The Mountain West opener kicked off Friday as UNLV traveled for the second time this season to face the Fresno State Bulldogs, in a back and forth battle the Rebels ultimately fell to the No. 22 ranked team 30-38.
This was the first time in history UNLV football faced ranked opponents in three straight games, facing No. 14 Iowa State and No. 23 Arizona State in the previous two weeks.
Before this game, the Rebels were coming off three straight losses while the Bulldogs were coming off a huge upset last week after beating No. 13 (now No. 24) UCLA.
After sitting last week from an injury, quarterback (QB) Doug Brumfield returned to the Rebels offense with a 37-yard run early in the first. Running back (RB) Charles Williams added another 10 yards which set up UNLV for a touchdown attempt. On the next play, Brumfield would connect to receiver Steve Jenkins for the first passing touchdown of the game and the season.
As Fresno’s QB Jake Haener struggled early in the game with completions and the team causing penalties all around, the Rebels used this to their advantage. Late in the first, a 95-yard drive by the Rebels would end in yet another touchdown, this time Williams would run it in to put UNLV up 14-0.
In the second, the Bulldogs were stopped by the Rebels explosive defense, having to settle for a field goal to put them on the board 3-14. Minutes later, Brumfield went down with a non-contact leg injury and was carted off the field as freshman QB Cameron Friel entered the game for the Rebels.
A minute before the half, Bulldogs’ receiver Eric Brooks caught a touchdown pass from Haener to put them behind only 5 points at the half.
To kick off the second half, Brumfield entered back into the game and on the first play, threw to Tyleek Collins, who would run it 80 yards for a touchdown. Kicker Daniel Gutierrez’s extra point was good, putting the Rebels up 21-9.
The Bulldogs answered back minutes later to put the score back to a 5-point margin, 16-21. Rebels unable to answer back, the Bulldogs offense would put themselves ahead for the first time in the game as receiver Jalen Cropper dove into the endzone. An unsuccessful two-point conversion would put Fresno up only one point (22-21) late in the third.
Entering the final quarter, Cropper caught his third touchdown of the night for the Bulldogs, extending their lead 29-21. After not being able to convert the previous nine third-downs, Friel fought past defenders to convert the third down on their first drive of the fourth.
In the Red Zone, Friel tossed the ball to RB Courtney Reese for a touchdown, an unsuccessful two-point conversion put the Rebels behind 27-29. Fresno’s first playback on offense, Rebel’s interception leader this year DB Phillip Hill intercepted Jake Haener’s bad throw, running it 17 yards getting the offense the ball back near mid-field.
Rebels take back the lead as Daniel Gutierrez knocks down a 30-yard field goal with a little over five minutes left in the game. A minute later, Haener and Cropper connect for their fourth touchdown of the night taking the lead back 35-30.
As fast as the Rebels got the ball back on offense they lost it on a fumble, leading Fresno to kick a field goal putting them up 8 points in the final two and a half minutes. In UNLV’s last hope, Friel at 4th & 15 threw an incomplete pass sealing the victory for the Bulldogs 38-30.
By the Numbers
UNLV continues their perfect Red Zone scoring, they are 12/12 in the Red Zone this season with seven touchdowns and five field goals.
Doug Brumfield would end the game with 143 passing yards and two touchdowns. Cameron Friel ended with 138 passing yards and a 60% completion rate. Before this game, Charles Williams averaged 111.3 yards against his hometown college team in four games, tonight he finished with 102 rushing yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, 96 receiving yards on 3 receptions, and one touchdown.
The Rebels will be on the road again next week to take on the undefeated UTSA Roadrunners in San Antonio on Saturday, Oct. 2 at 3 p.m. Catch the game on ESPN+.