Despite an 0-2 start and the daunting task of playing Michigan at the Big House on deck, UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez still had plenty of reason to smile on Tuesday.
Starting quarterback Blake Decker, who left Saturday’s 37-3 loss to UCLA at the end of the first quarter after going down with what at first looked like a serious hamstring injury, actually suffered a strain of the obturator internus muscle near the back of his hip joint and could be back in action as soon as Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.
“When I saw him go down I thought it would be a lot worse than it is,” Sanchez admitted.
Decker was back on the practice field on Tuesday taking part in drills but Sanchez wasn’t ready to say yet that his senior quarterback would start or even play against the Wolverines.
“He did all the exchange drills and he threw the ball,” Sanchez said. “He will be suited up back there. Will he play or start? That’s questionable right now. But he’ll be available.”
Sophomore Kurt Palandech came off the bench to replace Decker and completed just 4-of-15 passes for four yards and tossed an interception that UCLA linebacker Kenny Young returned 23 yards for a touchdown. He also lost a fumble. But the transfer from Laney College in Oakland is an explosive runner who is second on the team in rushing with 73 yards on 13 carries, including an 18-yard touchdown run at Northern Illinois.
“It really is his level of comfort, if he can execute the entire thing,” Sanchez said when asked what will go into the decision whether to play Decker or not. “I think right now that some of the run-pass conflicts that we want to put the defense in might be a little much for him. But we’ll find out and we’ll make the decision on game day.”
True freshman Dalton Sneed, whom Sanchez hopes to redshirt, will also make the trip to Michigan as the team’s third-string quarterback.