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UNLV’s defense takes step back in 50-14 loss to New Mexico

Updated October 6, 2018 - 7:27 pm

UNLV’s offense, playing with backup quarterback Max Gilliam, wasn’t the only part of the team that struggled Saturday.

The Rebels’ defense allowed 502 yards in a 50-14 loss to New Mexico at Sam Boyd Stadium.

New Mexico gained 286 yards by halftime in building a 29-0 lead.

“It’s really disappointing,” UNLV defensive end Jameer Outsey said. “We didn’t stick to our game plan. I think we prepared right and worked hard all week, but we came out slow and didn’t come out ready to play.”

The Lobos have played well offensively this season. This was the fourth time in five games they broke 40 points, and they are averaging 42.2 for the season.

Still, this kind of defensive performance wasn’t expected from UNLV after early signs of progress. The Rebels were allowing averages of 390.8 yards and 27.8 points.

Special teams adventures

Both teams had their miscues.

New Mexico kicker Andrew Shelley had his first extra point blocked by UNLV’s Jericho Flowers, and he missed his second one wide.

Then there was UNLV.

In the fourth quarter, after UNLV forced a punt, the ball bounced off the back of Alex Perry’s leg and was recovered by New Mexico’s Dylan Horton at the Rebels’ 11-yard line. New Mexico scored a touchdown shortly afterward to extend its lead to 43-7.

UNLV coaches addressed special teams issues going into the game by inserting Mekhi Stevenson at punt return and Evan Owens and Tyleek Collins at kick return. Coach Tony Sanchez said it was the punt returner’s responsibility to field the punt in the air so that the ball didn’t bounce around.

“It’s pathetic,” Sanchez said. “Nobody in America harped on it more than us this week. At the 7, you catch the (punt), and it dropped on the 12-yard line. There’s nowhere at any level where you do not catch the ball when it falls in front of the 7-yard line.”

One special teams play that worked was a fake punt in which Hayes Hicken rushed for 14 yards and a first down in the third quarter.

“I felt like we couldn’t waste that opportunity,” Sanchez said. “I felt it was a great time to go for the fake, and it worked out well. Then we squandered it and didn’t score on it.”

Odds and ends

Linebacker Jacoby Windmon (6 feet 1 inch, 215 pounds) of John Ehret High School in Marrero, Louisiana, tweeted that he committed to the Rebels. … This was fourth-year coach Sanchez’s first loss in a conference opener. … New Mexico evened the series 12-12, but UNLV had been on a recent roll in winning six of eight before Saturday. … This result was an outlier in what usually has been an entertaining series. Eight of the previous 13 games were decided by seven points or fewer.

More Rebels: Follow all of our UNLV coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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