Last year, UNLV leaned more heavily on its passing attack than on the ground game. In 2016, that has flipped, and perhaps not surprisingly, the Rebels have been more effective on offense.
The Rebels averaged 193 rushing yards and 211 passing yards per game last season. This year, it’s 253-172 in favor of the run. Three times they have rushed for at least 364 yards, and they entered this week No. 14 nationally in rushing offense.
“They’re obviously a good rushing offense, and watching the film, they’ve got two good backs and a very athletic offensive line. They might be the most athletic we’ve played this season, so we definitely have our work cut out this week,” Boise State defensive tackle Elliot Hoyte said.
UNLV has a talented duo in the backfield with freshman Charles Williams (665 yards) and senior Lexington Thomas (632). Three quarterbacks have at least 197 rushing yards, and two other backs have combined for 342 yards.
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“They run a lot of different things, a lot of RPO (run-pass option) stuff. They’ve got some running backs who can run through arm tackles,” senior linebacker Ben Weaver said. “Especially late in the season, tackling is so important, so we’ll make sure that we’re dialed up on that.”
It certainly will be a focus for the Broncos, who gave up 234 rushing yards to Hawaii, including four runs of at least 23 yards, and allowed 217 yards the previous week to San Jose State and 215 the week before that to Wyoming. In that span, the rush defense went from 42nd nationally to 65th.
“We had a couple explosive (plays) we’d love to have back,” defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said of the Hawaii game. “... As always, there’s plenty of room for improvements. That’s where we’re at in the season. You put out one fire, and there’s another one started. That’s the joy of this game.”