Unfortunately for them, that day will have to come at another time. Despite roaring back with a 14-point fourth quarter, the Rebels fell 35-33 in double overtime to the Eastern Washington Eagles.
“I’m not into moral victories,” Arroyo said. “We saw some real improvement in a lot of areas, but we have to play good football.”
Before the game started, Arroyo announced that Texas Christian University transfer Justin Rodgers would get the first crack at running the offense.
Eastern Washington had the first two opportunities to take the lead, but kicker Seth Harrison missed two field goals on back-to-back drives. They finally got on the board after Rodgers was strip sacked. Eastern Washington took advantage of the short field and drove inside the Rebel’s 10 yard-line before settling for a 22-yard field goal.
On the ensuing drive, Rebels fifth-year senior Charles Williams ripped off a 27-yard run to get the Rebels into Eagles territory. However, penalties and a sack forced them to settle for a Daniel Gutierrez 48-yard field goal, evening the score at three.
Just before the half, the Rebels had the chance to cause a massive momentum swing. Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere threw an interception to Cameron Oliver, setting up the Rebels at the Eagle 35 yard-line. The Rebels drove inside the 10 yard-line, however poor clock management forced them to settle for a field goal with three seconds remaining in the half.
The Rebels had a nightmarish start to the second half. On their opening drive, the offense picked up three false start penalties which killed their drive. This ended up being Rodger’s last series of the game, as sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield took over in the following series. They followed this with two more three-and-out drives.
The Eagles, meanwhile, scored 17 points on their first three possessions of the third quarter to take a 20-6 lead. Things were not looking great for the Rebels, but a 58-yard bomb from Brumfield to Kyle Williams gave the Rebel offense the spark they desperately needed. They would add a Gutierrez field goal and score on their next two possessions to even the score at 20.
The Rebels got the ball back with just over four minutes to play and looked to ice the game. However, a deflected pass led to an interception, giving the ball back to the Eagles with just over three minutes to play.
UNLV looked poised to take the ball back with just over two minutes remaining. They had the Eagles at second and 22 from their own 32 yard-line. However, Barriere showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS, dropping a 46-yard dime to Andrew Boston. This inevitably set up Eastern Washington for a last second field goal to win the game from inside the Rebel 15-yardline. However, Harrison missed his third field goal of the game and the game remained tied at 20 when the final horn sounded.
UNLV got the first overtime possession and reached the endzone on a Charles Williams 19-yard scamper in just three plays. Not to be outdone however, Barriere dropped another dime to tight end Dylan Ingram to even the score back up.
Barriere dropped yet another dime, this time to tight end Blake Gobel on the first play of the second overtime. Eagles coach Aaron Best wanted to end the game there. The team went for two and succeeded, giving Eastern Washington a 35-27 lead.
Brumfield managed to scramble his way to the endzone on a 19-yard scamper to give the Rebels a shot to tie the game. However, the two-point conversion attempt was stopped mere inches from the goal line, and the Rebels fell 35-33 in double overtime.
Despite the loss, some positives still exist. For starters, the defense was the sole reason the Rebels were even in this game. Time after time when their backs were against the wall, the defense made stops when it needed to. They were able to keep Barriere’s potent playmaking ability in check for a majority of the game and forced him into two turnovers.
Fifth-year senior Chuck Williams also showed why he is one of the best backs in the Mountain West. Williams finished with 177-yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. As he has done throughout his career at UNLV, he carried the team in this game and was the sole reason they had any offensive production through the first three quarters. Ultimately, it was not enough, but he once again showcased how dominant he could be.
The road ahead does not get any less difficult. On Sept. 11, the Rebels travel to Tempe, AZ to face the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Rebels have only played the Sun Devils once, back in 2008. That time, they upset the Sun Devils 23-20. The game is set to kick off at 7:30 P.M. PST and will air on ESPN 2