NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Off to a 1-4 start and coming in off a disappointing 31-6 loss at Ole Miss last week, Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason hinted he could be making a quarterback change this week. The Commodores, whose lone victory came over Northern Illinois of the MAC, will try for their second win in three games when they host UNLV from the Mountain West.
TV: 4 p.m. ET. SEC Network. LINE: Vanderbilt -14.5
Riley Neal, a grad transfer from Ball State, has started the first five game for the Commodores after edging out junior Deuce Wallace in the preseason. But Neal, who completed 18-of-30 passes for 140 yards in the Ole Miss loss, has thrown only four touchdown passes in five games this season while leading the Commodores to only one touchdown in their past 24 offensive possessions. "(Wallace) has shown that he deserves an opportunity to look at the field," said Mason, who hinted he could play both quarterbacks against the Rebels. "I told Riley, 'Don't look over your shoulder. Don't worry about looking over your shoulder. Keep your eyes firmly planted forward so you can play your best ball. But Deuce is coming." UNLV, which comes in off a 38-13 home loss to Boise State, has dropped four in a row since opening the season with a 56-23 victory over an FCS school, Southern Utah.
ABOUT UNLV (1-4)
The Rebels also have had quarterback problems with junior starter Armani Rogers missing the last six quarters after injuring his leg in a 53-17 loss at Wyoming on Sept. 28 and being replaced by redshirt freshman Kenyon Oblad. The 6-5 Rogers was the 2017 Mountain West Freshman of the Year after rushing for 780 yards and eight touchdowns but has struggled passing the ball, completing 44.4 percent of his passes last season and throwing more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2) in four games this season while completing 51.9 percent of his throws for 393 yards. Oblad, the state of Nevada's all-time leading passer with 11,828 yards and 116 touchdown passes at Liberty High School in Henderson, isn't nearly the running threat as Rogers, but UNLV coach Tony Sanchez vowed this week to place a bigger emphasis on a ground game led by junior tailback Charles Williams who ranks 21st nationally with 529 yards on 66 carries (8.0 avg.) and six touchdowns.
ABOUT VANDERBILT (1-4)
Wallace's running ability could add another dimension to a Commodores offense that ranks last in the SEC in scoring offense (19.6 points per game), total offense (345.4 yards), rushing offense (115.6 yards) and third-down conversion rate (27 percent). Senior running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn ranks second in the SEC with a 99.5-yard average per game while senior wide receiver Kalija Libscomb has 2,188 career receiving yards and 21 TD receptions. Junior outside linebacker Andre Mintze had two sacks and five solo tackles in the loss at Ole Miss and leads a defense that produced two defensive scores in a 66-38 loss to LSU.
1. This is the first meeting between UNLV and Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 3-3 all-time against Mountain West teams, including a 41-10 victory over Nevada last season.
2. Lipscomb needs four TD catches to break the school career mark of 24 held by Jordan Matthews (2010-13).
3. The teams are scheduled to meet again in the home-and-home series on Sept. 16, 2023 in the new $2 billion domed Allegiant Stadium which is will also be the new home for the NFL's Raiders starting next fall.
PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 37, UNLV 13