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UNLV Rebels running back Lexington Thomas (3) scores a touchdown while defended by Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Baron Browning (5) during the second quarter on Sept. 23, 2017 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won 54-21. (Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Inside UNLV football: A conversation with The Scarlet & Gray Free Press assistant sports editor

Fresno State football is coming off a 27-3 dominant road win against San Diego State. The Bulldogs are 5-2 this season and 4-0 in conference for the first time since Derek Carr was quarterback in 2013. This week, they face 2-5 UNLV, which is coming off a 52-28 loss to Utah State. The Collegian spoke with Faryn Duncan, the assistant sports editor at UNLV’s student-run newspaper, The Scarlet & Gray Free Press, to discuss the upcoming game. Priscilla Rogers, the sports editor at the Free Press contributed to Duncan’s answers.

DG: Sitting at 2-5, UNLV is having a rough season so far. What are your thoughts on the season?

FD: It is a rough start, but, unfortunately, that’s been the trend for the last few seasons. The Rebels often have a lot of talent on the team. However, this doesn’t seem to translate onto the field. The Rebels biggest downfall this season has been their defensive presence in the second half of the game. They have dropped a two-touchdown lead in the last two games. Although the scores are not showing it, the Rebels have had a lot of success in other areas such as their running game. Running back Lexington Thomas continues to break records every game, putting up really strong numbers.

DG: What have the Rebels done best so far?

FD: Like I said before, Thomas puts up great numbers every game. He is a big reason why the Rebels start off with such strong leads, but the momentum doesn’t carry over into second halves very well. But what I can say is that even in tough times and situations, the guys never seem to hang their heads. They’ll take a loss but will continue to keep moving forward.

DG: Starting quarterback Armani Rogers was injured in last week’s loss to Utah State. How serious is the injury, and will he be able to play against Fresno State?

FD: Rogers’ injury against Utah State was a head injury after he slammed onto the turf. It is still unknown to us whether he will be able to make an appearance in Saturday’s game. Coach Tony Sanchez is optimistic that he will be cleared to play, though. He will be going through the concussion protocol this week. If he is unable to play, Kurt Palandech or Johnny Stanton will be starting.

DG: The Rebels’ defense has really struggled this year, allowing 36.1 points per game. Is there any reason to think that the defense will improve this week against the Bulldogs?

FD: After the game against Utah State, Coach Sanchez admitted that the defense was lacking. He seemed disappointed in the team’s performance. I am sure that is what the majority of their practices have been focused on this week. If there is one thing the Rebels can do, it’s work hard and bounce back. After a week of focusing on defense, I think that the Rebels’ defense will be able to show some turnaround from the game against Utah State.

DG: What’s the feeling with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas and the brand new stadium that they will share with UNLV?

FD: As a city, I think everyone is really excited to have the Raiders move to Las Vegas. It will be great for tourism, entertainment and just great for the city. As for UNLV and the Rebels, it’ll be a huge boost. Playing in the stadium of a professional team will be exciting for both the players and the fans and could help with the attraction and recruitment of future players.

DG: Tony Sanchez was a very interesting and unconventional hire in 2014 coming from Bishop Gorman High School. How would you assess his performance, and where do you see him taking this team in the future?

FD: You know, with every sports organization whose teams are suffering, it isn’t always the athletes.

DG: What is your game prediction?

FD: I think that the Rebels are going to have a strong start, like they always do. I think that it will be a tight first half, maybe even in favor of the Rebels. The Rebels are a tough team, so even with the Bulldogs being the favorites, the Rebels can still get the W. But, we’ll see.