Rebels Season Off To A Strong Start; Beat Bryant 44-14

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Amani Trigg-Wright (left), Johnathan Baldwin (middle), and Graham Keating III (right) celebrate Rebels victory over Bryant. Photo by DJ Cabanlong.

Barry Odom won his first game as head coach of UNLV football defeating the Bryant Bulldogs 41-14 at Allegiant Stadium on Sep. 2.

Excitement was in the air on Saturday afternoon as a new football season was on the horizon. First year UNLV football head coach Barry Odom led the new-look Rebels onto the field in a matchup against the Bryant University Bulldogs.

This would be the first time in these universities’ long history that they would play each other, however, UNLV held the pre-game advantage according to many sports media outlets including ESPN as they held the Rebels in high regard with a 97% chance to win the football game.

The Rebels ended last season with a record of 5-7 and fourth in the Mountain West when the season was said and done. On the other side of the field stands the Bulldogs who finished its 2022 season with a record of 4-7 and also finishing fourth in the FCS.

With Barry Odom at the helm of a new-look offense, the Rebels looked to open up new lanes to attack the opposing defense and they proved it early on the first play of the new year. 

After a sizable return of the opening kickoff up to the 31-yard line the Rebels looked to get the run game involved early. On the first snap of the new year starting quarterback Doug Brumfield handed the ball off to the senior running back Vincent Davis Jr. and he would make an impact immediately with a 69-yard touchdown. 

Coach Odom stated post game “It was an opener that we have practiced a lot and it was great to see it executed at a high level.”

With the early lead, the Rebels did not stop the pressure on the defensive side of the ball with a fourth down stop at midfield during the Bulldog’s first offensive drive.  

The Rebels would take over with great field position and they did not take long to capitalize on their new-found opportunity. 

The UNLV run game continued to work well and after multiple handoffs to both the junior Donavyn Lester and the senior Courtney Reese, it would be the freshman Jai’Den Thomas who would take it 20 yards for the second Rebel touchdown of the afternoon making the score 14-0.

However, the Bulldogs would not go down quietly as they formulated a long drive down the field starting at its 17-yard line. The drive resulted in zero points for Bryant because of a deflected field goal attempt from the Rebel 37-yard line.

The Rebel’s third drive on offense would follow the same theme as the previous two with a significant chunk play to begin the move upfield. The junior wide receiver Jacob De Jesus would get his first touch of the game and would make it count for a total of 29 yards upfield to set up the Rebels in good field position. 

A holding penalty on the second down run would cost the Rebels that field position and UNLV would send out their new kicker Jose Pizano who now has the job of replacing fan favorite Daniel Gutierrez. He would endear himself quickly to the Rebel faithful however with a long 48-yard field goal to put the Rebels up 17-0 to close out the first quarter of play. 

The second quarter would open with much of the same struggles on offense for the Bulldogs with a quick three and out to give the ball back to the Rebel offense. 

Bulldog offense in the following possession looked to put some point of their own on the scoreboard and they came close, but a fourth-down sack by Jerrae Williams at the two-yard line would result in a turnover on downs. 

With the ball back in the hands of Brumfield, UNLV looked to add on at the end of the first half but they had the opportunity taken away after an interception by Bulldog defensive back Robery Crokettat midfield after a deflection. 

This upswing for the Bulldogs would be short though as a quick three and out added on with an error on the snap on the punt attempt put the Rebels inside the 35-yard line with an opportunity to extend the lead before halftime. 

As the clock hit zeros Brumfield would keep the football and make a run towards the in-zone from 19 yards out. He stumbled past three defenders as he crossed the goal line to extend the Rebels lead to 24-0 at the half. 

As the second half of play began it was the Bulldogs who began with the ball attempting to score their first points of the game. 

They were off to a fast start as quarterback Zevi Echaus scrambled out of the pocket and ran for a 42-yard gain down to the UNLV 40, but they would not be able to convert as they were forced to punt despite the excellent field position. 

UNLV would also be forced to punt on their first drive of the game, but when the ball returned into the hands of Echaus possession would be traded back to the Rebels off an interception at midfield by UNLV junior defensive back Thomas Anderson. 

The pick would lead to the second field goal attempt by Pizano and he would knock it through the uprights making the score 27-0. 

As the third quarter was winding down the Bulldogs advanced into the Redzone for the third time and capitalized from the 1-yard line with a rushing touchdown from junior Chris Yates to make the score 27-7. 

This would be short-lived for Bryant however as on the kick return De Jesus would return the kick for 96 yards down to the Bulldog 2-yard line. The play would be finished off with the first career Rebel touchdown for running back Donavyn Lester to make the score 34-7. 

The final quarter of the game continued as it had throughout the previous 45 minutes of play as the Rebels would add on a touchdown from Thomas and another field goal from Pizano. 

The Bulldogs did not stop fighting however as they would add another touchdown to make the final score 44-14.

The Rebels now look forward to its highest ranked matchup of the season next week as they head into Ann Arbor to take on the No. 2 ranked Michigan Wolverines. As coach Odom mentioned during post-game ,“We’re thrilled to be 1-0, but now it’s a sprint to see how good we can get between week one and week two.”

For the Bulldogs they head back home to take on Long Island University as they look to rebound from the loss this week.

Odom closed media availability with the statement, “UNLV will be an elite football program.”

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