The Rebel Yell sports editor Xander Santana participates in our Q&A, breaks down the UNLV Rebels.
The Collegian: UNLV started the season 0-3 but since then has won two of its last three. How do you think the Rebs will fare in this conference matchup?
Santana: Judging by the fight they put up against San Jose State, I think Fresno State is going to have a hard time getting through UNLV’s defense. The Rebels have a pretty good chance of winning this one, still riding the high from winning the Fremont Cannon. We’re definitely looking to bounce back from last week’s loss to San Jose State.
The Collegian: What did the Rebels learn in last week’s overtime loss to San Jose State, and how will that carry over to this week?
Santana: This loss definitely gave quarterback Kurt Palandech some much-needed experience. They’re learning how to function without Blake Decker and how to work with Palandech. He needs to work a bit on his throws and try to keep the interceptions down. They’ll be carrying over the determination seen in that overtime match and, hopefully, kicker Nocolai Bornand’s kicking.
The Collegian: Who are some of the biggest playmakers that the Rebels count on to perform big week in and week out?
Santana: Bornand is something to be reckoned with with his kicking, especially after his 49-yard field goal against San Jose that launched the game into overtime in the first place. Palandech is learning and is definitely someone to look out for as he improves this season. He’s done a good job as back up for Decker this season, and I believe he will continue to be.
The Collegian: What have been some of the bright spots this season for the Rebels?
Santana: The win against Nevada was definitely the brightest spot of this season, as the rivalry game often sets the tone for the rest of the season. It was a huge victory for us, and it is still something that the team is drawing energy off for these upcoming games.
The Collegian: In which areas has the team struggled the most?
Santana: With Decker getting hurt so much, the offense has suffered a bit. Palandech tends to underthrow, but his throwing against man-to-man coverage is good. With regards to the SJSU game, coach Tony Sanchez was quoted as saying: “There are times I feel [Palandech] could have gotten the ball out a little faster and then there are some times where he made some great throws. Unfortunately, we still had some drops.”
The Collegian: What are the Rebels’ goals in Year 1 under first-year head coach Tony Sanchez?
Santana: Coach Sanchez has worked hard to improve the team after last year’s season, already tying the record for last year, so there’s nowhere to go but up. He’s looking to compete for the Mountain West title and make it to a bowl game, which will definitely be an uphill battle. In order to do that, the Rebels will at least need to be 6-6, which means winning at least four of the next six games. Sanchez is optimistic they can do it though, which is always nice to hear. He’s very confident which can go a long way.
The Collegian: Prediction?
Santana: I think it’s going to be a moderately close game, with UNLV taking an early lead with a touchdown pass. UNLV 48, Fresno State 34.