UNLV could not catch a break this week, as they lost 27-20 to last year’s Mountain West champions San Jose State, dropping to 0-7 on the year.
The Rebels continue to prove themselves in the game, but are unable to hold onto a victory in the final minutes. In their last three games, they all have been single digit deficits with UNLV having the lead at one point during each game.
This week’s game along with last week against Utah State were both games they lost in the fourth quarter while leading the entirety of the game, including a loss to the Aggies within the last 35 seconds of the night.
UNLV has the tools to get the job done but fails to finish as strong as they start.
There was momentum building fast for UNLV in Thursday night’s game when they caught San Jose off guard with a short kick to about the 20-yard line. The Rebels were able to get to the ball quickly and recovered in great field position.
“You get excited about the momentum to start a game like that, you know,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said. “We started fast and in some occasions this year like those big plays, you saw it, and that’s a big one to start the first play of the game. It was awesome- really good to see.”
Freshman quarterback (QB) Cameron Friel and the Rebel offense was able to capitalize on the turnover. Friel ended up finding wide-receiver (WR) Steve Jenkins in the back of the endzone to get UNLV on the board first.
On the Spartan’s next possession the defense was alive and ready as they only gave up a field goal to give the ball back to their offense.
The defense was flying everywhere in that first half as San Jose’s offense could not finish their drives in the endzone. The Rebels had a huge fourth down stop at their own nine yard line to keep the game at 7-3.
From that stop led to a scoring drive for UNLV that ended in record breaking fashion. Daniel Gutierrez capped the drive with a 53-yard field goal to push their lead to ten.
Thursday night, Gutierrez improved his kicking record to 15 straight perfect kicks, breaking UNLV’s record for consecutive field goals made.
The defense came up big once again by causing a fumble at San Jose’s 18-yard line. UNLV was able to recover instantly putting the offense inside the redzone.
The Rebels were able to find six on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run from running back Charles Williams. The Rebels led 17-3 with just under six minutes to go in the half.
The defense looked good once again by holding San Jose to another field goal, as the Spartan’s slowly started to close the gap on the scoresheet (17-6), leaving UNLV with the goal of running down the clock for the remainder of the first half.
Unfortunately, on UNLV’s last possession of the second quarter, Charles Williams fumbled the ball at the 33-yard line with still enough time on the clock for San Jose.
“It was uncharacteristic of Charles [Williams]. That’s our bread winner,” Arroyo said. “We handed the ball in that half to see if we could get something going close enough to see if we can try possibly take some shots and maybe get field of range.”
“Uncharacteristic. You know fumbled the football on the way down. Grabbed the ball and went down for six points and scored a touchdown. Difference in the game. A very critical mistake.”
San Jose was able to turn that turnover into points, finding the endzone with just seconds until halftime, bringing the score to 17-13.
Even with that mistake the offense still came out of halftime with a great drive. The Rebels were able to extend their lead to seven with another field goal from Gutierrez.
From that point forward, the offense failed to score any more points in the game.
San Jose had a drive going towards the end of the third quarter that finished with six points at the beginning of the fourth, tying the game 20-20.
Charles Williams, who ended with 94-yards on 24 carries, was doing the most in their next possession to drive them down the field.
The Rebels were able to get into field goal range with full confidence in their kicker. UNLV’s luck ran out with San Jose blocking the kick, breaking Gutierrez’s perfect kick streak.
The block shifted all the momentum on the field and in the stands, as the crowd began to take their seats again as they witnessed the Rebels start to fall behind in the battle.
The Rebel defense did all they could but did not contain the scrambles made by Spartan QB Nick Nash. Nash scrambled for 15-yards to the goaline to give San Jose their first lead of the game late in the fourth.
UNLV held hope with time still on the clock and the ability to tie the game once again. The Rebels were fighting for the opportunity to make it into overtime.
The Rebels were able to drive all the way down as the clock was ticking. Friel made huge third and fourth down completions to keep their drive going.
UNLV made it to the 11-yard line with 14 seconds on the clock for a last second chance for a tie. An untouched man was able to give a free hit to Friel with the clock hitting triple zeros and ending the Rebels chance at a tie.
Friel finished the night with 20 completions on 28 attempts with 240 yards. Friel really started finding this groove on the field with WR Kyle Williams. Kyle Williams finished with 117 yards on seven receptions with most of those catches being big time plays.
“I’ve said it since we started talking about [Cameron Friel]. I think that he is tough, I think he is resilient, I think he likes football, he’s a team guy,” Arroyo said. “I think 69% completion and 55% on third down.”
“Third down he’s grabbing the ball to win against the defender and not much chance. I’m proud of him. I think everyone should be. We got room and he’s crushed in there right now. He wants to win that bad but I think he’s leading by example.”
The Rebels continue their search to break their losing streak as they travel to Reno, NV next week to face off the Nevada Wolfpack as they battle for the Fremont Cannon.
The rivalry game will be held on Friday Oct. 29 at Mackay Stadium with a 7 p.m. kickoff time and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.