Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 | 11:51 p.m.
In a game that saw UNLV allow its opponent to score 48 points, it was actually the Rebels’ offensive performance that had head coach Tony Sanchez dismayed after Saturday’s blowout loss to Fresno State.
UNLV managed just one scoring drive, and it didn’t come until it was way too late to matter, as Fresno State rolled to a 48-3 victory at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The loss officially eliminated UNLV from bowl contention, as the Rebels are now 2-7 on the season and guaranteed to finish with a losing record.
The game was actually closer than the final score may suggest, as Fresno State enjoyed a 14-0 advantage late in the second quarter. A field goal in the final minute of the half increased the lead to 17-0, but the Bulldogs didn’t break it open until they tallied 17
unanswered points in the third quarter.
UNLV was shut out for much of the contest, and only a field goal midway through the fourth quarter kept the Rebels from being blanked for the first time in four years under Sanchez.
Sanchez praised his defense for keeping it close for as long as they did.
“Defensively, I thought our guys held up pretty well and did some really good things, made them work for what they were getting,” Sanchez said. “Offensively, that was tough. They’re a good defense, and when they’re playing a lot of that drop-8 and they’re playing a lot of coverage, you’ve got to be able to run the football downhill, and we struggled doing that tonight. They were a little more physical than we were.”
UNLV was overmatched against Fresno State’s elite defense. The Bulldogs came into Saturday allowing just 13.5 points per game, the fourth-best mark in the nation, and that unit was dominant for four quarters, holding UNLV to just 3.8 yards per play in the first half and 4.0 for the game.
UNLV’s six first-half possessions resulted in five punts, and only one drive crossed midfield. Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, the Rebels managed to approach the red zone before settling for a field-goal attempt. Evan Pantels’ kick missed from 46 yards, and Fresno drove 72 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive to make it 14-0.
Fresno State received the opening kick of the second half and drove 74 yards in eight plays, with quarterback Marcus McMaryon’s second touchdown pass making it 24-0.
UNLV quarterback Max Gilliam was intercepted near midfield on the Rebels’ next possession, and Fresno State defensive back Jaron Bryant returned it to the 5-yard line before Gilliam forced him out of bounds. Running back Josh Hokit scored on the next play to make it 31-0, and that was the ballgame.
The final 23 minutes unfolded slowly for the Rebels.
“Them going down and scoring right away and then us throwing the pick right after it, all of all of a sudden it takes the wind out of your sails,” Sanchez said. “And from there it became a slow game after that.”
Even in garbage time, UNLV could not get its passing game on track. Gilliam completed 14-of-30 passes for just 98 yards. Freshman receiver Tyleek Collins, who broke out last week at San Jose State with 170 yards and three touchdowns, finished with two catches for seven yards.
Sophomore quarterback Armani Rogers was in uniform on the sideline, but Sanchez said he never seriously considered inserting him into the game. He said Rogers threw the ball well in his return to practice this week (after missing more than a month with a toe injury), but that a “mobility issue” made it prudent to hold him out.
Instead it was freshman Kenyon Oblad who took over for Gilliam in mop-up duty. Oblad, a Liberty product, completed 1-of-5 passes for seven yards.
With the Rebels’ well-established goal of a bowl game now officially dashed, it remains to be seen how they will respond for the final three games. They’ll travel to San Diego State next week, fly to Hawaii the week after that, then return home for the finale against rival UNR on Nov. 24.
Unless UNLV can win one of those contests, the season could end with a nine-game losing streak.