UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo returned Monday morning to the media room inside the Fertitta Football Complex — exuding energy and excitement about the second half of the season.
“We got an opportunity during the bye week to spend time with each other, which was good in regard to … getting healthy,” he said. “We were banged up in those first five games pretty good. Which is probably expected with the teams that we played.”
The schedule finally softens for the winless Rebels, who return to Allegiant Stadium on Saturday to play Utah State in their second Mountain West game of the season. They played three teams ranked in the top 25 during the first portion of the season.
Only Alabama, Indiana, Arkansas and Stanford faced as many top-25 opponents through the first five weeks.
“Being in games in the fourth quarter is really what you want to see identity wise with your group,” Arroyo said. “They’re competing. There’s not anybody pointing fingers.”
Arroyo said quarterback Doug Brumfield “did some running around” as he makes his way back from a back injury that kept him out Oct. 2 against Texas-San Antonio. Fellow quarterback Cameron Friel is “banged up as normal,” per Arroyo. But there’s optimism that both will be ready to go Saturday against the Aggies.
Additionally, quarterback Tate Martell is out of the protective walking boot he wore to aid his ailing left foot.
“To see how much he can do will be the next piece of this week as well,” Arroyo said. “At the quarterback position, we’re touch and go, but we think we’ve got enough pieces to facilitate some movement.”
Arroyo didn’t disclose the status of wideout Tyleek Collins, running back Jayvaun Wilson, safety Phillip Hill and defensive linemen Connor Murphy and Adam Plant Jr — all of whom didn’t play against the Roadrunners. But he did note that senior tight end Giovanni Fauolo is likely out for the season with a knee injury he sustained during that game.
The focus now shifts toward the rest of the season and securing the program’s first win under Arroyo.
“(I’m) trying to stay positive and have faith,” UNLV senior running back Charles Williams said. “We’re right there. We’re just like, two, four plays away from being where we want to be as a team. The execution part is getting better each week. We just have to be dialed in on those critical downs and the situational football components.”
Part of that improvement stems from a change in the practice structure. Arroyo is incorporating more time for individual drills and pitting his first-team offense against his first-team defense during team drills.
“Good on good,” as he calls it.
The structure has made for a more competitive environment, and he said they’ll likely stick to it as the season continues.
“It gives us a good opportunity to see how things go (with) game speed in practice,” said junior linebacker Jacoby Windmon. “It gets competitive. … We’re just talking smack to each other trying to keep that competitive drive going. I think it’s been really good for us.”
Who: UNLV (0-5) vs. Utah State (3-2)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Allegiant Stadium
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: KWWN (1100 AM, 100.9 FM)
Tickets: Starting at $33 at unlvtickets.com
Line: Utah State -6, total 59 (Caesars)