Published Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 | 9:18 p.m.
A desperation drive in the final minutes stalled before it even got started, and UNLV has lost at Arkansas State, 27-20.
The Rebels took over at the 23-yard line with 1:52 on the clock and no timeouts, needing a touchdown to stay alive. Armani Rogers managed to pick up one first down on a scramble, but a holding call on the next play put UNLV in a long-yardage situation. On 4th-and-20, Rogers's arm was hit on the wind up, and Arkansas State recovered his fumble with 27 seconds remaining.
Rogers ran for 181 yards on the game, but completed just 5-of-21 passes for 23 yards. He was intercepted three times.
UNLV falls to 2-2 on the season, with a bye week coming up. The Rebels will begin Mountain West play in two weeks with a home game against New Mexico.
Rebels attempting comeback at Arkansas State
UNLV's lead was short-lived, as Arkansas State running back Marcel Murray busted off a 34-yard touchdown run to give the Red Wolves a 27-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Rebels now have the ball at midfield with 7:14 remaining. Quarterback Armani Rogers has run for 173 yards on 22 carries, while Lexington Thomas has 82 yards on 18 carries.
Rebels lead at Arkansas State
An Arkansas State turnover gave UNLV favorable field position, and the Rebels cashed in, as a Lexington Thomas touchdown run has given UNLV a 20-19 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Javin White forced the fumble on a QB keeper, and UNLV recovered at the Arkansas State 35-yard line. On 3rd-and-1 from the 10, Thomas took a handoff and worked his way around the right end, out-running an Arkansas State defender to the goal line.
UNLV went for 2, but Armani Rogers's pass was incomplete.
As unlikely as it may have looked earlier in the third quarter, when the Rebels were making mistakes left and right and trailed 19-7, UNLV now has a legitimate shot to win this game. The fourth quarter is shaping up to be one of the biggest of the season.
Rogers runs in TD, Rebels trail 19-14 at Arkansas State
Armani Rogers missed one play after taking a big hit, but he returned on UNLV's next drive and made a big impact. On the first play, Rogers kept the ball and sprinted 64 yards up the middle to give UNLV a first down inside the Arkansas State 10-yard line. After moving the ball to the 1, Rogers powered his way into the end zone on 4th-and-goal to pull UNLV within 19-14 with 4:11 left in the third quarter.
Rogers now has 161 rushing yards on 19 carries. He has run for 100 yards in each of the last three games, and right now it looks like calling Rogers's number may be UNLV's best chance of winning this game.
Rebels struggling at Arkansas State, trail in third quarter
The second half has gotten off to a disastrous start for UNLV.
The Rebels came up empty on their first possession of the half, and after forcing an Arkansas State punt, Brandon Presley muffed the return and the Wolves recovered on the goal line. Justice Hansen threw his third touchdown of the night two plays later, and Arkansas State increased its lead to 19-7.
Things got even worse for UNLV on the next possession. Quarterback Armani Rogers took a big hit while diving for the sticks on third down, and he was knocked out of the game. Backup quarterback Max Gilliam came in for the fourth-down play, but Arkansas State stuffed a handoff to Lexington Thomas and UNLV came up short.
Arkansas State is now driving deep in UNLV territory with 7:15 left in the third quarter. Rogers's health is now the story for the Rebels as the game appears to be on the verge of slipping away.
UNLV trails Arkansas State at halftime
UNLV's 2-minute drill advanced the ball to Arkansas State's 41-yard line, but Armani Rogers was sacked before he could get off a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the half. Arkansas State has taken a 13-7 lead into the locker room, and UNLV will receive the ball to start the third quarter.
There were times in the first half when it looked like UNLV could move the ball with ease, but third-down struggles and a pair of interceptions kept the Rebels from putting points on the board. Rogers has run for a game-high 62 yards, but he is just 4-of-11 passing for 24 yards. As a team, UNLV has run for 159 yards at 6.9 yards per carry.
Arkansas State found success late in the half by throwing short passes to the perimeter and challenging the UNLV defensive backs to come up and tackle. Quarterback Justice Hansen has completed 12-of-16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Arkansas State takes 13-7 lead over UNLV
UNLV looked to be in good position to build on its 7-6 advantage early in the second quarter, but an Armani Rogers interception on the goal line squandered a scoring chance and Arkansas State responded with a long touchdown drive to take a 13-7 lead.
After picking off Rogers inside the 10, Arkansas State drove 92 yards on 12 plays, with Justice Hansen hitting Jona Adams for a 24-yard score in the back of the end zone.
Rogers is now 2-of-7 passing for 14 yards on the day, with two interceptions. He is UNLV's leading rusher with 50 yards.
UNLV and Arkansas State traded punts after the touchdown, and the Rebels will have possession starting at the 16-yard line with 2:59 left in the half.
UNLV takes 7-6 lead at Arkansas State on long TD run
The Rebels settled down after a slow start, and a 41-yard touchdown run by senior Evan Owens has given UNLV a 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After two stalled drives to open the game, Armani Rogers picked up a key first down with a 16-yard scramble across midfield. Two plays later, Rogers ran an option play and pitched to Owens, who broke a tackle and sprinted down the left sideline to put UNLV on the board.
UNLV ran for 98 yards in the first quarter, with Rogers accounting for 48 yards. The Rebels' defense followed Owens's TD with a stop, so UNLV will have the ball with pretty good field position to start the second quarter.
Arkansas State strikes first, UNLV trails 6-0
UNLV lost the coin toss, and Arkansas State wasted no time getting its offense revved. The Red Wolves marched 80 yards on seven plays, with the last being an easy 16-yard pitch-and-catch from Justice Hansen to Justin McInnis for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead. Hansen passed for 47 yards on the drive.
The Rebels' offense has run one play — an incomplete pass intended for Mekhi Stevenson — and the refs are currently reviewing it to determine whether an Arkansas State defender was guilty of targeting.
Previewing UNLV vs. Arkansas State with reader questions
UNLV has played better teams during Tony Sanchez’s four years as head coach — Michigan, USC, Ohio State, etc. — but Saturday’s game at Arkansas State is shaping up to be the most important game of Sanchez’s tenure.
The Rebels are going in as 7.5-point underdogs, but this has the feel of a winnable game against a consistently good mid-major team. How UNLV performs in this game should go a long way toward telling us whether the Rebels’ improvement is real, or whether they’ll be scratching and clawing for six wins again.
Before the Rebels kick off against Arkansas State (4 p.m., ESPN 3), check out the Q&A:
It’s going to be a rainy night. Advantage UNLV’s running game?
I’m not sure if the wet weather forecast will enhance the Rebels’ lethal running game, but there’s a chance it could slow down Arkansas State’s passing game, and that could help just as much. Pass defense has been a recurring issue for UNLV in recent years, and while they’ve looked better this season, they’ve yet to be tested by an elite offense/quarterback.
Arkansas State QB Justice Hansen has more experience and continuity with his receivers than USC did with a true freshman at the helm, but if the ball gets wet and slippery and makes it more difficult to throw, I’m sure UNLV will be fine with handing off 40 or 50 times. I’m not so sure Arkansas State wants to shift to the ground like that.
It might have a marginal impact or no impact at all — weather is not super predictable — but it’s worth keeping an eye on as kickoff draws closer.
Do you think Rebels +7.5 is accurate or did Vegas get it wrong? I think it should be +4 or so.
I think that’s a reasonable line. Before the season, I would have expected Arkansas State to come in favored by double digits, so it’s a testament to the Rebels that they’ve been able to close the gap by looking pretty good over the first three weeks of the season.
Considering that UNLV is going on the road against a consistent mid-major winner — Arkansas State has made it to a bowl game the last seven years — a line of 7 or 7.5 is no reason to be ashamed.
Will Alex Perry play tomorrow?
He should be good to go. He got into UNLV’s win over Prairie View A&M late in the fourth quarter, and he didn’t suffer any setbacks during practice this week, so the Rebels will be adding a 4-star prospect to their defensive backfield this week.
And it’s just in time. No. 3 cornerback Ty’Jason Roberts suffered a scary spine injury last week, so UNLV’s depth will be tested by Arkansas State’s spread passing offense. Look for Perry to get plenty of snaps with the second team, and maybe more than that if he holds up physically and the Red Wolves consistently put four receivers on the field.
Have you decided where you will eat in Memphis?
Memphis has a reputation for some of the best barbeque in the world, with dozens and dozens of locally-owned and operated BBQ joints serving as a backbone of the city’s unique culture. So I went to Popeyes.
The running game is working but Armani is the same passer he was last year. Would we be better off with one of his backups that can make the throws but can't run as well? If so, who?
Third week in a row for this question, and the answer remains the same. Rogers is not a perfect player, but what he brings in the running game is so valuable that the Rebels would be insane to even entertain the thought of turning the offense over to someone else. Through three games, Rogers has accounted for 11 touchdowns (six passing, five rushing) and one turnover (an interception). No other QB on the roster would put as many points on the board as Rogers.
Do an analysis on Armani Rogers’s completion percentage by route type.
That’s not a question. And I haven’t looked into that yet, but I’ll keep an eye out to see if I notice him having particular success or struggles with certain routes.
Any updates on the o-line injuries?
The good news: No. 1 center Sid Acosta is back from his ankle injury and should be ready to start. The bad news: Starting left guard Jaron Caldwell got hurt against Prairie View and will miss this game. Junior Julio Garcia will get the start in Caldwell’s place, but he’s got enough experience under his belt that there shouldn’t be a noticeable dropoff in play.
Backup guard/center Zack Singer is still hobbled, but he will be available if necessary. Other than that, the line is in good health, and they should get a workout as the Rebels lean on the ground game.
Did you see any highways “adopted” by the Klan?
No, but I did buy a ticket to see Graceland on Saturday morning. After that, it's off to Jonesboro for the biggest UNLV football game in years.