UNLV football took to the field Friday night riding back-to-back wins to face off against the San Diego State Aztecs, losing 28-20 for the final home game.
“Senior night is a big deal,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said. “To see them fight like that on a night like this is pretty special.”
The Rebels honored 14 seniors Friday, with Charles Williams being chief among them, taking the spot as the all-time leading rusher in program history.
UNLV came out on its opening drive firing on all cylinders, with quarterback (QB) Cameron Friel and running back Charles Williams making quick work of the Aztec defense to drive down the field.
The Rebel offense would be shut down at the goal line by the Aztec defense, forcing Daniel Gutierrez to kick a field goal and put the Rebels up 3-0.
Gutierrez made both of his field goal attempts to improve to 37-of-45 attempts in his career and 28-of-29 from 39 yards or shorter.
The Aztecs’ opening possession saw a mixed bag of plays, with big gains through the air and the Rebel defense sacking Aztec QB Lucas Johnson.
SDSU punted to end their first possession of the game. However, on the defensive side of the ball, the Aztecs would get rewarded.
On the second play of UNLV’s second drive, a pass intended for wide receiver Steve Jenkins was bobbled up into the air and intercepted by Aztec Andrew Aleki and returned for a touchdown.
The Rebels’ third drive saw more issues, with Kyle Williams going down with an injury and the drive itself resulting in a punt for UNLV.
Early on in the second quarter, the Rebels and Aztecs would trade possession of the ball with Friel getting injured to force backup QB Justin Rogers into the game.
On his first drive, Rogers took UNLV downfield in a hurry with two first down passing plays to Charles Williams and Giovanni Fauolo Sr., then found Jenkins deep downfield all alone for UNLV’s first touchdown of the game.
With Rogers in the game, UNLV took the lead 10-7, but it didn’t last long.
Lucas Johnson led SDSU down the field to retake the lead, connecting with Jesse Matthews for a touchdown and pulling the Aztecs back into the lead 14-10.
The teams traded the ball once more until a fourth down conversion by the Aztecs kept their drive alive, leading to Lucas Johnson finding Matthews in the endzone with five seconds left in the half.
SDSU took its 17-10 lead through the half, and opened the second half with the ball.
Rebel Jacoby Windmon leapt over SDSU Greg Bell to pressure Lucas Johnson in the backfield, forcing him to give up the ball. The initial ruling on the field was a fumble, but the call was later overturned.
Windmon’s defensive stop forced the Aztecs to punt, having UNLV set up at their own six-yard line.
Windmon turned in a career-best three quarterback sacks, which was the fourth-most in UNLV single-season history.
Rogers found Jenkins downfield for an 80-yard pass to set UNLV up at the six-yard line.
Following a second holding penalty on the Rebels, Rogers floated a pass to Fauolo Sr. for his first touchdown of the season, fifth of his career.
The Rebel defense came up big on the ensuing Aztec drive, forcing a punt.
UNLV drove down the field and got into the redzone, but another SDSU stand forced Gutierrez to kick another field goal, bringing the Rebels within one.
Ricky Johnson ended the following SDSU drive with a highlight reel interception, tipping the ball in the air and catching it while falling on his back to mark his third interception in two games.
The Rebels could not muster any offense after Ricky Johnson’s pick, but they would get the stop to get the ball back in the middle stages of the fourth.
UNLV failed to generate offense, and the Aztecs took advantage by driving down the field and scoring after a fourth down conversion to put SDSU up 28-20.
The Rebels’ final drive and game came to an end when Aztec Seyddrick Lakalaka intercepted a pass from Rogers.
Rogers became the first UNLV quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards in a game since 2018 when Max Gilliam finished with 387 vs. San Jose State. The former Texas Christian University transfer completed 15-of-21 attempts for 305 yards and two scores.
“We’re not where we want to be, we expect to win those games,” Arroyo said, “especially against good opponents, because at the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way. These guys have fought, they are tough, they’ve been growing, they are resilient, they’ve got a bunch of pride in the locker room and you can see that they are playing for each other. We’ve got another week to fight and I’m fired up to be next to them shoulder to shoulder.”
UNLV rounds out their season Nov. 26 against the Air Force Falcons in Colorado for another Mountain West matchup. The game can be found on the CBS Sports Network with kickoff coming at 12:30 p.m.
The Falcons are coming off of a thrilling overtime win against the Nevada Wolf Pack on the road 41-39. USAF sits second in the MW Mountain Division standings, close behind Utah State for the division lead.