It was a Homecoming Night to forget for UNLV as the team dropped its second straight game for the first time this year.
The Rebels were trounced by the Air Force Falcons, 42-7, Saturday, Oct. 15 from Allegiant Stadium in a one-sided, mistake-filled affair.
“Disappointed with how we took care of the ball offensively and put ourselves behind the sticks,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said. “That’s the bottom line. Disappointed with the way we started the game. [We] were moving the ball, [but] didn’t take care of it.”
UNLV committed four turnovers in this one, three of which came from sophomore starting quarterback Cameron Friel. Normal starter, sophomore Doug Brumfield, was held out of the game while still a part of the concussion protocol.
“You can’t put yourself behind the eight-ball versus a team like that,” Arroyo said. “To give them extra possessions is not something that’s in the cards of playing this team effectively.”
Over the last two seasons, UNLV has been outscored, 90-21, by Air Force.
With back-to-back losses for the first time this season, the Rebels sit at 4-3 on the year and 2-2 in the Mountain West.
Coming up, the team will embark on the first of a two-game road trip that will head to South Bend, Indiana for the first stop. UNLV will travel to play Notre Dame, Saturday, Oct. 22.
“Disappointed,” Arroyo said. “It’s a disappointed locker room. A lot of competitive guys – ultra-competitive guys – that care about the process of what we’re doing together.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. It will be the first game inside the Eastern Time Zone for UNLV since playing Ohio State in 2017.
Of the four UNLV turnovers, 28 Air Force points came from them.
After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, the Rebels had their opening drive stall after a fumble from Friel.
“I was disappointed,” Arroyo said. “Obviously, turned the ball over and put us in some hard spots. I know he’s disappointed as well [...] He knows we can’t win games when we turn the ball over like that.” Four plays later, Air Force punched it into the end zone on the ground to go up 7-0.
On the ensuing kick return, Rebels running back Courtney Reese fumbled on the return, setting the Falcons up with more great field position.
Air Force running back Brad Roberts capped off that drive with a touchdown, his first of four on the night.
“Yeah, option football,” Arroyo said. “It’s effective, they do a really nice job. [They’re] calculated and did a nice job up front. That’s what they do.”
The success running the football allowed for the Falcons to put together long, sustained drives that resulted in points. Air Force had scoring drives of 11 plays twice and 10 plays once. Moreover, the team had scoring drives that gobbled up 81 yards, 64 yards and 75 yards.
UNLV allowed a season-high 406 rushing yards to Air Force while playing without senior defensive lineman Adam Plant Jr.
Arroyo said Plant was a late scratch due to injury however he did not specify what was troubling the defensive star.
UNLV’s third fumble of the night and its second from Friel led to Roberts’ third touchdown of the night.
Friel went 8-for-10 for 108 yards with a touchdown before being pulled from the game in the third quarter after being intercepted. That turnover also led to points for the opponent.
For a brief moment late in the second quarter, Friel flashed signs of life going 4-for-4 for 60 yards on a scoring drive that ended with a 31-yard touchdown pass to receiver Ricky White III.
That would serve as the only score of Homecoming Night for the home team.
For the third straight game, the team was without top receivers Kyle Williams and Jeff Weimer. To compound matters, the Rebels lost starting running back Aidan Robbins during the game, who left the contest and reappeared on the sideline in street clothes.
According to Arroyo, Robbins is dealing with a knee injury.
Robbins came into the contest tied with Roberts for most rushing touchdowns in the conference with eight.
Third-string quarterback Harrison Bailey came in and finished the game for UNLV. That marks the 14th quarterback change in 25 games as Rebel head coach for Arroyo.