UNLV football battling injuries entering first-ever matchup with Notre Dame

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UNLV defensive lineman Eliel Ehimare (16) battles against an Air Force offensive lineman during the Rebels 42-7 loss to the Falcons on Oct. 15. Photo by Paxtyn Graham.

UNLV football heads to Notre Dame to face the Fighting Irish Saturday, after a tough 42-7 loss to Air Force last week.

The Rebels had a fast start to the season with a 4-1 record, but injuries mounted on the Rebels during their 33-point loss to San José State and 35-point drumming against Air Force.

The duo of sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield and junior running back Aidan Robbins are both day-to-day for the Notre Dame game. 

Brumfield was injured during the San José State game, while Robbins was injured in the Air Force game. Head coach Marcus Arroyo said Brumfield is in concussion protocol and Robbins has a knee injury. 

Not only is the Rebels’ backfield duo injured, but senior defensive lineman Adam Plant Jr. is also day-to-day after missing the Air Force game. 

Although injuries have sidetracked the Rebels’ early success, turnovers and penalties have set them back as well.

Sophomore quarterback Cameron Friel stepped into Brumfield’s spot to try and lead the offense to the same success Brumfield had.

Friel was 8 for 10 with 108 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. He fumbled twice and threw an interception that caused a quarterback shuffle.

Sophomore quarterback Harrison Bailey stepped in towards the end of their loss against Air Force. He is someone who the Rebels may also look to rely on until Brumfield gets healthy, as he and Friel are listed as co-starters.

Amidst the injury bug flowing throughout the team, Arroyo is excited about watching his players build the program despite recent adversity.

“I know our program and team will respond accordingly, they understand the mission and the length of the season,” Arroyo said Monday. “The bumps and bruises, ups and downs, they’ve done a great job of just sticking together and their mindsets are in the right place.” 

After the disappointing homecoming game loss, the Rebels make the trip to South Bend, Indiana for their first-ever meeting against the Fighting Irish.

Heading into a big game for the Rebels, fifth-year senior linebacker Austin Ajiake is optimistic and confident in his team even after all the injuries.

“Somebody else has to step up,” Ajiake said. “At the end of the day, we have the next man up mentality.” 

The Fighting Irish come into the matchup with a 3-3 record following a 16-14 loss to Stanford last week. Notre Dame fell out of the top-25 rankings after a pair of opening-season losses. 

This will be the first time in Rebel history that they play in the state of Indiana, while Notre Dame played a Shamrock Series game against BYU two weeks ago in Allegiant Stadium. 

“When the whistle blows, it’s time to go and football is just football at that point,” Ajiake said. “Whether you’re playing in the backyard or in front of 80,000 people, it’s the same game.”

Both Ajiake and Arroyo said playing in a historic venue is special, but it would mean more to play well.

“At the end of the day you’ve still got to go out and perform, you’ve got a great team in a historical place,” Arroyo said. “You’ve got to be able to go out and minimize the distractions, ignore the noise and put your best foot forward.” 

Kickoff for UNLV and Notre Dame will be at 11:30 a.m. The game will be televised live exclusively on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service. 

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