Published Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 | 11 p.m.
It's been a foregone conclusion for a few hours now, but UNLV has officially been eliminated from bowl contention with tonight's 48-3 loss to Fresno State.
Fresno State's dominant defense held UNLV to 302 total yards and just 4.0 yards per play. Rebels quarterback Max Gilliam was uncomfortable all night and completed 14-of-30 passes for just 98 yards.
UNLV is now 2-7 on the season and 0-5 in Mountain West play. The Rebels have lost five straight games since starting quarterback Armani Rogers went out with an injury, and six overall.
The big question now is whether Rogers will be healthy enough to take over on a full-time basis next week, when the Rebels travel to San Diego State. He was dressed for tonight's game, but did not play; true freshman Kenyon Oblad took over for Gilliam in mop-up duty.
Rebels trail Fresno State, 41-3
UNLV has finally gotten on the board, but the fourth-quarter field goal isn't going to do much good as the Rebels now trail, 41-3, with 10:13 remaining.
The Rebels had a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but Charles Williams was stuffed on a run up the middle. Staying on his feet, Williams retreated and reversed field and was eventually tackled for a loss of 13 yards. Three plays later, UNLV settled for a 28-yard field goal.
UNLV trails Fresno State, 31-0
Fresno State has opened the second half with back-to-back touchdowns, and the lead has ballooned to 31-0 with 8:22 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs took the opening kick and drove 74 yards for the first score, with Marcus McMaryon hitting Kyle Riddering for a 9-yard TD pass to make it 24-0. UNLV's ensuing drive looked promising until Max Gilliam was intercepted at midfield. Fresno returned the pick to the 5-yard line, and Fresno running back Josh Hokit scored on the next play.
The Rebels will play out the rest of the game, and the rest of the season, but their bowl hopes have been extinguished. Once this game goes final, UNLV will be 2-7 and officially ineligible for postseason play.
UNLV trails Fresno at half, 17-0
Fresno State connected on a 35-yard field goal in the final minute of the half, and the Bulldogs have a 17-0 lead over UNLV at halftime.
UNLV had every opportunity to keep this game close, but the offense failed completely over the first 30 minutes. The Rebels had six offensive possessions in the first half; five of them ended in punts, and only once did UNLV cross midfield. That excursion ended with a missed field goal from 46 yards away.
Max Gilliam completed 9-of-18 passes for just 67 yards in the first half. Armani Rogers has been cleared to play this week, but he has not seen the field yet. And if he didn't play in the first half, when any offense at all could have made this an interesting game, odds are low that we'll see him at all tonight.
As it stands, UNLV is averaging just 3.8 yards per play, and the Rebels' inability to move the chains (3-of-9 on third downs) has led to Fresno State dominating in time of possession (17:01 to 12:59).
Fresno State will receive the kickoff to open the second half. UNLV probably needs a stop there in order to keep this game within reach.
Fresno State builds 14-0 lead over UNLV
Fresno State tacked on another touchdown, and UNLV now finds itself in a 14-0 hole with 11:31 left in the second quarter.
Running back Ronnie Rivers scored on a toss play from 2 yards out, walking into the end zone untouched to double Fresno's lead at the 14:55 mark. UNLV's ensuing drive stalled around midfield, and the Rebels just punted for the fourth time in four possessions. Fresno will take over at the 16 after a timeout.
Armani Rogers has yet to see the field for UNLV. Max Gilliam is 8-of-16 for 66 yards.
Rebels trail Fresno State early
Things could not have started more ominously for the Rebels. After receiving the opening kickoff, UNLV went 3-and-out on its first possession, and Hayes Hicken's punt was partially blocked. Fresno State took over at the UNLV 45 and only needed six plays to find the end zone on a 12-yard pass from Marcus McMaryon to Jamire Jordan.
Down 7-0, UNLV punted on its second possession as well, but the defense made a stand and the Rebels just regained possession starting at their 33 with 6:16 left in the second quarter. A score on this drive — or at the very least, some positive yardage — would give the Rebels a chance to settle into the game and avoid a big early hole.
Gilliam gets start at QB vs. Fresno State
As expected, sophomore quarterback Max Gilliam is starting at quarterback tonight for UNLV, with Armani Rogers slated as the No. 2 QB.
Rogers was cleared in tonight's game after missing five weeks with a toe injury, but coach Tony Sanchez wants to ease him back into game action. That means Gilliam will play most of the snaps against Fresno State tonight, though Sanchez left the door open for Rogers to see some spot action as well.
The Rebels started the season 2-2 with Rogers at the helm; they've gone 0-4 since Gilliam was forced into the No. 1 role.
Previewing UNLV football vs. Fresno State with reader questions
Does coach Tony Sanchez see us as a running team, passing team or as a team that throws and runs 50/50? If passing or balanced, how does Armani fit in?
Based on the way Sanchez has run his offense since taking over four years ago, I think it’s fair to say he wants his quarterback to be a big part of the running game. Even when he hasn’t had Armani Rogers back there, Sanchez has utilized QB sweeps and QB powers as pillars of the offense. The difference is, where Blake Decker and Johnny Stanton could gain seven yards on those plays, Rogers can consistently rip them for 13 or 15 yards.
Sanchez wants to gain a numbers advantage by having a running quarterback, and Rogers is elite in that regard. As long as he is healthy and on the roster, I think Sanchez will stick with him as the starter.
If Sanchez isn’t gone after this season, and UNLV isn’t bowl eligible next season as well, does UNLV finally axe him or do they keep him through the stadium opening?
If UNLV finishes with only two or three wins this season and Sanchez survives, it will be just barely. In that scenario, he would go into the 2019 season knowing that he has to win big or else. Next year, a 6-6 record and squeaking into a bowl game might not be enough to save him. I’d guess he’ll need to post a winning record and show an ability to contend for a Mountain West title in order to keep his job.
If Sanchez can't manage to do that next year, he probably wouldn't be bringing many fans to the new stadium, anyway.
Do you think the defense will be better this year?
This is referring to UNLV basketball, and the answer is yes. The Rebels fielded one of the worst defensive teams in the Mountain West last season, but the potential of this roster is much higher. For one thing, Brandon McCoy has left for the NBA, and his defensive struggles under the basket plagued UNLV throughout the 2017-18 season. And on the perimeter, UNLV is replacing two undersized guards with longer athletes like Bryce Hamilton, Amauri Hardy and Joel Ntambwe. Almost by default, this year’s Rebels squad should be better on D.
What is your prediction with how we will do in the Mountain West? What place will we finish?
UNLV was picked sixth in the preseason poll, and that sounds about right. The Rebels don’t have the overall talent level of UNR and San Diego State, and the other teams in the middle tier like New Mexico and Wyoming have proven more than UNLV in recent years.
The Rebels do have a chance to finish as high as third place if absolutely everything goes right, but that almost never happens. And it’s been a long time since UNLV outperformed its preseason projection.
Is Hamilton starting at the 2 over Hardy? Is Beck playing the 3? Is Woodbury hurt?
In order: Amauri Hardy started Friday’s exhibition game at shooting guard and Hamilton came off the bench, so it looks like Menzies will stick with that to start the season. Tervell Beck looks like a power forward by trade, but yes I do expect him to play some minutes at the 3 this season. And yes, freshman guard Trey Woodbury is hurt and will miss the first two games of the season with a knee injury.
Talk about how bad the 2019 recruiting class will be without Christian Brown.
Without Brown, a top-25 caliber wing, this is looking like Marvin Menzies’ lowest-ranked recruiting class at UNLV. Committed guards Ethan Anderson and Josh Pierre-Louis are both outside the top 200 in most rankings, and without a headliner like Brown to buoy the class, I understand that it’s hard for fans to get excited about a middle-of-the-pack MWC recruiting haul.
But there is a lot of time left between now and the spring signing period. Menzies has been an active spring recruiter since arriving at UNLV, so if Brown commits somewhere else, don’t immediately assume the Rebels are done big-game hunting.
Win/loss predictions for each game?
This is a good idea and something I’m planning to explore with a full story sometime before the start of the regular season. Stay tuned.
The non-conference schedule includes no big-name schools visiting Vegas except for Cincinnati. Why hasn’t UNLV been able to put together a more attractive slate? You would think plenty of schools would want to visit here.
Coaches schedule for what they think their team can handle. UNLV is one of the few schools in the Mountain West that can get big-time opponents to travel for road games, but Menzies doesn’t believe his squad is ready to play a national schedule just yet. If he gets the Rebels to the point where he thinks he can beat good opponents, he will start scheduling more of them.