UNLV-BYU: UNLV Offense Limps into Provo

Brett RichinsSenior Analyst INovember 3, 2010

LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 02:  Quarterback Omar Clayton #2 of the UNLV Rebels looks to pass against the Nevada Reno Wolf Pack at Sam Boyd Stadium October 2, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada Reno won 44-26.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

BYU faces an offense this Saturday that has struggled even more they have.

UNLV comes into Saturday’s game with the 117th-ranked offense in the land. The Cougars check in at No. 107.

The Rebels have been outright offensive on offense averaging just 272 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Omar Clayton has had to run for his life behind an offensive line that has allowed 25 sacks and 44 tackles for loss this season. Both stats are among the worst in the country.

Clayton is a player that showed tremendous promise as freshman and sophomore.

Originally a walk-on, he impressed everyone in Vegas by working his way up the depth chart to become UNLV’s starter part way through his freshman season.

At the time, the Normal, Illinios native was viewed as the perfect athlete to run Mike Sanford’s spread offense and a burgeoning star with a bright future. But injuries and the program’s sputtering in the desert under Sanford have hampered Clayton’s development.

When new coach Bobby Hauck arrived this year, Clayton was forced to learn to play in a new multiple-set offense. That transition has not gone as smoothly as hoped.

Omar enters the BYU game with a passing rating of just 114.1, good for 91st in the country. He has completed less than 56% of his passes for just over 133 yards per game and has thrown just six touchdown passes against four interceptions on the year.

Meager results for a senior quarterback.

Meanwhile the UNLV running game has provided little assistance this year, with the Rebels averaging just 2.98 yards per rushing attempt and 106.5 yards per game.

The Rebels have also had to deal with a slew of injuries and may be missing as many as 13 players due to injury when they arrive in Provo.

On Saturday the Rebel offense will face a BYU defense that, in the last few games, has come into its own.

With Bronco Mendenhall operating as the defensive coordinator, the Cougars have made a stunning turnaround, particularly against the run, where BYU has given up just 224 yards in its last three games. That from a team that was coughing up an obscene 259 yards per game—dead last in the country.

The 74.7 rushing yards per game given up by BYU since the Mendenhall take over, would currently rank the Cougars No. 2 in the nation, just behind Kent State.

A stat made even more impressive by the fact BYU has put up those numbers while tackling the No. 9 rushing team in the country in TCU and the nation’s 10th leading rusher in San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman.

It’s difficult to see UNLV making much headway on the ground against Mendenhall’s defense. And given Clayton’s struggles in the passing game, BYU should be able to throttle the Rebels at home.

The Cougars have been installed as 19.5-point favorites.

Could this also be the breakout game for the BYU offense that everyone has waited for as well?

We’ll go ahead and say yes, at least in some degree. We’ll also say UNLV puts together a couple of drives for field goals and that a BYU turnover results in a Rebel touchdown.

BYU 34 UNLV 13