Overall it wasn’t a good showing for the UNLV Rebels in their 37-3 loss to UCLA Bruins, but there were a couple of bright spots on defense.
Here’s how the Rebels grade:
There is no question the offense was starting to come together when Blake Decker got hurt on the last play of the first quarter. The unit was able to muster almost nothing after he left, however, and dealing with injuries is part of football. UNLV needed to be able to find a way to move the ball with Kurt Palandech under center and it just could not. That’s not acceptable. At one point, Palandech was 2-for-8 for minus-2 yards throwing the ball. Even more troubling, it didn’t get much better. He finished 4-for-15 for just 4 yards. To make matters worse, he had an interception returned for a touchdown after making a horrendous decision as he was tackled. Palandech also fumbled in the third quarter. The lack of any sort of passing game prevented the run game from gaining any sort of traction. It was a really bad night for the offense.
The numbers don’t look great. Sometimes there’s more to the story, though. That was the case on Saturday night. After giving up 10 quick points, UNLV’s defense more than held its own the rest of the first half against a very talented UCLA offense. The only other points the Bruins were able to score before halftime came courtesy of a defensive touchdown. Eventually, the Rebel defense just wore down as it was consistently put in difficult situations because of the ineffectiveness on offense. Despite some decent final passing numbers by Josh Rosen, the pre-game worries about the secondary proved mostly unfounded. The cornerbacks were adequate in coverage and made it tough for UCLA to push the ball down the field.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
A failed fake field goal in the first quarter is more on the coaches than the special teams unit. The blocked punt by Logan Yunker was a problem. He attempted a rugby-style kick where he rolled out to the right before kicking and booted the ball right into a UCLA defender. The few kick returns UNLV did get when UCLA failed to kick the ball through the end zone were very short and the only punt return went for negative yards. Keith Whitely also dropped a punt while attempting to make a fair catch, though UNLV was able to get the ball back. Yunker did at least make up for his mistake with what may have been the best play of the game for UNLV when he drilled a 65-yard punt that went out of bounds at the 1-yard line in the second quarter. Nicolai Bornand made the only field goal he was actually allowed to attempt, a 42-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Life got very difficult for UNLV, which was already overmatched, when Decker got hurt. Before that point, the Rebels at least appeared to have an idea of what it wanted to do to stay competitive. It’s on the coaches to make sure the backups are prepared to step in, however, and that didn’t appear to be the case. There was also the curious case of the fake field goal late in the first half when UNLV had the chance to get within seven points at 10-3. Going for the first down wasn’t an awful decision, but do it with your best players. Sanchez made the decision to kick a field goal on fourth down in the final minutes to avoid the shutout. That says that despite the mantra of no moral victories, he wanted to allow his team to see something on the scoreboard other than a zero. This was certainly not the home debut Tony Sanchez and his staff were hoping for in front of a huge crowd at Sam Boyd Stadium.