Nevada (6-5) at UNLV (2-10) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sam Boyd Stadium (36,800) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Nevada 3-3, UNLV 2-3. Away Record: Nevada 3-2, UNLV 0-7. Neutral Record: Nevada 0-0, UNLV 0-0. Conference Record: Nevada 3-4, UNLV 1-6. Series Record: Nevada leads, 23-16.
GAME NOTES: The Battle for the Fremont Cannon takes center stage in the Silver State, as the UNLV Rebels host the Nevada Wolf Pack in the regular-season finale for both Mountain West Conference squads.
UNLV has been quite disappointing this season and is currently suffering through a five-game slide since stunning Fresno State (30-27) in overtime last month. The most recent outing for the Rebels came on Nov. 22 when the squad lost in the final seconds at Hawaii, 37-35.
The Rebels are winless on the road this season as a result of the failed trip to Honolulu.
As for the Wolf Pack, they had a chance to possibly take over the West Division of the MWC last week, but the team was dropped by Fresno State at home in a 40-20 decision. The loss was the second in a row for a Nevada team that is now 3-4 in conference and hoping to remain in contention for a possible bowl bid.
The Pack leads the series by a 23-16 margin, although UNLV won the meeting last season, 27-22, in Reno. This is the first time since 1977 that the in- state battle is being played on the final game of the season.
Nevada should have known something was wrong last weekend when, after scoring what should have been a tying touchdown in the second quarter, the team still trailed by a point because the PAT failed. After that the offense was never hear from again in the 20-point loss.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo continued to demonstrate why he's one of the top duel threats in the nation as he converted 11-of-24 passes for 126 yards and a score and also ran for a game-high 165 yards and two more TDs on 22 attempts. Unfortunately, no matter how much effort he put into the offense, Fajardo still felt the sting of defeat.
The defense for the Pack managed to cause back-to-back turnovers in the second quarter, breaking up a run of what was four touchdowns for Fresno State, but those stops were only temporary it turned out. Jordan Dobrich registered a team-best 13 tackles, while Lenny Jones had two tackles for loss and an interception.
Turnovers have been an important tool for the Pack this season as they are currently tied for 21st in the nation with a plus-0.73 turnovers per game. Duran Workman has a team-best three INTs heading into the season finale, while Nigel Haikins has two picks and three fumble recoveries.
Taking almost every snap this season, Fajardo has avoided serious injury even though he has been credited with 151 rushing attempts, leading to 854 yards and 12 touchdowns, Don Jackson is second on that list with 800 yards and five TDs. Through the air, the signal caller has thrown for 211.6 ypg and 15 scores, against 10 picks.
UNLV tallied a trio of fourth-quarter touchdowns out in Honolulu last weekend against a slumping Hawaii club, and yet all that effort was met with yet another loss for the Rebels. Jared Lebowitz, who ran for a touchdown to kick off the game, converted just 13-of-30 passes, was sacked twice and intercepted once before giving way to Blake Decker.
Decker brought the Rebels back with three passing scores, connecting on 10- of-13 for 187 yards, and still the visitors came up short. The fact that Devante Davis made five catches for 163 yards and was kept out of the end zone should have been a sign that UNLV was in trouble.
In an effort to keep the Rebels from fading too quickly, Peni Vea not only tied for the team lead with nine tackles, he also logged three TFLs, one sack and an interception he returned for 12 yards. Vea, who has appeared in all but one game, is second on the unit in tackles overall with 78, his sack total of 3.5 second to Siuea Vaesau who has five sacks and 8.5 TFL.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, their defense has been pretty bad this season and currently ranks second-to-last in the FBS with a staggering 518.4 ypg allowed. If that were not enough, the team has also surrendered the second- most first downs in the country as well, so it is easy to see why they are 116th in scoring defense (37.6 ppg) entering the week.
The offense has tried to help out, but running for just 122.8 ypg is simply not going to cut it, even though Shaquille Murray-Lawrence has turned his 96 carries in eight games into 417 yards and a team-best eight touchdowns. The problem lies more with the quarterback position where Decker has taken the majority of the snaps but has more INTs (15) than TDs (13) through the air at the moment.
Obviously the season will be over for the Rebels after this game so there is nothing to fight for from a postseason perspective, but bragging rights go a long way until the next time the teams meet. Unfortunately, the Pack is also wanting to lay claim to the trophy and improve their positioning for the postseason, so expect Fajardo to do all he can in order to capture the win for the visitors.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 31, UNLV 23Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 29, 10:30 p.m. (ET).