In its conference opener against nationally-ranked Fresno State, UNLV football had its best offensive showing from start to finish. Even when the Rebels had to make the switch from QB Doug Brumfield to QB Cameron Friel after Brumfield left the game due to injuries, the Rebel offense produced big plays, solid drives, and capitalized on those drives by scoring.
UNLV scored on its first two possessions, with a seven-play, 60-yard drive, and a 14 play, 95-yard drive to jump out to a 14-0 lead.
It wasn’t just one player producing. RB Charles Williams had 198 yards of total offense and Brumfield had 182. Others like WR Steve Jenkins, WR Tyleek Collins, and Friel when he came in, all contributed to the Rebel offensive output.
More impressive were the big plays UNLV pulled off. The Rebels had eight plays of 20 yards or more, which was lacking in their first three games. With more reps together as a team, UNLV’s offense is taking a step in the right direction as they head into conference play after a tough first four games. And that progress, like the increase in explosive plays, is being seen in practice and translating to the game.
“We saw a lot of the plays pop up in practice, and guys executed the plays in practice,” coach Marcus Arroyo said at his weekly media availability. “But it goes back to kind of standards, they’re getting these plays, they’re getting more reps together. And I think that’s paid off, especially with speed. Now they’re in games they see it happen faster in the course of action a little better.”
Arroyo said the Rebels had their best week of practice in the week leading up to the Fresno State game. And that allowed the playbook to open up more, with more plays and more people getting involved.
“The (offensive) package opens up a little bit more,” Arroyo said. “Certain things you can do… lend themselves to scheme, obviously, but I think that as we get a little further into how we can do things effectively in the playbook, a little more opens up and we can see guys utilize tools and we get to be creative.”
UNLV’s entire offense looked more comfortable, especially Friel, when he had to come in. After completing eight passes for 67 yards against Iowa State, Friel looked confident against the Bulldogs.
Friel still had his freshman moments, missing on some passes and not making the best decision on plays that broke down. Regardless, with more time working on the practice field with the first team, and having game reps under his belt, Friel showed poise and has given UNLV reassurance the offense can function without Brumfield.
Wide Receivers Step Up
Standout WR Kyle Williams did not play against Fresno State and his status for Saturday’s game against UTSA is unknown. But with his absence, other receivers like Tyleek Collins and Steve Jenkins had opportunities to step up, and they did. Collins had an 80-yard touchdown to open the second half and Jenkins had 68 receiving yards and a touchdown.
“Those are the things you have to have,” Arroyo said on having multiple receivers able to make big plays. “We’re accustomed to having them in a place that we’re at now, we have to get those guys to understand that the expectation is to do that. Those guys, when we are running the football, have to be more ready to do that.”
UNLV still wants to get the run game going with Charles Williams, who had 102 rushing yards. That allows the passing game to open up, and allows more opportunities for the receivers to make plays and be dynamic.
Arroyo was quick to mention that getting more guys involved isn’t entirely a good thing. Kyle Williams has so many reps with the quarterbacks, that when someone else comes in behind him in the depth chart, they do not have as many reps with the quarterbacks. But getting more reps now in games will shrink that gap over time.
“You’ve got less experience with the quarterback,” Arroyo said about having new receivers in with not as many reps with the quarterbacks. “Kyle (Williams)’s had a lot of reps with our quarterbacks, I don’t know how that helps getting new guys in. It’s got to help now with guys getting a ton of reps to get timing with Cam or Doug.”
It is still unclear who will start at quarterback for the Rebels against UTSA Saturday (3 p.m. PT on ESPN+). Brumfield did not participate in portions of practice open to the media and QB Tate Martell was practicing after dealing with plantar fasciitis. Whoever lines up under center for UNLV will be working with an offense that is continuing to improve and on the verge of helping the Rebels get their first win.
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