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Sixth one-possession loss spoils Senior Night for UNLV Football

A toe-to-toe heavyweight slugfest saw UNLV Football lose its sixth one-possession game of the season, this time on Senior Night.


The Rebels lost, 28-20, to the No. 19 San Diego State Aztecs Friday, Nov. 19 from Allegiant Stadium.


“It’s always different once you go back and watch it,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said. “It’s never as bad as it seems, it’s never as good as it seems but there’s always an in-between.”


The loss sends UNLV to 2-9 on the year and 2-5 in the Mountain West conference.


One final game remains for the Rebels and it will be a road contest against the Air Force Falcons.


“We’ve got another week to fight,” Arroyo said. “I’m fired up to be right there with them, shoulder-to-shoulder.”


Despite losing to a top-ranked team in the country, it doesn’t sit well with a program attempting to re-shift its culture.


“We’re not where we want to be,” Arroyo said. “We expect to win those games. We expect to win all those games especially against good opponents because at the end of the day, we have to find a way.”


It was a surprising start for most as UNLV jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before forcing SDSU to go three-and-out on its first drive.


“No matter who the team is, what the rankings are, I think it just says a lot about us,” linebacker Jacoby Windmon said. “We’ve got good fight in us. Throughout the week we focus on just us and it shows in the game that we play for each other. That’s all we got and that’s all we need.”


However, an ensuing pick-six from quarterback Cameron Friel gave the Aztecs the lead.


It was his fourth turnover in the last two games, all of which have come in the opening quarter.


That wasn’t the only bad news for Friel as he left the game early in the second quarter after being sacked and appearing to hurt his ankle.


Later, it would be reported that Friel was suffering from turf toe.


Arroyo did not provide an update on Friel, saying he’d need to speak to the team doctor.


His replacement Justin Rogers came in and completed his first four passes of the game for a combined 112 yards.


This included going 3-for-3 with a touchdown on his first drive of the game.


“[His play] was great -- phenomenal,” wide receiver Steve Jenkins said. “For him to step up like that, our motto is next man up so all week, all year, he’s been practicing hard. And his practice showed in the game and he showed out.”


Rogers went 15-for-21, throwing for 305 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.


Jenkins was the lead man tallying 176 yards on five receptions, highlighted by an 80-yard reception.


Both touchdowns were scored by wide receiver Zyell Griffin and tight end Giovanni Fauolo Sr.


The latter touchdown became the first score caught by a tight end all season long.


In addition, it was Fauolo’s first touchdown since 2019 against the Aztecs as well.


Before the start of the fourth quarter, UNLV had outgained SDSU, 391-197, in total yards.


All things weren’t perfect for the Rebel offense as the running game was nearly non-existent for most of the game.


Senior running back Charles Williams rushed for 35 yards on 16 carries and had a third quarter touchdown wiped away due to a holding penalty.


Williams has never scored a touchdown against the Aztec defense.


As a team, UNLV had four team rushing yards at halftime.


Ultimately, it was the program’s defense that kept it in the game.


“It’s just 11 guys ready to make plays,” Windmon said. “Running to the ball full-speed and we practice like that. Like Steve said, practice equals game reality.”


Windmon led the way with 12 tackles, tied for the game-high, including three sacks.


During the game, he surpassed 100 total tackles on the season.


In addition, defensive back Ricky Johnson snagged an interception in the fourth quarter.


That marks the third interception for him in the last two games after having zero career interceptions heading into week 10.

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