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Michigan vs. UNLV: Build on the surging run game

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Angelique Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan-UNLV game at Michigan Stadium (noon, BTN / WWJ 950, WTKA 1050).

Runnin’ Rebels to watch

Blake Decker, QB: The senior left last week’s game against UCLA in the first quarter with what was first diagnosed as a hamstring injury but later called a groin injury. He could play. If not, sophomore backup Kurt Palandech would start. He was 4-for-15 for 4 yards, had an INT returned for a TD and a fumble.

Devonte Boyd, WR: A sophomore, he has eight catches for 112 yards and a TD through two games. He is averaging 14 yards a catch. A year ago, he had a huge season (980 yards) and was named Mountain West Conference freshman of the year and made the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America Team.

Peni Vea, DB: One of four captains, he was second on team last season in tackles with 88 and 3.5 sacks despite missing one game (injury). The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Vea needs 11 tackles to move into the program’s career top-10 list with 276. Through two games he has 17 tackles, one sack, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.

 

Intangibles

Is a high school coach ready?: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh expressed his appreciation for UNLV coach Tony Sanchez. Why? Because of Sanchez’s background as a successful high school coach. He built a national powerhouse at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas before becoming the 11th Rebels coach last December. His teams won six straight high school championships and his 2014 team won the mythical national title.

Time zones: The Rebels were scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor on Thursday to get adjusted to Eastern time. It’s the first time UNLV has played an Eastern time zone game since 2010 when it traveled to West Virginia. The team practices early morning, so the 9 a.m. Pacific time start is not anticipated to be an issue, Sanchez said.

Dealing with the crowd: Sanchez said his plan was to allow his players to snap some photos at Michigan Stadium after their walk-through on the eve of the game. UNLV plays in Sam Boyd Stadium, which has a capacity of 36,800, while Michigan Stadium's capacity is 107,601.

Staying focused: Michigan is an enormous favorite, and that can present challenges to a coaching staff when the players are made aware. The Wolverines face a more challenging BYU team the following week, so this game against the Rebels will be about maintaining focus.

Building on the offense: Michigan got its run game healthy against a week defensive opponent (Oregon State). Expect more of the same against UNLV with Drake Johnson, coming off an ACL injury late last November, possibly playing a bigger role as he continues to get acclimated to game speed and taking hits.

Facts and figures

* UNLV has lost eight straight dating to last season. It's coming off a 37-3 loss to then-No. 13 UCLA last week.

* Sanchez and Harbaugh are in their first seasons at their respective schools. Last year, Sanchez was coaching Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas and Harbaugh was coaching the 49ers.

* Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno coached running backs at UNLV in 1988.

* Michigan is 4-1 against teams from the Mountain West Conference since it began play in 1999.

Amara Darboh needs two catches to reach 50 in his career with the Wolverines. He is their leading receiver with 151 yards on 12 catches.