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Marcus Arroyo seeing evidence of UNLV culture shift

Marcus Arroyo makes no attempt to hide UNLV’s feelings about being 0-3, a mark the team fell to for the first time since 2015 with Saturday’s 40-27 loss to Fresno State.

It’s not where they want to be. “It hurts when they lose,” he said, “and the guys are hurt for it.”

Arroyo understands how difficult it is to win games, but he has stated on several occasions he’s not into moral victories.

He is interested in putting a culture in place he hopes will eventually lead to wins and refuses to compromise the standards to which he holds the Rebels.

“Transitioning to winning is hard,” Arroyo said. “It has to be earned and executed. We’ve got to stay the course and trust the process. We have to understand we can’t win a game in a half or a quarter. You’ve got to play a complete game with a ton of effort.”

It’s not always easy to stay the course when it’s not immediately producing the desired results, but Arroyo said he and the team are finding positive nuggets in the film after every game that are evidence of a culture shift. This week was no different.

He was pleased to see the defense get its first takeaway of the season when Tavis Malakius recovered a fumble in the final minute of the game. The only other turnover the Rebels had collected was when true freshman Nohl Williams fell on a muffed punt in the season opener against San Diego State.

He liked that the Rebels won the special teams battle “in our mind and how we look at it.” The defense created more “havoc” and negative plays and allowed fewer big plays in the passing game with a secondary littered with true freshman who are either starting or playing meaningful snaps.

The offense continued to have sustained drives but mixed in two explosive plays for touchdowns — a 43-yard pass from Max Gilliam to Tyleek Collins and a 71-yard run from Gilliam on a scramble.

Arroyo wants to see more improvement in all of those areas, such as getting turnovers and turning them into points and having more big plays on offense that don’t come from Gilliam’s legs. But there were stretches of Saturday’s game when the Rebels appeared to have control. They twice led in the first half, something they didn’t do in either of the first two games.

The more that happens and the longer they can sustain it, the more each player can trust in what the player beside him will do and feed into the culture the coaches are preaching.

“A lot of it has to do with the way we communicate with each other and treat each other,” Arroyo said. “That’s something early on you have to build in a group is to try and build the trust they have in each other … the onus they put on each other to do their job.”

There were setbacks, too, as often happens with this process. The offense had managed to avoid turnovers in the first two games but gave the ball away three times in the second half Saturday. Two were interceptions in the fourth quarter, when Fresno State outscored UNLV 13-0 to pull away for the win.

The Rebels also struggled to contain Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers, who had 133 yards and three rushing touchdowns and 99 yards and a score receiving.

“We’ve got to make sure to go back as a group and don’t let the guys get too high or low. That’s part of a culture, too, as far as how you build it and teach guys how to handle success and defeat,” Arroyo said. “Going back and making sure we can point out (mistakes) and how we can improve them.”

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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