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What was Ken Niumatalolo’s offense like at UNLV?

Ken Niumatalolo does have experience calling an offense that is not a triple-option attack.

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo is the clear top choice to as BYU’s head football coach, but there is a concern among BYU fans that the triple-option offense will be coming to Provo. There is some valid concern over this as Niumatalolo left the Navy staff as their offensive coordinator in 1999 over differences in the style of offense.

Niumatalolo had no job lined up but had the chance to coach the tight ends, special teams and was the offensive play caller. He learned under Hall of Fame head coach John Robinson and was calling the plays, with success, for an offense that was more of a pro-style set compared to an option offense.

The concern he is triple-option or bust if he comes to Provo should be tempered down by what he did as part of the UNLV staff.

UNLV has never been great at football but during Niumatalolo’s time in Las Vegas the Rebels had success which included winning the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl over Arkansas and finishing 8-5.

There are highlights of that Las Vegas Bowl game which feature a passing game and no option attack. This play below is a 20-yard touchdown pass that that is in a pro set with two wide receivers, two tight ends and a running back.

Here is another play which is the same set as the prior play but flipped, and is a deep passing play.

Here is another deep passing play that went for a touchdown.

Here is a play that has some triple-option tendencies as it is a fake hand off and the quarterback take it outside for a touchdown. However, that also can be customized to a read-option play that is very commonly used in today’s game.

This is a small sample size but this UNLV offense in 2000 was not Niumatalolo’s expertise but he was able to have command over an offense that was not his expertise.

This UNLV team was much more of a rushing team than a passing one with 542 rushes to 245 pass attempts, and that fits into Niumatalolo’s comfort zone. The passing game had 16 total passing touchdowns to 10 interceptions while the ground game had 24 rushing touchdowns in that 8-5 year.

The offense was 44th overall in yards per game at 387.1 yards per game with the split of 159.3 yards in the air which was 98th and the rushing was putting up 227.8 yards per game and 13th in the nation.

This Rebels offense was run heavy and some tendencies of an option attack, but this was an offense that also had a handful of big passing plays. Niumatalolo was at UNLV for just three years but he was able to have success calling plays for an offense that was not a triple-option attack. This should quash those fears that the triple-option is coming for sure to LaVell Edwards Stadium if Niumatalolo is the next head coach.


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