SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The bye week is coming at a much-needed time for UNLV football.
The Rebels were already entering their Saturday matchup short-handed without their starting backfield duo Doug Brumfield and Aidan Robbins.
Against Notre Dame, two blocked punts and a fumble were too much for short-handed UNLV to overcome as they fell to the Fighting Irish 44-21 Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.
The Rebels have lost three straight games by at least 23 points and sit at 4-4 with the final third of their schedule to play.
“We’re in the middle rounds of a heavyweight fight and we have to be able to get back up and fight,” coach Marcus Arroyo said. “We’ve got a great stretch ahead of us. We got a week to get healthy, which we really need.”
Arroyo played both sophomore Cameron Friel and Tennessee transfer Harrison Bailey early in the first quarter to see who would help the offense click better.
Early on, it was the Rebels’ run game that provided a spar. Junior running back Courtney Reese broke off a 74-yard run with the Rebels trailing 10-0 five minutes into the game.
UNLV converted that into a 2-yard touchdown run from junior running back Jordan Younge-Humphrey. But that would be UNLV’s only score of the first half.
The Rebels went three-and-out on six straight drives after their score. Twice, Notre Dame blocked UNLV’s punt attempts, giving the Irish the ball inside UNLV’s territory.
Notre Dame scored 13 straight points on three drives starting in UNLV territory. One positive Arroyo saw was the Rebels’ defense keeping the Irish out of the end zone despite being sent back out with limited rest between series.
“There are some good things in there,” Arroyo said. “The defense did a nice job early on because we weren’t able to flip the field and give them a chance…They were doing a nice job up there holding them to minimum points.”
UNLV’s offense struggled to find any rhythm in the first half as they went into the locker room trailing 30-7.
The Rebels’ best chance to add more to the scoreboard was late in the second quarter when Friel connected with Ricky White on a 38-yard completion but White fumbled inside Notre Dame territory.
Friel played most of the first half and the first drive of the second half before Arroyo put in Bailey for the rest of the game.
“Down the stretch, Harrison threw the ball well and made some plays,” Arroyo said.
Midway through the third quarter Bailey added a 2-yard score to make it 30-14. Bailey finished 9 of 18 for 73 yards, with 25 rushing yards and a touchdown.
The Irish put the game away with a 7:10 touchdown drive that put them ahead 37-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Younge-Humphry added a 1-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession, but Notre Dame recovered UNLV’s attempt at an onside kick and added another touchdown.
Reese finished with a career-high 149 rushing yards on 11 carries. The rest of the team totaled 39 yards.
Junior wide receiver Kyle Williams made his return after suffering an ankle injury against Utah State that kept him out of the Rebels’ last two games. But Williams appeared to reinjure his ankle late in the fourth quarter and did not play the rest of the game.
Arroyo did not have an update on William’s status after the game.
In the Rebels’ first game at Notre Dame, Arroyo said he liked how his team approached the game and handled the adversity they faced.
“There’s going to be things we want back, but we didn’t quit,” Arroyo said. “We didn’t fight, we didn’t point fingers, we didn’t make excuses. We can live with that, we can fix it and reattack.”
UNLV now enters a bye week before it returns to the field to face San Diego State on the road on Nov. 4, which will begin a four-game stretch to end the season against West Division opponents.
Despite the recent slide after starting 4-1, Arroyo said the Rebels’ goals are still achievable. His focus going into the bye week is to get healthy and focus on cleaning up their mistakes.
“No one counted on us to be in this position we’re in for the stretch run and to be able to have a chance to do what we’re doing,” Arroyo said. “That locker room has a chance to do it, but we have to execute.”