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Know the Foes: Arizona State Hosts UNLV

Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal sat down with Donnie Druin to discuss Arizona State hosting UNLV.

Know the foes is a weekly feature where AllSunDevils gains exclusive insight about Arizona State's opponent. This week, the Sun Devils take on the UNLV Rebels, so Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal assesses UNLV's chances at Sun Devil Stadium.

Follow Sam on Twitter @BySamGordon for more updates and analysis on UNLV.

Opponent: UNLV Rebels
Record: 0-1
Previous Game: Loss to Eastern Washington

When the Arizona State Sun Devils take the field on Saturday night, they'll look to bury a moment in recent program history in their first opportunity in over a decade. UNLV marched into Sun Devil Stadium in 2008 and upset a ranked ASU squad that was coming off a conference title the year prior. 

Enough with the past, right? The Sun Devils have worked hard to erase that memory and move forward, although that particular story line appears to be unavoidable until ASU proves capable of taking the second-ever matchup between the two programs. 

When it comes to the Rebels point of view, the win still is held in high regard. Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal says UNLV's upset over ASU is still talked about. 

"Yeah for sure," said Gordon.  "A lot has happened with the program since then. A lot of ups and downs. Mostly downs, though, and as a result, that win remains a prominent part of UNLV's history and one of the signature wins that still permeates the program."

For a Rebels team that hasn't had a winning season since 2013, expectations surely aren't through the roof for the program. However, an opening week loss to FCS school Eastern Washington still is cause for concern, according to Gordon. 

"There is definitely legitimate cause for concern. Eastern Washington is certainly one of the better FCS programs, and it's not necessarily a surprise the Rebels lost given where they're at during their rebuild under Marcus Arroyo," said Gordon.

"But this was viewed before the season as a game the Rebels probably needed to win because of how challenging their schedule is. With that in mind, success here this year in Las Vegas is probably going to be measured in improvement on the field rather than wins and losses."

New Quarterback, New Hope?

One of the few bright spots in the overtime loss last week came via quarterback play from Doug Brumfield, who was subbed into the game and led a UNLV comeback late in the game to push it past the fourth quarter. 

Brumfield was given the nod to start this week against Arizona State, and despite throwing just north of 30 passes in his career as a Rebel, the sophomore quarterback has a lot of people in Vegas excited for his ability when the ball is in his hands. 

Should the Sun Devils be placed on upset alert? Gordon says pump the brakes on that talk, although the offense looked much better with their new gunslinger in charge. 

"Brumfield provided the Rebels with a spark in relief of Justin Rogers last Thursday, pushing the ball down the field and using his legs to make plays outside the pocket," says Gordon. 

"But this is a different kind of setting, traveling to play a top-25 team in a hostile environment. I expect the Rebels to try and ease him into the game by featuring running back Charles Williams, who is the active leader in rushing yards at the FBS level. If they can do that, some play-action to help get Brumfield settled. 

"I don't think the Rebels are going to put the onus on him in his first start to go out there and win them the game. This is about the long haul more than one particular game, so building his confidence is going to be key."

Ground Control

The aforementioned back, Williams, put on an excellent running display last week. His 172 rushing yards (along with two scores) will undoubtedly put the Sun Devils defense to the test. Gordon believes Williams is a huge strength of UNLV's squad, and his 2021 debut proved that.

"He's as experienced as a back as there is in the country and is the total package at the Mountain West level," said Gordon. "He's fast and physical and can handle a big workload. He'll be the focal point offensively this season."

So, if Williams is the strength, what is the weakness of this Rebels team?

"Pass blocking," said Gordon. "Rogers had very little time to throw in the first half last week. There were some adjustments in the second half, giving Brumfield a little more time to push the ball down field. But chemistry seems like a work in progress now across the offensive front."

Arizona State is currently favored by 30-plus points heading into Saturday's game (click here on how you should bet the game). Gordon already admitted it was a tall task for the Rebels to pull off the upset, yet if UNLV did do it, what would be the recipe?

"Controlling the tempo with the running game, sustaining long drives and limiting Arizona State's possessions. A takeaway -- or two or three -- would help. But if the Rebels can run the ball and ease Brumfield into the game, that'll give them their best chance to win."

Ah, the good ol' "run the damn ball" strategy, something Arizona State knows all too well. 

The Sun Devils are heavy favorites to move past UNLV, although for whatever reason, it feels as if we've seen this movie before. Arizona State looks to rewrite that ending from last time with emphasis. 

Donnie Druin is a Deputy Editor with AllSunDevils. Follow Donnie on Twitter @DonnieDruin, and AllSunDevils @AllSunDevils. Like and follow AllSunDevils on Facebook, and for more ASU news visit