Updated September 24, 2022 - 10:31 pm
The improvements are becoming more tangible for the UNLV football program in coach Marcus Arroyo’s third season.
UNLV defeated reigning Mountain West champion Utah State 34-24 on Saturday in Logan, Utah, in the conference opener. The Rebels are 3-1 for the first time since 2008.
Arroyo was quick to mention that the Rebels did not play their best game. But he said the improvements he’s seen have allowed the Rebels to overcome any self-inflicted mistakes.
“We were sloppy on some things, we did some things we haven’t done all season, but that’s going to happen when we play on the road versus a quality opponent,” Arroyo told reporters on-site. “The program has come a long way to win a game like that while playing imperfect, and that’s exciting.”
UNLV’s defense forced six turnovers by Utah State quarterback Logan Bonner, including five interceptions. The final turnover came late in the fourth quarter as the Aggies were driving near midfield after cutting the deficit to 10 points.
Defensive lineman Adam Plant Jr. came from behind Bonner and knocked the ball loose. Nose tackle Tavis Malakius recovered the fumble, and the Rebels ran down more clock, all but ending Utah State’s chance at a comeback.
UNLV sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield completed 21 of 31 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown and also ran for two scores.
Brumfield showed the dynamic he brings to the Rebels’ offense as a runner in the first quarter. He rushed through the Utah State defense for a 4-yard touchdown and battled his way through the pile on third-and-goal to give UNLV a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
UNLV’s lead grew as Brumfield connected with junior wide receiver Kyle Williams for a 6-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The Rebels added a pair of field goals from sixth-year kicker Daniel Gutierrez as they went into the locker room leading 27-16.
Junior running back Aidan Robbins rushed for a 5-yard score midway through the third quarter as the Rebels continued to maintain control. Robbins finished with 81 yards on 28 carries.
Along with six turnovers, UNLV’s defense stopped Utah State three times on fourth down and held the Aggies to 4-for-13 on third-down attempts.
“We were really strong on fourth down,” Arroyo said in his postgame interview with Learfield Sports. “We were really strong on the goal line. That’s been the backbone of what we’ve done to start the year.”
Bonner completed 20 of 31 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns, but with the five interceptions.
The game wasn’t entirely a win for the Rebels, as a couple of their starting wide receivers left the game with injuries. Williams left the game in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury, and senior transfer Jeff Weimer left in the fourth quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. There was no update on the status of either player after the game.
Weimer led UNLV with 57 receiving yards on five catches, and senior transfer wide receiver Nick Williams added 53 yards.
The Rebels benefited from 11 Utah State penalties for 93 yards, with several of those committed after the whistle. The Aggies outgained the Rebels in total yards 419-320.
“We’re not satisfied yet,” fifth-year senior linebacker Austin Ajiake told reporters. “The guys in the locker room are excited, but we want to get back and get ready for the next one.”
UNLV will host New Mexico at 8 p.m. Friday at Allegiant Stadium.