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Live blog: Rebels blown out at Fresno State, 56-27

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Gary Kazanjian / AP

UNLV linebacker Jacoby Windmon tries to tackle Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers, who scores a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Fresno, Calif., Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.

Updated Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 | 10:37 p.m.

UNLV had its chances, but five turnovers led to 28 points for Fresno State and the Bulldogs pulled away for a 56-27 win.

The Rebels were within a single possession with four minutes left in the third quarter, trailing 28-20, but Fresno State scored four consecutive touchdowns (aided by three UNLV turnovers) to blow it completely open.

UNLV is now 2-5 on the season and will need to win four of its final five games in order to become postseason eligible—a goal that is slipping further and further away. The Rebels will next host San Diego State on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Fresno State blows it open, takes 42-20 lead over UNLV

And we have officially entered garbage time in Fresno, as the Bulldogs just scored again to extend their lead over UNLV to 42-20 with 12:19 left in the fourth quarter.

UNLV had a chance to make a real go of it, trailing 28-20 with the ball, but Charles Williams fumbled on the first play of the drive and Fresno State linebacker Justin Rice ran it back 18 yards for a touchdown to make it 35-20.

On the ensuing drive, UNLV got into Fresno State territory before a fourth-and-12 pass into the end zone came up empty. Fresno took over, and three plays later quarterback Jorge Reyna hit tight end Jared Rice with a short touchdown pass to make it 42-20.

UNLV has committed three turnovers on the night, and two of them were turned into Fresno State touchdowns.

Rebels trail at Fresno, 28-20

UNLV just caught a big break.

After Kenyon Oblad led the Rebels to a field goal to trim the Rebels' deficit to 28-20, Fresno State drove the length of the field before stalling out at the 3-yard line. Cesar Silva then missed his third field goal attempt of the game—a 20-yarder—to give UNLV life again with four minutes left in the third quarter.

The Rebels will start at the 10-yard line with a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and 2-point conversion. Considering how poorly the defense has played, UNLV has to like its position right now.

Two touchdowns from Oblad, but Fresno State takes 28-17 lead into halftime

Fresno State is simply tearing apart the UNLV defense, but a couple of key throws from Kenyon Oblad have kept the Rebels alive. At halftime, Fresno has a 28-17 lead.

The Rebels' defense forced punts on each of Fresno's first two possessions, but it's been all downhill since then. Fresno State is now averaging an unbelievable 9.1 yards per play, and an even more incredible 10.3 yards per rush. The Bulldogs have 290 total yards through the first 30 minutes.

All of that points to a blowout, but Oblad has hit two touchdown passes to keep the score somewhat close. The first was a short slant to Randal Grimes, and the more recent strike was a 60-yard missile down the seam to tight end Noah Bean. Without those two plays, UNLV would be in serious trouble.

The Rebels had a chance to close the gap on the final drive of the half, but Tony Sanchez opted to punt on fourth-and-7 from the Fresno State 40 with 15 seconds left in the half. Fresno State will now receive the opening kick off the second half.

Fresno State leads UNLV, 21-10

Fresno State is gaining serious traction with its running game, and the Bulldogs now lead UNLV 21-10 late in the first half.

Fresno took a 14-10 lead on a 7-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers early in the quarter, and after the teams traded punts, quarterback Jorge Reyna picked up 47 yards on two carries to get FSU deep into UNLV territory. Josh Hokit finished off the drive with an 11-yard scoring run to extend Fresno's lead to 21-10 with 4:33 left in the half.

For the game, UNLV is allowing Fresno to gain 11.4 yards per rush. It will be impossible for the Rebels to mount a comeback unless that number comes down significantly.

UNLV takes 10-7 lead at Fresno State

Kenyon Oblad hit Randal Grimes with a 7-yard touchdown pass, and UNLV has reclaimed a 10-7 lead with 13:51 left in the first half.

Oblad converted a key fourth-and-inches with a QB sneak to set up a goal-to-go situation, and on second down he fired a perfect pass to hit Grimes on a slant in the end zone. Oblad is now 4-of-8 on the night for 84 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Fresno State takes early 7-3 lead over UNLV

UNLV has found it difficult to stick to the game plan, as two quick turnovers have led to Fresno State claiming a 7-3 lead midway through the first quarter.

UNLV opened the game with a bang, as Kenyon Oblad hit Noah Bean for a 45-yard catch and run that moved the ball inside the Fresno State red zone. The offense stalled from there, but a 27-yard field goal gave the Rebels a 3-0 lead just three minutes in.

The Rebels' next two drives were, uh, less productive. The next possession lasted one play, as Chad Magyar fumbled it back to Fresno State immediately. UNLV's defense held and missed a forced field goal, but three plays after that, Kenyon Oblad had a slant pass deflected up in the air and intercepted at the 32. This time, Fresno converted with a Ronnie Rivers 7-yard touchdown run to take the lead.

Three keys for UNLV football at Fresno State

With kickoff less than an hour away (7 p.m., CBS Sports), let's take a quick look at three keys for UNLV as the Rebels try to take down Fresno State:

Feed the hometown kid

Charles Williams is from Fresno. He was a star at Bullard High School, but was not recruited by the Bulldogs as a senior. Instead, Williams committed to UNLV and has made it a point to torture Fresno State ever since. As a freshman in 2016, Williams racked up 153 rushing yards in his first matchup against FSU; last year, he ran for 121 yards. This is Williams's first chance to play FSU in Fresno, so he's going to have a big chip on his shoulder as he continues to prove them wrong for not courting him back in the day.

Look for UNLV to pound the run game early, with Williams a big part of the attack. With Fresno State's mediocre run defense, this should end up being his second consecutive week of 20-plus carries.

Protect the QB

UNLV allowed five sacks against the Boise State defense, and freshman quarterback Kenyon Oblad was never able to get comfortable in the pocket in that game. Last week against a much weaker Vanderbilt defense, the Rebels kept Oblad clean and didn't give up a single sack. Oblad responded with an efficient 11-of-16 performance for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

Fresno State is in the bottom half nationally in sack rate, so it shouldn't be too much to ask of the UNLV offensive line to put together a similar performance this week. Give Oblad time to throw and the youngster might convert enough third downs to keep the Rebels in the game.

Shorten the game

After weeks of struggling with their offensive identity, the Rebels got back to the basics against Vanderbilt, running the ball 50-plus times and throwing it just 16 times. It's not the kind of balance that Tony Sanchez may have envisioned coming into the season, but circumstances and team strengths have dictated that UNLV has to be a running team in 2019. By pounding the ball against Fresno State, the Rebels will also get the added benefit of keeping the defense more rested. That formula worked at Vanderbilt; maybe it will work for a second road win in two weeks.

Previewing UNLV football at Fresno State with reader questions

Six days after potentially saving their season with a 34-10 upset win at Vanderbilt, the Rebels are back on the road looking to keep the momentum going at Fresno State (7 p.m., CBS Sports).

A victory would improve UNLV to 3-4 on the season and really throw open the door for a late run at bowl eligibility this season. Can the Rebels get it done?

Let’s preview the game by taking some reader questions:

@Reb_Hombre

is the QB job Oblad job to lose this week? Or no matter what Rogers takes over as QB1 once healthy?

@MikeGrimala

It’s a difficult situation to read. Heading into the Boise State game, Tony Sanchez said Kenyon Oblad was the starter but that Armani Rogers could play. He said the same thing last week against Vanderbilt. This week, Sanchez wasted no time in his Monday press conference declaring Oblad the starter and downplaying Rogers’ chances of contributing against Fresno State.

Just based on the timeline being given by the coach, it seems as though Rogers is actually getting further away from playing. So either Sanchez really, really wants to wait until Rogers is 100 percent to play him, or the coach likes what he’s seeing from Oblad and wants to ride with the hot hand for a while.

There’s an old sports adage that you don’t lose your job to injury, but that’s been disproven time and time again. If the starter gets injured and the backup comes in and outplays him, jobs change hands all the time. If Oblad keeps hitting above 60% of his passes and keeps the turnovers to a minimum, he’ll at least give Sanchez a tough decision to make in the coming weeks.

@a_dub1028

Talk about what you will be watching for in UNLV Basketball’s upcoming exhibition. What questions about this team could be answered in that game? Which player(s) are you interested in seeing in action? Also, and more importantly, how may Simpsons mail GIFS do you have?

@MikeGrimala

As always, mailbag entrees phrased in “talk about” format receive preferential treatment, so of course I’m putting this one right up near the top.

UNLV’s exhibition against West Coast Baptist College next Friday will be our first chance to see T.J. Otzelberger’s offensive system in action, and that’s generally what I’ll be most interested in. How fast will he have the Rebels playing? How will the offense be structured? Who will be the focal points of the halfcourt attack? Those are things we can realistically see and gauge in an exhibition.

As for players, I’m interested in the returning guard duo of junior Amauri Hardy and sophomore Bryce Hamilton. Both are talented scorers, but both are also natural dribblers who are most comfortable pounding the ball on the perimeter. That won’t fly in Otzelberger’s offense, as he wants his players moving, cutting and passing quickly. Standing around and playing iso ball is not his game, so let’s see how Hardy and Hamilton adjust to that.

And there are so many mail gifs from The Simpsons that I could probably do a top 20 list — and still sweat over cutting Nos. 21, 22 and 23. Maybe next week?

@Rampa19

If Tony Sanchez was a steak, how cooked is his job at UNLV on a scale of Rare to Grimala?

@MikeGrimala

I’ve taken a lot of guff on social media for my steak preferences, so let me say this now: My caveman ancestors may have eaten their meat raw, but I have chosen to evolve by using fire to cook mine. There is nothing wrong with grilling a steak THOROUGHLY. You can lock in the flavor with a good sear, then cook the inside well-done. The perfect steak.

@nevadaracer00v

If UNLV beats Fresno, what do you see as the path to 6-6??? More importantly, if they get to 6-6 what does the overall bowl picture look like??? Does 6-6 even get to a bowl this year???

@MikeGrimala

A win over Fresno would put the Rebels at 3-4 and needing to win three of their final five in order to get to bowl eligibility. Out of the five remaining opponents — vs. San Diego State, at Colorado State, vs. Hawaii, vs. San Jose State, at UNR — there’s only one that I’d consider a long shot (Hawaii). UNLV can win any of the other four games, which is not a horrible position to be in, especially considering where the team was two weeks ago. The Vanderbilt win was so big for keeping hope alive (at least for another week).

I think it’s probably a bit too early to start looking at the overall bowl picture. The nightmare scenario, of course, is UNLV finishing 6-6 and getting left out of a bowl game anyway. I don’t think that would happen, but there’s a long way to go before we have to start plotting out bowl matchups.

@KonaSimon

What are the pro and cons of a 20-game league schedule?

@MikeGrimala

The Mountain West is seriously considering going from 18 conference games to 20 for men’s basketball, and by the sound of things at media day it could happen as early as next year. UNLV is against the move, but the rest of the league is almost unanimous in wanting the expanded schedule (San Diego State is also opposed).

The pro, from the league’s perspective, is that it will make it easier for the rest of the teams to put together their non-conference schedules. Convincing quality opponents to come play road games at MWC home arenas is not an easy sell, so shrinking the non-con eliminates the need to pay horrible teams to come fill those dates.

The con, from UNLV’s perspective, is that it could actually hurt the quality of their schedule. The Rebels are capable of attracting big-time opponents (in just the past few years, Duke, Kansas, Cincinnati and Arizona have played UNLV in Las Vegas), so hypothetically replacing two of those opponents with a conference game against San Jose State or Air Force could seriously lower UNLV’s strength of schedule. The Rebels want the freedom to schedule up as they see fit.

It’s a tough call, because both sides have valid points. In this situation, what’s good for UNLV is not necessarily good for the league, and vice-versa.

@DavidGrisar

Does beating a bad football team from a good conference mean anything?

@MikeGrimala

It means you’re one-sixth of the way to bowl eligibility. UNLV isn’t realistically competing to get into the college football playoffs, so strength of schedule is beside the point. In the race to six wins, a victory over Vanderbilt counts the same as a win over LSU or Michigan (or Southern Utah, for that matter). The Rebels will absolutely take it.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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