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UNLV sees positive signs entering stretch against ranked teams

UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo is preaching positivity. At least that was his message to the press this week after a 35-33 double-overtime loss to Eastern Washington in the season opener at Allegiant Stadium.

“It’s almost impossible not to acknowledge the growth and the good stuff we saw in a lot of the guys and a lot of the things we did,” Arroyo said. “Real resilient. They didn’t flinch.”

Time to see if it translates on the road.

The Rebels play Saturday at Arizona State, the beginning of a two-game stretch against ranked Power Five foes before the Sept. 24 Mountain West opener against Fresno State. The Sun Devils are ranked 23rd after a 41-14 drubbing of Southern Utah in their opener.

“Week 2 is a great week for growth in a lot of ways, depending on what kind of environment and landscape you’re going into,” Arroyo said. “We’re going on the road for the first time in our program in a really hostile environment. With a crowd. With a really good football team. A well-coached football team. … That’s going to be a challenge in itself. But then you’ve still got to execute what wins and fix the things from the week before.”

Arroyo was quick to point out the positives from the loss to the Eagles. The Rebels erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter. They forced three turnovers against one of the best offenses in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Senior kicker Daniel Gutierrez converted all four of his field goals to keep the Rebels within striking distance as the offense foundered in the first half. They scored on all five of their trips to the red zone.

Conversely, the Rebels mishandled a kickoff, resulting in poor field position to start the second half. They also committed a costly turnover late in the fourth quarter and struggled to find a rhythm on offense for much of the first three quarters before turning to sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield, who helped key the comeback and will start Saturday.

Those kind of mistakes won’t fly against a Sun Devil squad that boasts one of the Pac-12’s best quarterbacks in junior Jayden Daniels and two capable running backs in senior Rachaad White and sophomore Deamonte Trayanum.

Daniels has 23 touchdown passes and two interceptions in his career, and White and Trayanum each ran for two touchdowns last week.

“They’ve got two big backs who run hard. Their quarterback is good as well,” UNLV linebacker Austin Ajiake said. “The good thing about college football is that every game is winnable. You saw that last weekend. A bunch of upsets. We go into every game thinking we have a chance.

“The coaches always tell us that the biggest growth comes between Week 1 and Week 2. We’re just beginning to show what we’re capable of.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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