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Cougars may face UNLV's top QB

UNLV quarterback Jarrod Jackson looks to throw during the first half against Air Force in action earlier this year at Falcon Stadium.
UNLV quarterback Jarrod Jackson looks to throw during the first half against Air Force in action earlier this year at Falcon Stadium.
Jack Dempsey, Associated Press

PROVO — After missing four games due to a broken finger that required surgery, UNLV junior quarterback Shane Steichen could be back in the lineup this week against BYU.

Steichen started the first four games of the season, then broke the ring finger on his non-throwing hand against Utah State on Sept. 24. Junior Jarrod Jackson started the four games that Steichen missed.

Steichen (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) has completed 72-of-132 attempts for 800 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Jackson (6-1, 205 pounds) has completed 81-of-145 attempts for 840 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. Steichen has rushed for 244 yards and two touchdowns, while Jackson has minus-37 yards.

Each QB has led the Rebels to one win. Steichen did it on Sept. 10 in a 34-31 victory over Idaho, while Jackson helped guide the Rebels to a 13-10 decision over San Diego State on Oct. 8. In his last start, against Utah on Oct. 22, Jackson passed for a career-high 356 yards, the most in school history since 1997.

Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall said his team has been preparing to face Steichen all week, but added that it is ready for Jackson, too.

"We've had to go back into their entire season to see if their offense has been tailored slightly differently based on which quarterback is in," he said. "Their coaching staff now will need to make a difficult decision whether or not to go with a quarterback who has been out for a while who was the starter. So we've prepared for both to the best of our ability."

BYU linebacker Justin Luettgerodt is hoping that Jackson will take snaps on Saturday. "He's a very good friend of mine," Luettgerodt said. "I hope he gets the start so I can get after him a little bit."

Luettgerodt and Jackson have known each other since they competed against each other at rival Oregon high schools. Luettgerodt was the quarterback at Rex Putnam High, while Jackson was the quarterback at Lake Oswego High. Later, they were roommates at Foothill Junior College, where they were freshman quarterback prospects.

While Jackson ended up transferring to El Camino JC, Luettgerodt stayed at Foothill and switched to linebacker. Though the two players took different paths, they have both enjoyed success.

Jackson compiled a 21-2 record in two years as the starter at El Camino, the top-ranked JC team in Southern California entering the 2004 postseason. He enrolled at UNLV in January and participated in spring practice this year.

Luettgerodt went on to become a first-team Gridwire Junior College All-America linebacker and set a school record with 147 tackles in 10 games as a sophomore before transferring to BYU.

This season, Luettgerodt is the Cougars' second-leading tackler, behind fellow linebacker Cameron Jensen. He also has recorded a team-high eight tackles-for-loss, a team-high 4.5 sacks and a 22-yard interception return, which he recorded last week in the win over Air Force.

Luettgerodt and Jackson keep in touch on a regular basis and are looking forward to reuniting on the football field this weekend in Las Vegas.

"He's a great kid. I pretty much call him every week," Luettgerodt said. "Whether he returns my phone calls or not is based on how he played or how I played. I called him Sunday night after watching him on coach Mendenhall's (TV) show. I saw a little clip of him there. I had to call him and give him a hard time."

PRAISE FOR THE OFFENSE: Luettgerodt is thrilled about the play of BYU's offense, which put up 62 points last Saturday against Air Force.

"Our offense is rolling," he said. "If they keep doing that, we're going to do big, big things for years to come. The way they've been clicking, the way they've been running the ball, the way John Beck throws the ball, it's impressive."

UTAH REBELS: Two UNLV starters are natives of the Beehive State. Senior defensive lineman Isaiah Tafua is a Taylorsville High product, while senior offensive lineman Jesse Knight attended Pine View High in St. George.

RUN-STOPPING REBELS: UNLV is ranked No. 3 in the Mountain West Conference (No. 44 nationally) in rushing defense, allowing 133.2 yards per game. The Cougars are averaging 133.4 yards per game on the ground, including 300 yards last week.

"They're a good run-stopping defense because they have some good athletes and big bodies who are strong," said BYU offensive guard Brian Sanders. "We also have some big bodies who are strong on the other side. So it will be a good matchup for us. They are good against the run, but we're a good running team too. It will be a good matchup."

Cougars on the air

BYU (4-4, 3-2) at UNLV (2-6, 1-4)

Saturday, 1 p.m.

Sam Boyd Stadium

TV: Ch. 14

Radio: 1160AM, 102.7FM