Before UNLV and Iowa State even kicked off, the Rebels were at a disadvantage. Iowa State fans came to Allegiant Stadium in droves to see the 14th ranked Cyclones face the Rebels. In pregame introductions, the Iowa State fans drowned out the UNLV crowd with mighty cheers which served as a precursor for what was to come in the game.
The predominantly Iowa State crowd of 35,931 had plenty to cheer for as the Cyclones scored at will against the struggling Rebels en route to a 48-3 victory Saturday night.
Iowa State, who had its own struggles on offense entering the game, scored three first-half touchdowns – the offense had three total touchdowns in their first two games – and had more first-half points (24) than UNLV had total yards of offense (23). In total, the Cyclones outgained the Rebels in total yards (493-130) and averaged 7.4 yards per play on offense.
“Hats off to a good football team, in Iowa State and what coach [Matt] Campbell has done at that place the past few years,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said after the loss. “[They’re] a good football team, physical, big, does things right, and does a lot of things that wins football games.”
The Rebels were short-handed at quarterback, as Doug Brumfield did not suit up after getting injured in last week’s loss to Arizona State. UNLV started true freshman Cameron Friel in his collegiate debut, but he could not provide a spark to get the Rebel offense going.
UNLV’s only first down in the first half came from an Iowa State pass interference penalty. Four of the five UNLV drives in the first half ended with punts and one was a turnover on downs.
Las Vegas native and Bishop Gorman grad QB Tate Martell made his long-awaited debut for UNLV, first coming in the first half for one play that was a hand-off to Charles Williams. The Rebels were picked off on the next play on a throw from Friel.
Then in the second half, Arroyo went with a rotation package with both Friel and Martell switching in and out of the game, during the same drive, and the Rebels stuck with that through the rest of the game. Throughout the week, UNLV prepared for all options, including a planned rotation for the two quarterbacks.
“We planned to do that all week… The rotation was planned, there were some small package stuff that we tried to get done,” Arroyo said. “Never easy to do, and my hats off to those guys for the week they put in and tried to get some things scheduled for them.”
In regards to Brumfield’s availability, Arroyo said the team made the decision on Thursday that he was not going to play. He wanted to make sure the other UNLV quarterbacks had time to prepare for Iowa State, and because Brumfield does not have much college playing time, Arroyo said it would not have been smart to rush him out there without a full week of practice, especially since he was not 100 percent.
The Rebels’ best drive of the night was a 14 play, 66-yard drive that took most of the third quarter, resulting in a Daniel Gutierrez field goal. On that drive, the Rebels picked up five first downs with a couple of Charles Williams runs and some nice passes from Friel.
On a third and two, Martell picked up nine yards that set up a first and goal, but the Rebels could not capitalize, and they lost a few yards and decided to kick a field goal while trailing 31-0.
Friel ended the night completing 8 of 13 passes for 67 yards and an interception. Martell completed 2 passes on 6 attempts for 27 yards. Charles Williams only mustered 46 yards on 19 carries on the ground.
Iowa State, on the other hand, had the breakout game from its star players that they desperately needed. QB Brock Purdy completed 21 of 24 passes for 288 yards, with three TD passes, and RB Breece Hall rushed for 101 yards and 2 TDs.
The Rebels will dip their toe into Mountain West play this week after playing their two toughest games on the schedule to this point. UNLV will look to try and find more ways to be efficient in all three phases and look at the tape from these past three games to try and find things they can do to win football games in all aspects.
“The growth in our program will come from challenges like this, back-to-back top-25 teams, and seeing exactly how we can stand up and continue to find some good football in there, particularly with a young group, with a depth that’s different from some of those teams,” Arroyo said.
“We’ve got to continue to press on, we have a challenge as coaches to continue to look at ourselves and find out ways that we can be creative and improve, collectively as ourselves and towards our program, and keeping our guys focused on the things we can do in the week to continue to improve our football program.”
UNLV will have a short week as they get ready for Fresno State next Friday night on the road. The Bulldogs are coming off a 40-37 victory at the Rose Bowl against No. 11 ranked UCLA. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.
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