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UNLV’s upset bid falls short at No. 22 Fresno State

Updated September 25, 2021 - 6:56 am

There aren’t any moral victories for UNLV’s football team. Not anymore. Not even after a 38-30 road loss to No. 22 Fresno State on Friday night, a game the Rebels led in the fourth quarter.

“We’re over that,” UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo said. “We’re moving forward through that. And I’m proud that they’ve got that mindset now. … We want that win. We’ve got to go find it.”

The Rebels (0-4) led by two scores in the first quarter and by a point in the fourth at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California, before succumbing to the Bulldogs en route to their 10th consecutive loss under Arroyo.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Doug Brumfield returned as the starter, providing a spark in the first half that would power a 14-9 halftime lead.

Brumfield was injured again and left in the third quarter with what seemed to be a leg injury. He ceded duties to freshman Cameron Friel, who led the first touchdown drive of his career midway through the fourth quarter.

But UNLV could not contain Fresno State’s potent passing offense, allowing 378 yards and five touchdowns to senior quarterback Jake Haener, who threw the decisive TD pass to junior wideout Jalen Cropper with 4:53 to play.

The Rebels, 30-point underdogs, hadn’t shown they could compete for four quarters. But they played their best game under Arroyo.

“We’re disappointed, but I’m proud,” Arroyo said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Brumfield had engineered all of UNLV’s touchdown drives in its first three games despite missing last week’s 48-3 loss to Iowa State with an undisclosed upper-body injury he sustained Sept. 11 against Arizona State. But he returned to practice this week and handled a majority of the repetitions to prepare for the second start of his career.

He scrambled for 37 yards on UNLV’s first offensive play and capped a seven-play, 60-yard drive with the first touchdown pass of his career, a 10-yard strike to Steve Jenkins.

Brumfield led a 14-play, 95-yard drive on the ensuing possession, capped by a 1-yard TD run by senior running back and Fresno native Charles Williams.

All the while, the Rebels’ defense hounded Haener and forced punts on the first five possessions.

Brumfield left the game late in the second quarter before returning at the start of the third to throw an 80-yard screen pass to Tyleek Collins for a touchdown. He left the game for good after one more series.

“Doug went out there and tried to compete as best he could,” Arroyo said. “He was called upon and made some big time plays. We’ve got a special one there.”

Haener found a rhythm and threw touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to help the Bulldogs take the lead.

Friel evaded a sack on the ensuing drive and rushed for a key first down, setting up a 44-yard pass to Jenkins. Rebels sophomore running back Courtney Reese scored from 6 yards.

UNLV junior safety Philip Hill intercepted Haener on the next play from scrimmage, and the Rebels kicked a field goal. But Haener calmly threw the decisive score to an uncovered Cropper down the left sideline.

Friel fumbled on the next possession, and the Bulldogs tacked on a field goal for the final score.

“We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, but we did pretty well,” Williams said. “We’ve got some big strides to take as a team.”

Brumfield finished 6 of 13 for 143 yards and two touchdowns, and Friel was 9 of 15 for 138 yards.

Williams rushed for 102 yards and had three receptions for 96 yards in his final game in Fresno. The Rebels travel to Texas-San Antonio on Oct. 2 to conclude the nonconference portion of their schedule.

“I put it all on the line. It may be the last time they get to see me play in person because the next level is not guaranteed,” Williams said of playing in front of his family. “I wanted to give them all I could.”

Cropper caught 10 passes for 108 yards and four TDs, and Keric Whitefield had 115 yards receiving.

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

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