With the new semester upon us at UNLV, so is the return of college football and another season of Rebel football.
UNLV kicks off its 2022 season Saturday, Aug. 27 at 12:30 pm, when the Rebels host Idaho State out of the Big Sky Conference at Allegiant Stadium. The date will mark the earliest game in program history.
Head coach Marcus Arroyo hosted his weekly press conference in anticipation of Saturday’s kickoff and what will be his third season leading the program. Arroyo’s energy and enthusiasm spread throughout the room the moment the conference began in anticipation for the season.
“It’s game week. We’re fired up,” Arroyo said. “We’re really excited. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve put in a lot of work since the close of last year, and our guys have done a fantastic job of doing the things we need to do to raise the bar.”
Despite a combined record of 2-16 during his first two years, growing optimism exists there exists that Arroyo’s highly touted recruiting classes filling the ranks welcomes a new era of Rebel football.
Arroyo’s inaugural recruiting class of 2020 brought 22 players rated at least three-stars or higher according to 247Sports to UNLV, nearly doubling the previous record of 12 three-star athletes, a feat accomplished over a decade ago in 2010.
One area where Arroyo stayed mute on was the landscape of the current quarterback battle between the two sophomores, redshirt sophomore Doug Brumfield who started two games for UNLV last season, and new incoming transfer from Tennessee, Harrison Bailey.
Both Brumfield and Bailey are listed as co-starters on the depth chart heading into Saturday’s game, with Arroyo declining to share any insights as to who will lead the first series with the offense.
“We don’t know [who will start] yet,“ Arroyo said. “Both guys will continue to share reps this week. Both guys have done a great job in camp, and Cam [Friel] is no slouch right behind them. Once we get to Saturday’s noon kickoff you’ll have a guy out there.”
Starting wide receiver Kyle Williams echoed Arroyo’s secrecy, keeping a tight lid on any quarterback talk.
“My lips are sealed,” Williams said when asked who he’d think start at quarterback. “But I do know each has the potential to start. They compete every day, and they all show traits and characteristics of a starter.”
Regardless of who the starting quarterback is, the team’s objective going into Saturday’s game remains the same: set the tone for the season.
Fifth-year starting middle linebacker and defensive leader Austin Ajiake understands the importance of starting
“We always talk about starting fast,” Ajiake said. “Whether it’s a drill, whether it’s a practice, whether it’s a season. We talk about ‘EDCT – Effort, Discipline, Commitment, Toughness,’ and establishing that with the first game so we can carry that throughout the season. How we start will tell you a lot about how the season will go. I’m excited.”
Thanks to a fortunate conflict of schedules, Saturday’s game will be played on the Raiders’ natural-grass field instead the Rebels’ usual artificial turf for the first time since Allegiant Stadium opened on Sep. 21, 2020.
UNLV leads the all-time series versus Idaho State 6-2. The Bengals finished the 2021 season 1-10 with their only win a 27-17 victory over UC Davis on Oct. 9.
With the season beginning, some members of the Rebel program are getting back into their pregame routines. Here are a couple of pregame rituals from some players on the team.
Williams: “I like to lock in with a bag of Skittles and listen to NBA YoungBoy. Gets me into my zone, kill whatever’s in front of me, Mamba Mentality.”
Ajiake: “I take on the mental part of the game. I make sure I’m as clear-minded as possible. Whether it’s reading or meditating the night before, I like drowning out the outside and enhancing my focus.
I have a couple favorites I’ve read in the past. ‘The Power of Now,’ which is about staying in the present when everything around you is going crazy. I recognize this sport is like life in a way – you can be mentally there, you can be spiritually there, you can be physically there, but when you have all three working towards the same goal it makes you a complete player. I take that same approach in football as I do in life.”