Same song, different verse. UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers is forced to go away from his strengths and throw the football after his team trails early. The results are the same: a blowout loss for the Rebels against a team they desperately needed to beat in their quest for bowl eligibility. The QB position is killing UNLV and exhausting the team’s defense.
After last weekend’s disastrous home loss to Arkansas State in front of a sprinkle of faithfully frustrated fans, head coach Tony Sanchez — whose job in reportedly at stake this season — claimed the coaching staff would take a look at the quarterback position. Yet, after just one practice, Rogers was right back at the top of the depth chart for this weekend’s tilt at Northwestern.
“I guess that’s the good thing and the frustrating thing,” Sanchez said. “You come back out on a Monday, and all of the sudden, balls are on the money. They’re zipping. The mechanics are there.”
Armani Rogers is still listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the UNLV depth chart this week. pic.twitter.com/HJ8eAxcPLr
— Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) September 9, 2019
It’s as if the coaching staff hasn’t learned a thing, a constant theme during Sanchez’s time at the helm.
It’s like Tony Sanchez is chasing a magical unicorn.
Rogers is a fantastic athlete. He can run, is elusive, breaks tackles and does a ton of damage on the ground. The problem is, when he is asked to throw the football more than a few times, he goes from Superman to Clark Kent in an instant. This past week, he threw his first INT on the third play of the game, starting a spiral that had yards the Rebels down 23-3 at half en route to a 43-17 loss.
Despite going 8-for-23 for just 42 and an INT and backup Kenyon Oblad mopping up with a 3-for-3 for 70 yards and an TD, Sanchez is riding and dying with his gifted running QB.
“Armani’s still our guy,” Sanchez said Monday at his weekly news conference. “We have to have a better performance there. When we went back and watched film, we weren’t very good. We need to talk about what we need to do to get (Rogers) comfortable. The frustrating thing is we know how good of a quarterback he is because we see it every day in practice, but it’s got to translate on Saturday.”
Fans can understand Sanchez’s fixation.
When the Rebels are winning, having some at the QB position like Rogers who can run wild against defenses is a major plus. It’s a shame the defense seems to allow points at a catastrophic rate. Then again, it’s not the defense’s fault it is on the field far too often every week, especially when the Rebels go 4-for-19 on third and fourth downs combined. That’s a QB problem. His accuracy is below average — a 49.1 career passing completion percentage in three seasons.
Sooner or later, though, you have to stop banging your head against the wall and adapt. Sanchez has failed to do that, time and time again. While a 1-1 record normally isn’t a reason to panic, it’s a pattern over the course of the coach’s five years at the helm. Something has gotta give
Interesting note from @rotoworld about UNLV: Junior QB Amani Rogers still hasn't figured out his accuracy and Sanchez appears to have grown tired of it. Rogers got the start on Saturday and played most of the game, but he completed just 8-of-23 passes…
— Aaron (@AFriedman15DFS) September 8, 2019
Just like Marvin Menzies refusing to adapt, Sanchez’s stubbornness to make changes could be the end of his tenure at UNLV. With a rough schedule on the horizon, it might only get worse. Perhaps the play-calling is stale. Maybe the personnel is wrong. Maybe it is the defense’s fault.
Whatever it is, Sanchez should be feeling the heat of his seat. An improbable win on the road against a Big Ten opponent would be a huge first step, but the Rebels head into Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., as 18-point underdogs. It could real ugly real quick against an offense that played poorly last week on the road at Stanford and will be looking to make amends in front of its fan base.
UNLV’s fan base is another question altogether. Fans booed the team and coaching staff at halftime Saturday and are split on which QB they have faith in. Oblad seems to be the favorite.
Who should UNLV start at quarterback?
— Mountain West Wire (@MWCwire) September 9, 2019
The hard truth is, Rogers inability to throw the ball consistently isn’t a new issue. It’s been the same issue for three seasons. If Sanchez can’t adjust his offense, right the ship with Rogers or insert Oblad to give the Rebels an actual passing threat, UNLV athletic director Denise Reed-Francois will be holding another press conference very soon to announce UNLV’s 12th head coach in school history, its third since 2009.
Adapt or die.
The UNLV-Northwestern game kicks off Saturday at 12:30 PST in Evanston.