Final score: UNLV 30, Fresno State 27, OT
Blake Decker had a very solid game, completing 29 of 40 passes for 332 yards and a score. He did throw an interception and probably saw two more potential picks dropped by Fresno State defenders, but those plays are wiped away by the victory. The Rebels were also able to run for 146 yards to keep the defense off balance, as well. Those who want to nitpick may contend UNLV would have been better served to run the ball more to help protect the 17-0 halftime lead. It’s difficult to argue with the success of the passing game, however. Devonte Boyd helped fill the absence of injured star Devante Davis with seven catches for 77 yards.
This unit was well on its way to an A+ after the first half. UNLV shut out Fresno State over the first two quarters and allowed just 140 yards of offense. The Bulldogs finally started to find a rhythm after the break and eventually grabbed the lead as the Rebels defense wore down. There were some huge positives to come out of the game despite allowing 27 points in the second half. UNLV held Fresno State to just 2 of 14 on third down and the Rebels came up with a huge stop on downs in overtime. All told, the defense did enough to win.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
This is an almost impossible grade to determine. Credit must be given to Nicolai Bornand for calmly knocking through the game-winning field goal, but the only reason it was even necessary is because Jonathan Leiva missed a chip shot that would have won the game in regulation. Bornand also connected on a 46-yarder that tied the score with 3:37 remaining. The punt team was also outstanding, downing a pair of kicks near the goal line. The special teams probably deserve a better mark. It’s just so difficult to look past the missed 26-yard attempt that could have cost UNLV a victory.
Credit Bobby Hauck for making the decision to go with Bornand for the overtime attempt after Leiva’s disastrous try at the end of regulation. That seems like a pretty easy call, though. It’s already somewhat questionable to have a short kicker and a long kicker anyway. Hauck and his staff also designed a great game plan that helped enable the Rebels to jump out to a 17-0 halftime lead.
So why the D grade? First of all, it seems fairly obvious the Rebels should have run a third-down play to set up Leiva’s attempt to come from the middle of the field. Instead, UNLV ran the ball left and the kick from the left hash mark never had a prayer. In response to a question about why the ball wasn’t centered on third down, Hauck ran through several thoughts about having practiced a hypothetical game-winner from the left hash during the week and Leiva preferring the left side to the right before finally acknowledging it may have been a mistake. “Probably should’ve (centered the ball),” he said. Yeah, probably.
There was also a ridiculous fake punt called late in the first half. UNLV led 17-0 and had all the momentum when the Rebels came up short on a fake punt from just across midfield. Why? It made zero sense and potentially gave Fresno State a chance to finally get on the board. Fortunately for UNLV, and Hauck, the defense came up with a stop.
Winning masks most everything and it’s a good thing. There were plenty of issues to point to that would have been a much bigger deal if the overtime period had worked out differently.