (15) and only completed 55% of its passes. The team returns six starters and has a few new boosts to its spread offense.  The QB is the key to this offense, and having a USC transfer helps.  Rocky Hinds had to sit out last year due to the transfer from USC but will be a big improvement at the QB spot (he threw for 322 yards and one TD versus Idaho State). The RB position is set with Erick Jackson starting the first game with 79 yards on 11 carries (7.2 yards per carry). Behind Jackson is still questionable but there is some decent back-ups (in the Idaho State game three other RBs got at least two carries). The wide receiving corps will be a strong spot for this team. The leading receiver from last year is gone (TE Greg Estandia), but help is on the way. The word on the street (yeah, I am down with the street) is that last year's recruiting class was full of stud WRs. True Freshman Ryan Wolfe had six catches during the Idaho State game, with the leading returning starter Casey Flair having four catches.  Behind that seven (yeah, seven!) other WR had AT LEAST two catches in the Rebels first game. Finally, the O-line will be the weak link for this offense, at least at the beginning. Three starters return from a line that allowed 39 sacks last year so that isn't very comforting. The upside (for the Rebels) is that there are some good recruits for the O-line that will get better over the season, including JUCO stud Johan Asiata.

 

Defense

 

This defense returns five starters…from a team that allowed 34.6 points per game in 2005, which is good enough to earn 109th place in the nation for scoring defense. Once again, recruiting will help mend this broken shell of a D. The D-line only returns one starter, but he is a good one. Howie Fuimaono (21 tackles, 4.5 TFL) was a great run stopper last year, but struggled to get to the QB. JUCO transfer Jeremy Geathers should be able to help in that department, as well as sophomore Jacob Hales. The linebackers return two of four starters; including Beau Bell who had 92 tackles last year (50 of those tackles were solo). Matt Pattison is a returning starter and if Adrian Bradley and Bradley Niles (both JUCO transfers) can step up and play right away, there will be no drop off from last year. The DBs will be a step up from last year, with CB John Guice (55 tackles, two sacks) and safety Jay Staggs (62 tackles) returning.  The Rebels also have transfers from UCLA (Mil'von James), USC (Eric Wright), and Oklahoma (Tony Cade, he went to a JUCO for a year after OU) who will be able to help right away.  I know what your thinking "geez Ryan that is a LOT of transfers".  Yeah, well, the recruiting has picked up since Sanford took over the reigns and he is getting a bunch of talented guys that don't want to ride the pine at the bigger schools. If these guys can fill the gaps this could be an above average defense.

 

Special Teams

 

Not too much to talk about here. The place kicker, Sergio Aguayo (12-16 FGs, 21-22 PATs) is solid and should be just as good this year. Kip Facer is returning for his senior year after averaging 41 yards per punt with eight inside the 20.  The only question mark is return yards.  Last year the average return per kick for the Rebels was 20.3, while the punt return average was a measly 6.5 yards.  That average wasn't much better during the Idaho State game.  The punt return average was ten yards per return and 19.8 yards on kickoff returns.

 

Final Verdict

 

Alright, this was a long article with a lot of numbers, so let's sum up.  The offense will be solid and should be much improved from last year due to the transfer of former USC QB Rocky Hinds and more weapons on the outside. The defense will be good but in order for them to take the next step the transfers from other schools and JUCOs need to prove they can be contributors to the returning starters. The special teams will be solid.  In fact, the only major question mark on this team is the kick return team. This team could be one of the most improved teams in the nation with the increase in talent that second year coach Mike Sanford has brought in. They may not be as dangerous as Toledo, but if they are overlooked or underestimated by Dan McCarney's squad, the Rebels have enough talent to upset the 14-point favored Cyclones.


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