UTAH – UNLV: PLAYERS TO WATCH

After last week's fantastic second half performance the Utes will need to be red hot from the start. The Rebels are coming off of a poor performance against Air Force and won't likely play the same during their homecoming.

Ever get the feeling you were walking into a trap? That is what this weeks match up of Utah vs. UNLV presents for the Utes. Oh, the Rebels are not that good. Think again; and ask Wisconsin, which were knocked off by the Rebels in Madison back in September.

This is truly a dangerous game and one that every coach hates. It's another dreaded let down game. Worse yet, the Rebels played poorly last week. They will be fired up and loaded for bear.

The key for the Rebels offense will be starting quarterback Kurt Nantkes. He had a poor performance last week going 8-20 for only 84 yards. Ouch. If he plays like that again the Rebels can pack it in. It's over.

The Rebels rely on Larry Croom to run the football. He is a talented tailback and one that can create some big plays. He came up just shy of 100 yards last week with 91 yards on 21 carries (4.3 avg.) and one touchdown.

To take the pressure off of both Nantkes and Croom the Rebel offensive line needs to come out motivated. That would be a big lift for the Rebels offense.

The Rebels did not get any truly big plays in the passing game last week but that does not mean that the wide receiver duo of Earvin Johnson and Michael Johnson cannot beat you deep. Look for the Rebels to take some shots down the field before halftime.

Last week was not a good one for kicker Dylan Pieffer. He missed two field goals in the first half last week.

Defensively for the Rebels one man stands out: safety Jamaal Brimmer. He is a sure-fire All-American and one of the nation's top players regardless of position. Ute receivers be ware…

As a defensive unit the Rebels must stop the running game much better than they did against Air Force, especially in third and fourth down and short situations. Defensive tackles Joe Oniwor and Dietrich Canterberry must be ready for the Utah offensive linemen paving the way for option, draws, traps, counters, the whole shebang. If these two don't get it done the Utes will be in business all day long with a myriad of plays to call on second and third down and short. It's that simple.

For the Utes I will point out only four players all told: quarterback Alex Smith, running back Brandon Warfield, and both defensive tackles – Steve Fifita and Sione Pouha.

Smith must protect the football and play it safe. His decision-making with the option and making sure each audible is done correctly will be critical as well. In short, do not give the Rebels any easy points. They will be looking for anything to capitalize on after a bad game last week.

Warfield can help chew up the clock much the same way the Falcons did last week. Keep the ball away from the Rebels and sustain good field position. Warfield's efforts in the red zone will as always be critical.

Fifita and Pouha are anchors in the middle, and must contain Croom so that the Rebel passing game does not get going. If they can help limit Croom to less than 40 yards in the first half and force Nantkes to throw in long yardage situations it will lead to a Utah victory. It all starts up front for the Utes defense, and the big guys have done a great job so far this season.


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