Published Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018 | 10:56 p.m.
The Rebels have snapped their six-game losing streak, and they did it in remarkable fashion, overcoming an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to win at San Diego State, 27-24.
Lexington Thomas was the hero, as he rushed for 133 yards, including a spectacular go-ahead 75-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes to play.
Max Gilliam pass for 237 yards and a touchdown, and Darren Woods caught four passes for 100 yards.
The UNLV defense played its strongest game in two months, holding San Diego State to 2.6 yards per rush. Junior cornerback Jericho Flowers made the game's biggest defensive play, picking off SDSU quarterback Ryan Agnew as the Aztecs were driving into field-goal range late in the fourth quarter.
UNLV is now 3-7 on the season and 1-5 in the Mountain West.
Lexington Thomas gives UNLV football late lead at SDSU
Lexington Thomas just struck this game like a bolt of lightning, coming out of nowhere to break off a 75-yard touchdown run to give UNLV a 27-24 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Thomas took an inside handoff, broke through up the middle, then cut to the right sideline, where he outraced the defense across midfield. He then cut back, crossed all the way to the left sideline and snuck inside the pylon for the score.
Max Gilliam hit Brandon Presley for the 2-point conversion, and now UNLV has a 3-point lead with less than four minutes to play.
If the defense holds up, this could be UNLV's first win at San Diego State since the 2000 season.
Rebels trail at SDSU, 24-19
The Rebels aren't quite dead yet.
After falling behind, 24-13, early in the fourth quarter, UNLV responded with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to pull within 24-19 with 9:19 remaining.
Lexington Thomas made the biggest play of the drive, catching a short pass on 3rd-and-20 and outracing the defense to the first-down marker. A few plays later, Max Gilliam hit Brandon Presley with a 10-yard touchdown pass. The 2-point conversion failed, but UNLV is back in the game.
San Diego State leads UNLV at half, 14-13
San Diego State drove the length of the field in the final minutes of the first half, and Juwan Washington converted a 4th-and-1 on the goal line to give San Diego State a 14-13 lead at halftime.
Washington took a handoff and appeared to be surrounded in the backfield by UNLV defenders, but some nifty running got him to daylight.
Until the final drive, the UNLV defense played a very solid first half. The Rebels allowed just 1.4 yards per carry, and Dalton Baker's first-quarter interception set up an early field goal.
UNLV football up 13-7 at SDSU
UNLV has regained the lead midway through the second quarter thanks to some big plays from Max Gilliam.
After San Diego State took a 7-6 lead early in the quarter on a Christian Chapman touchdown pass, Gilliam went to work. He evaded pressure before converting a 3rd-and-long with a pass to Tyleek Collins, and on the next play Gilliam heaved a deep bomb that Brandon Presley hauled in at the 1. Lexington Thomas ran it in from there to give UNLV a 13-7 lead.
Gilliam now has 151 passing yards on just five completions (5-of-11).
UNLV football takes early lead at San Diego State
Midway through the first quarter, UNLV has a somewhat surprising 6-0 lead at San Diego State.
UNLV got on the board first, thanks to a big play in the passing game. Darren Woods caught a short slant and turned it upfield for a 76-yard gain, setting UNLV up with 1st-and-goal at the 5. Max Gilliam was unable to connect on throws into the end zone on third and fourth down, however, and the Rebels settled for a short field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
Dalton Baker came up with an interception on San Diego State's ensuing drive, and though the Rebels couldn't cash in on good field position with a touchdown, they were able to tack on another field goal when Evan Pantels connected from 46 yards.
Armani Rogers has not made an appearance yet. Tony Sanchez said Rogers could get into the game at some point, but so far it's been Gilliam for both drives.
Previewing UNLV football at San Diego State with reader questions
The Rebels will face one of their toughest tests of the year on Saturday, when they travel to take on San Diego State (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West) in a game that should let us know pretty early whether or not UNLV (2-7, 0-5) has given up on the season. To preview the contest, let's go to some reader questions:
Does UNLV have a chance of beating Nevada to take home the Fremont Cannon?
This is an easy one. If Armani Rogers is healthy and playing 100 percent of the snaps at full strength, then yes, UNLV has a very good chance of beating UNR in the season finale. The Rebels have absolutely crumbled since Rogers went out with his foot injury, and while I wasn’t buying that as an excuse for the team’s poor play in the first few games without him, I’m starting to come around to just how valuable Rogers is to this team.
When he’s in the backfield as a threat to run, it opens up huge rushing lanes for Lexington Thomas — lanes that simply aren’t there anymore with Max Gilliam at QB. And that peak rushing attack makes life so much easier for the UNLV defense, which has been exposed as thin and unathletic when forced to be on the field for too long.
If Rogers makes it back for the UNR game, I think he’ll help the Rebels on both sides of the ball. The Wolf Pack will put up a million points against the UNLV defense, but Rogers at least gives the offense a chance to put up a fight.
Should we take caution that Bryce Hamilton may need longer to develop than we were hoping? Do you believe his exhibition outing was nerves or a sign of development needed?
Hamilton did not play like a superstar in last week’s exhibition game against Montana State-Billings, but I’m shocked that fans are starting to push the panic button already. The freshman guard was visibly nervous in his first collegiate action, as he forced the action at times, shied away from shots at other times, and finished with three points in 11 minutes (1-of-6 FGs). The bottom line is, Hamilton is a super-talented scorer, but his game is not based on eye-popping athleticism. He plays with tremendous feel for the game, using footwork, creative dribbling and a wide array of countermoves to get his buckets. It will take time for him to develop that feel for the college game, but when he does, I bet the points start coming in bunches. Don’t worry about Hamilton — he is going to score a ton at UNLV.
What is the timeframe on Woodbury? I know CMM has tempered expectations with him, but his ability to shoot the 3 certainly seems like it can help this team.
Last I heard, freshman guard Trey Woodbury was slated to miss at least the first two games of the season with a knee injury. That’s not the ideal way to start his career, but the injury doesn’t seem serious, and Woodbury is still practicing with the team (on a limited basis) in the meantime. Once he’s cleared physically, he’ll get his chance to earn significant minutes, because as you alluded to, he projects to be one of the team’s best 3-point shooters.
Can Juiston make it to the NBA?
Senior power forward Shakur Juiston is a double-double machine, and he has an NBA body, but I would have liked his chances of sticking in the NBA better 10 years ago. Back then, undersized, hard-working forwards like Leon Power and Carl Landry could carve out roles as energy rebounders and finishers off the bench; in today’s game, that role doesn’t exist outside of maybe a few teams. Instead, NBA teams want their forwards to be able to stretch the floor with outside shooting and defend multiple positions. Juiston will have to work hard on developing his outside shot, but if he puts in the work and some team gives him a real chance, I could see him one day making it to the league. It just might take a few years, like we’ve seen with former UNLV bigs Khem Birch and Chris Wood.
Does basketball look like it will be successful starting next season? We don’t look much better this season. We don’t seem to have a great young group in place and recruiting doesn’t sound that exciting from what I hear.
I think UNLV will be a better team than last season, mostly due to improvement on the defensive end of the court. Will that be reflected in a huge jump in the win-loss column? I’m not sure. But I do think this team is capable of winning 20 games and posting an above-.500 record in the Mountain West, which would count as a big step forward in the rebuilding process.
Next season is a little difficult to project, since we haven’t seen the young players on the floor yet this year. But if Hamilton, Woodbury, Mbacke Diong, Joel Ntambwe, Amauri Hardy and Tervell Beck play up to expectations, 2019-20 could be the season UNLV vaults back into postseason contention.