Monday, Sept. 4, 2017 | 2 a.m.
There was plenty of blame to go around after UNLV suffered one of the worst losses in college football history on Saturday night, dropping a 43-40 decision to Howard. By the numbers, a look at how the Rebels turned what should have been an easy win into a devastating defeat.
13: Penalties called against UNLV
The Rebels were flagged for 13 infractions, their most under Tony Sanchez, and they proved to be extremely costly. The undisciplined play began early, as UNLV was penalized on the opening kickoff, and before the game was over the team had racked up 90 penalty yards. That hidden yardage was a killer early in the game and directly cost the Rebels points. To be specific…
15: Points left on the board in the first half
UNLV advanced the ball deep into Howard territory on each of its first four possessions, but the Rebels came away with just nine points on those drives. Three of them were stalled due to penalties, as UNLV committed false starts on third down three separate times (including twice inside the 10-yard line). None of the downs were converted after taking the five-yard penalty.
UNLV had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on those three drives, costing them 12 additional points. The other drive ended with a missed 43-yard field goal, leaving another three points on the field. It all added up to a lot of lost production.
2: Third downs converted by UNLV
Speaking of the Rebels’ third-down struggles, the team converted just two third-down situations (2-of-8) on the night and went 0-of-5 when trying convert through the air. The inability to extend drives via the passing game put UNLV at a huge disadvantage in the possession battle.
87: Plays run by Howard
Because the UNLV offense had trouble converting on third down, the Rebels’ defense was on the field for a long time, as Howard ran 87 plays to UNLV’s 67. That resulted in a time-of-possession advantage of five minutes for Howard (32:30 to 27:30), and that’s basically the opposite of the game plan UNLV wants to follow this season. Howard hit on 50 percent of its third-down attempts (10-of-20), stayed on the field and wore down the UNLV defense.
309: Rushing yards allowed by UNLV
Howard may be an FCS opponent coming off a 2-9 season, but the Bison completely overpowered UNLV on the ground. Freshman quarterback Caylin Newton tortured the Rebels in the option game, running for 190 yards on 21 carries, and Howard ripped off nine running plays that went for 10 or more yards.
13.6: Shift, by percentage, in win probability on fumble return touchdown
Aside from Howard’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, the single most pivotal play of the game (according to ESPN’s win probability tracker) was Howard’s 75-yard fumble return touchdown midway through the second quarter. UNLV was trailing, 14-9, and driving in Bison territory when sophomore running back Charles Williams fumbled and Devin Rollins ran it back for a touchdown. Before the play, UNLV had a 90.5 percent chance of winning; after, the Rebels’ win probability dropped to 76.9 percent.
UNLV still had a good chance to win late in the game midway through the fourth quarter, but a 3-and-out possession with five minutes left dropped the Rebels’ win probability by 21.4 percent. Tariq Hollandsworth’s fumbled kickoff return dropped it another 6.1 percent, and Drew Tejchman’s lost fumble on UNLV’s second-to-last drive caused it to tumble another 3.5 percent.