Doug Brumfield came off the bench in the second half at quarterback for the Rebels and provided an instant spark. UNLV began putting together drives and eventually managed to put points on the scoreboard. Brumfield led the Rebels on three scoring drives to erase a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter and send the game to overtime.
But the Rebels ran out of magic in the second overtime as Brumfield’s pass to Zyell Griffin was stopped short of the goal line by Eastern Washington defenders to deny the Rebels a two-point conversion as UNLV dropped its season opener to Eastern Washington 35-33.
To start the game, head coach Marcus Arroyo went with Justin Rogers. While Rogers completed seven of his 11 pass attempts, he only threw for 23 yards and looked somewhat timid with the ball. After Rogers went in for a few series in the second half, Arroyo was ready to make the switch to Brumfield.
Once Brumfield came in the second half, the offense began to click, they moved the ball much easier than earlier and they were able to push the ball down the field. The Rebels were able to get in play action, run their offense and get everyone involved.
“I thought Doug came in and did something that’s hard,” Arroyo said, “it’s hard to come off the bench…He did a real nice job and I’m excited to get him moving forward, and I’m sure the film will reflect that and we’ll make a decision going into next week.”
Brumfield provided an immediate spark when he connected with Kyle Williams for a 58-yard completion that led to a Daniel Gutierrez field goal. After a Phillip Hill interception a few moments later, Brumfield helped the Rebels move the ball down the field to another field goal, to get the game to single digits, 20-12 in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Rebels forced a turnover on special teams that gave them the ball on the 16-yard line. Two plays later, Charles Williams ran for a 16-yard touchdown, and after Brumfield hit Courtney Reese for the two-point conversion, the Rebels had a tied ball game.
While Brumfield might have shown he should be the starter moving forward, he was not perfect. An interception gave Eastern Washington a chance to win the game. But the Eagles missed their third field goal of the game to send both teams into overtime.
The Rebels converted on their first overtime possession with a Charles Williams touchdown run. But Eastern Washington scored on the first plays of their next two drives, including converting on a two-point conversion, that the Rebels could not respond to, which helped them win the game.
While the offense struggled early to score points, the defense shined as they held Eastern Washington to just three first half points. They were able to force three Eastern Washington turnovers that led to 14 UNLV points.
“They (the defense) did a good job in that first half of keeping us rolling,” Arroyo said. “They had some good stops, had a couple of turnovers and kept us in the game in a lot of ways…We put a lot of stock into it and we’ve got a lot of room to grow and things we need to fix, but they did a good job in a lot of phases.”
Early on, Jacoby Windmon made his presence felt, as he was all over the field getting pressure in the backfield, delivering big hits, and breaking up passes. The energy Windmon and the rest of the defense generated helped them get some big stops to limit Eastern Washington’s scoring early.
“There were times where we had to go on the field after the offense turned the ball over and the guys were just coming together, saying ‘we got this.’ We had a couple of stops in the red zone, making them kick the field goals. I just think that’s guys coming together and buying into the program.”
Charles Williams appeared to return to his all-conference form as he rushed for 172 yards, 100 of which came in the first half and two big touchdowns. As Rogers struggled leading the offense in the first half, Williams carried the Rebels on offense through the first half, with help from the offensive line that also appeared to return to form.
“It was more of the o-line,” Charles Williams said, “they did their job…It was great to see getting a push in the second half and started trusting it more and hitting it more. I got more decisive with my cut and we had those big plays, as simple as that.”
Windmon said he liked how much energy the defense came out with, but they need to focus on finishing drives with stops. The same could be said for the offense who had two turnovers and kicked four field goals. While this is a tough loss for the Rebels, there were plenty of moments that could give fans confidence and something the rest of the team can build upon.
The Rebels hit the road to face nationally ranked Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 11. Arroyo knows things will not get any easier with some of the tough opponents in the coming weeks. UNLV will have a lot of time to go over what went wrong and get to a point where they can finish in close game situations.
“We’re not, and I’m not into moral victories. We’re too competitive and we work too hard. We saw some real improvement in a lot of areas, but we’ve got to play good football. We got to be able to not turn the football over, you got to know critical situations to beat a good football team. We’ve got to make sure we assess the film and be critical of ourselves and get better and I know these guys will.”
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