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UNLV’s go-go offense hopes to cause problems in the Big House

Their quarterback and a couple running backs want to move the ball.

NCAA Football: UNLV at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines had a dominating performance in their Week 1 win over East Carolina. Jesse Minter’s defense held East Carolina to just over 100 yards rushing on 26 attempts. The visitors constantly played behind the sticks and went just 5-of-13 on third down, making it difficult to put up points of any kind.

On Saturday, a new challenge comes in with the UNLV Rebels who have quite a unique offensive structure. Offensive Coordinator Brennan Marion has installed a go-go offense that puts two running backs on one side of the quarterback. The goal is to move the ball downhill and in a hurry, with a no-huddle style while spreading the receivers out wide to create a lot of space to run. That’s why the Rebels ran for 280 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground last week in their blowout win over Bryant.

Michigan’s had no problems slowing down rushing offenses in the past, but UNLV brings a vastly different style than what they are used to. They’ll have to be sound in their roles to ensure that the Rebels don’t break anything loose on Saturday. Here are the guys that could do just that.

QB Doug Brumfield

Most offenses like this start with the quarterback for a multitude of reasons. Brumfield will have to make quick decisions against a Michigan defense that will be bigger, faster, and stronger than any other competition he has faced to this point in his career.

The go-go offense comes with some RPO and triple-option opportunities, meaning that he’ll constantly have to be making the right reads in the run game. At 6-foot-6, Brumfield is a big dude who ran for 50 or more yards three times last season. He also scored six touchdowns on the ground.

On passing downs, the UNLV quarterback has also shown off a big arm. Michigan won’t be able to just stack the box since the receivers line up so far down the line of scrimmage. So, Brumfield won’t be afraid to air it out if the safeties and corners start sneaking in. He threw for 200 yards in 7 out of 8 starts last season and had 10 touchdowns. In each game, he completed passes of 30 yards or more.

Outside of the pocket, Brumfield hasn’t been very good. He was sacked 21 times in 2022, and at least once in every appearance. Tie that in with a young and inexperienced offensive line that the Rebels have this year, and Michigan’s pass rush could have a much better performance on Saturday. On top of that, he’s not the most accurate thrower either. He completed just 64.6 percent of his balls a season ago while being picked off five times.

Undoubtedly, Brumfield is a weapon for the UNLV offense and he’ll have to have the game of his life to even keep the Rebels close in the Big House.

RB Vincent Davis Jr.

Senior running back Vincent Davis Jr. comes into this game with a bunch of experience. It’s his fifth year in college football after transferring from Pittsburgh with over 1,800 career rushing yards under his belt.

Davis is a smaller guy at just 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, but he’s quick and can do a little bit of everything on the field. He took the opening play of the game against Bryant 69-yards and to the house:

He’ll also catch balls out of the backfield racking up 64 catches for 413 yards and a receiving touchdown to this point in his career. Overall, he’s averaged 5.0 yards per touch to this point in his career and has done most of that work at the Power 5 level.

He only had three touches in UNLV’s opening game because they swap a bunch of different backs in and out of the lineup to keep guys fresh. However, I suspect he'll be utilized a lot more frequently in the Big House this weekend in hopes that he can cut one loose.

RB Jai’Den Thomas

Jai’Den “Jet” Thomas has almost an identical build to Davis and the Rebels used him early and often in the win over Bryant. The true freshman running back was the team’s second most efficient runner picking up eight carries for 60 yards and two scores.

Thomas had the second-most carries on the squad in Week 1 behind senior running back Courtney Reese. He’s been good enough to see the field and earn carries among several other senior running backs in a crowded room, which speaks to how high esteem this coaching staff puts him in.

The true freshman was not a highly decorated recruit, just a two-star by 247sports out of Atlanta, Georgia. But he was a highly productive player racking up 2,338 yards and 24 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons.

Michigan will have to keep their eyes peeled on the backfield in this contest to slow down Thomas, Davis, and any of the other backs that should see the field this weekend.