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Live coverage: UNR dominates in cannon win over UNLV

Birdsell

Tom R. Smedes / AP

Nevada’s Cole Turner (19) and Jacques Badolato-Birdsell (23) celebrate after a touchdown against UNLV during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Reno, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.

Updated Friday, Oct. 29, 2021 | 10:25 p.m.

UNLV turned in its worst performance of the season tonight in Reno, as UNR trampled Marcus Arroyo's squad, 51-20.

The Wolf Pack simply overwhelmed UNLV in all aspects of the game, as quarterback Carson Strong threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns and UNR defenders Tyson Williams and Daiyan Henley each returned interceptions for touchdowns. It was a blowout from start to finish.

Freshman quarterback Cameron Friel finished with 283 passing yards and two touchdowns, but most of that positive yardage was accumulated in garbage time. Friel was intercepted three times, including the two TDs.

Senior running back Charles Williams came into the game 75 yards away from the school's all-time rushing record but will head back to Las Vegas disappointed after picking up just 26 yards on 16 carries.

UNLV is now 0-8 on the season and 0-14 over the past two seasons, and the Fremont Cannon will stay blue for at least another year.

Arroyo will have seven days to get things straightened out before UNLV heads to New Mexico next Saturday, still in search of that first win.

UNR demolishing UNLV 41-7 heading into fourth

At the end of the third quarter, UNR has a 41-7 lead and you can probably go about the rest of your night.

UNLV did finally make a dent in the scoreboard courtesy of a 23-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Friel to Kyle Williams to make it 34-7, but UNR answered immediately with a 31-yard TD hookup between Carson Strong and Tory Horton to put the scarlet and gray back in their place. Strong has now completed 30-of-40 passes for 364 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

In about an hour when this one becomes official, UNLV will remain winless and the Fremont Cannon will remain blue.

UNLV trails 27-0 after UNR pick-6

The start of the second half was a disaster for UNLV, as Cameron Friel tossed a pick-6 on the second play, and this game is all but over.

The first play went well, as Friel hooked up with Steve Jenkins for an 11-yard gain. He had an open receiver on the left side on the next play, but Friel's throw was off target and UNR defensive back Tyson Williams was able to pick it off at midfield. Williams then weaved across the field for a 50-yard touchdown return, extending the Wolf Pack's lead to 27-0 just seconds into the second half.

Friel is playing the worst game of his very young career. The true freshman has completed 8-of-15 passes for 66 yards with two interceptions.

UNLV down 20-0 at halftime

For as badly as UNLV has played tonight, things could be a lot worse than the 20-0 deficit they're facing in Reno.

These teams are clearly mismatched when it comes to talent; UNR outgained UNLV 245 yards to 50 yards over the first 30 minutes, and the Wolfpack have a 14-4 advantage in first downs. Judging by those numbers, the halftime score should be a lot worse.

UNR expanded its lead to 20-0 on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Carson Strong to Romeo Doubs midway through the second quarter. UNLV came up empty on its ensuing possession, opting to punt from its 48-yard line, but UNR was unable to capitalize; Strong overthrew his intended receiver down the middle and the ball sailed into the waiting arms of UNLV safety Phillip Hill for an interception.

That gave UNLV a chance to put points on the board, as they took possession near midfield with almost two minutes on the clock. Friel completed two passes to get the scarlet and gray across the 50 and into scoring position, but he then took a deep shot and was intercepted in the end zone with eight seconds on the clock.

UNLV will receive the kick to open the second half, but head coach Marcus Arroyo had better come out of the locker room with an entirely new game plan. UNLV is averaging just 2.7 yards per play and Charles Williams has just 12 yards on seven carries.

Defensive stand keeps UNLV close; UNR up 13-0

UNR has now scored on all three of its possessions, but things could be a lot worse for UNLV, as the Wolf Pack merely lead 13-0 with 11:44 left in the first half.

The scarlet and gray have their defense to thank for still being within hailing distance. UNR had a 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line on its last drive, but the UNLV front stood them up, stopping them on six consecutive plays—UNR got a new set of downs after a personal foul was called on linebacker Brennon Scott—to hold them to a field goal.

UNLV needs its offense to make a statement, and soon. They've gained just one first down today and have -1 rushing yards as a team.

UNR takes early 10-0 lead over UNLV

Led by quarterback Carson Strong, UNR has one of the best passing attacks in the country, and UNLV is seeing that first-hand tonight. With 4:47 left in the first quarter, Strong has completed 12-of-13 passes for 100 yards and the Wolf Pack have already built a 10-lead.

UNR's opening drive was a blur. The first play was an end-around flea flicker that ended with Carson Strong completing a 44-yard pass to Justin Lockhart. A couple plays later Strong hit Melquan Stovall for 20 yards down to the UNLV 4, and the next snap was a touchdown pass to Cole Turner.

UNLV's ensuing possession was not productive at all. Charles Williams was stopped for a gain of one yard, then Cameron Friel fired two passes, both of which were dropped, and UNLV was forced to punt.

The scarlet and gray made Strong work a little harder on UNR's next possession. He had to complete a 4th-and-2 pass to move the chains in his own territory—a risky call that paid off for the Pack—and then methodically march across midfield before setting up kicker Brandon Talton for a 52-yard field goal, which he nailed.

It's a very slow start for UNLV, which has made a habit of building halftime leads lately. Marcus Arroyo will have to get his team in gear of this one could be over quick.

UNLV football looks to reclaim cannon at UNR

Coming off its fourth straight last-minute defeat, UNLV football will attempt to claim its first win of the season and the Fremont Cannon at the same time when they face off against rival UNR on Friday (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Three key questions for UNLV heading into the battle for the cannon:

Does UNLV have a prayer of defending the UNR passing game?

The biggest star in this game is obviously UNR quarterback Carson Strong, and at the risk of simplifying the 60 minutes of football that will be played on Friday, if the UNLV defense can’t slow him down they probably don’t stand a chance.

Strong is a coveted NFL prospect for a reason. He has completed 70.6 percent of his passes this season for 2,466 yards and 20 touchdowns with four interceptions, and he has a bevy of top-end receivers to target. Whether he’s working the short game or sending a deep ball toward Romeo Doubs (590 receiving yards, three touchdowns), Strong will make UNLV defend the entire field.

Senior cornerback Aaron Lewis got a first-hand look at Strong when the quarterback led UNR into Allegiant Stadium last year and threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout win for the Wolf Pack, and Lewis came away suitably impressed.

“Really ball placement is probably the biggest thing that I took away from his game,” Lewis said. “He knows where to place the ball and I think he’s pretty accurate with the ball, too.”

UNLV is not a team built to stop or even slow an elite passing game. The scarlet and gray rank 118th out of 130 teams in the nation in opposing passer rating (164.3) and 109th in yards allowed per pass attempt (8.6), which presents a difficult decision for head coach Marcus Arroyo: Should he roll out new defensive packages specifically for UNR and merely hope his team can execute them after a week of practice, or should he stick with the playbook his defense knows—but that has stopped no one this year.

Arroyo said it will probably end up being a little of both.

“It’s a careful balance, because what are you willing to sacrifice?” Arroyo said. “The knowledge of your system to go do something that they don’t know to give that guy a different look? I think there’s probably a mixture of that really. You’ve got to play what your guys are comfortable doing, because your guys have got to be comfortable playing it, too. You’re not going to roll out a new playbook, but I do think in times like that you’ve got to show [Strong] a couple new looks to slow guys like that down.”

Can Charles Williams break the record?

Senior running back Charles Williams is on the verge of UNLV history, as he’s 75 yards away from becoming UNLV’s all-time rushing leader. It would be great for Williams and very helpful for UNLV if he is able to eclipse that total (and then some) on Friday, as a strong ground game would help keep the UNR offense off the field.

Williams has had a mixed history against UNR; he has run for an average of 95 yards per game against the Pack but with just one touchdown, and in last year’s contest he was held to 48 yards on nine carries. UNR’s run defense is mediocre at best this season, however, allowing 4.6 yards per carry, so Williams figures to see the ball early as UNLV attempts to establish the ground game.

Williams didn’t seem all that focused on the record during the week, instead shifting talk toward the game itself.

“I really just want to go out there and win,” William said. “It would be nice to get it out of the way so we can focus on what’s really important, and that’s winning.”

For UNLV this week, getting Williams achieve that milestone and getting a win may be intertwined.

Can UNLV withstand another loss?

UNLV’s last win came in the 2019 season finale, when they won an overtime game at UNR to send already-fired coach Tony Sanchez off into the sunset with his second straight victory in the Fremont Cannon series.

The program has gone 0-13 since then, and all that losing has taken an emotional toll on everyone involved, from players to coaches.

The team’s recent run of four straight close losses has only made things worse. Now there’s a real question of how many more emotional blows the team can withstand before they’ll hit the wall.

When asked if he was worried about his team eventually becoming emotionally spent due to the run of heartbreaking defeats, Arroyo admitted it’s on his mind.

“Yeah, I do [worry],” Arroyo said. “It’s human. It is. You can only get punched in the face so many times. A lot of people don’t get up. Our guys have gotten up. Our guys have gotten up every time. They come back to work. I’m humbled by that.”

“It’s tough to keep getting up,” he continued. “It’s tough.”

Arroyo then took a moment, perhaps to compose himself, before fielding the next question.

UNLV is in a fragile place right now. The team is playing better football than last season by a mile, but they’ve got nothing to show for it. A win would cure all, but if they’re denied again on Friday and have to watch UNR drag the cannon around Mackay Stadium—well that would not bode well for the four games remaining in this lost season.

What: UNLV (0-7, 0-3 MWC) at UNR (5-2, 2-1 MWC)

Where: Mackay Stadium, Reno

When: 7 p.m.

TV: CBS Sports Network

Line: UNR -20

UNLV leaders

Passing

Cameron Friel: 64.0% (73-of-114), 859 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs

Rushing

Charles Williams: 144 carries, 714 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 7 TDs

Receiving

Steve Jenkins: 21 receptions, 293 yards, 3 TDs

Defense

Jacoby Windmon: 67 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks

UNR leaders

Passing

Carson Strong: 70.6% (216-of-306), 2,466 yards, 20 TDs, 4 INTs

Rushing

Toa Taua: 77 carries, 453 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 4 TDs

Receiving

Romeo Doubs: 45 receptions, 590 yards, 3 TDs

Defense

Daiyan Henley: 60 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 3 INTs

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

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