Blog: UNLV blown out by Wyoming, 45-14

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Steve Marcus

Wyoming Cowboys running back Trey Smith (7) outruns UNLV Rebels defensive back Tyson Player (14) for a touchdown during the second half at Allegiant Stadium Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

Published Fri, Nov 27, 2020 (11 a.m.)

Updated Fri, Nov 27, 2020 (4:23 p.m.)

UNLV got run over in the second half, and the team is now 0-5 on the season after getting pummeled at home by Wyoming, 45-14.

Wyoming dominated up front, plowing over the UNLV defense to the tune of 7.0 yards per carry. Four different Cowboys rushed for touchdowns on the day, led by quarterback Levi Williams' three scoring runs. Trey Smith carried most of the load, running 24 times for 164 yards and one TD.

UNLV did nothing on offense. Marcus Arroyo toggled between senior Max Gilliam and freshman Doug Brumfield at quarterback, and neither moved the ball. Gilliam finished with 65 passing yards, three sacks and one interception. Brumfield played the entire fourth quarter, which allowed him to bolster his stats a bit (93 passing yards, two sacks). Brumfield ran for an 8-yard touchdown in garbage time to make it 45-14.

Senior running back Charles Williams, who was supposed to be an offensive pillar this year, struggled again, accounting for just 24 rushing yards on nine carries (2.7 yards per attempt).

UNLV will have a monumental task next week, when 4-1 Boise State visits Allegiant Stadium. 

Wyoming pounding UNLV, 31-7

After the small glimmer of hope provided by Max Gilliam's touchdown drive to end the first half, Wyoming has come out in the third quarter and slammed the door shut on this game. Back to back touchdowns for the Cowboys have increased their lead to 31-7 with five minutes left in the third.

UNLV had a chance. After receiving the kickoff to start the half, Gilliam moved the offense across midfield. Trailing 17-7, Marcus Arroyo decided to go for it on a 4th-and-3, but a bad snap ruined the play and Gilliam ended up completing a pass for a loss of seven yards. Wyoming took over possession and scored eight plays later to make it 24-7.

The next drive ended with a Gilliam fumble, and Wyoming covered the short field before Levi Williams plunged into the end zone on a QB sneak to make it 31-7.

With 20 minutes remaining and the outcome decided, it looks like Arroyo is sticking with Gilliam at quarterback for the next possession. 

Max Gilliam touchdown brings UNLV within 17-7 at half against Wyoming

Just when it looked like UNLV was going to get blown out today in epic fashion, Max Gilliam gave the team a respite by leading a 98-yard touchdown drive in the closing minutes of the first half. As the teams head into the locker room, Wyoming's lead has been trimmed to 17-7.

UNLV was averaging 1.3 yards per play before the final drive. A Wyoming punt pinned UNLV at its own 2-yard line, but Gilliam used his legs to get the ball across midfield, and a late-hit penalty moved them into the red zone. A pass-interference flag in the end zone gave UNLV the ball at the 1, and Gilliam scored on a QB keeper with five seconds on the clock.

Aside from that one life-saving drive, UNLV's offense has been dreadful today. Doug Brumfield got two possessions to show his stuff, but the freshman failed to complete a pass or pick up a first down.

Wyoming simply pushed around UNLV's defensive front for the first 30 minutes. The Cowboys averaged 8.0 yards per carry and racked up 208 rushing yards, and if not for Gilliam's long drive Wyoming would have a stranglehold on this contest. Instead, with UNLV receiving the kickoff to start the third quarter, this game could still get interesting.

Gilliam out, Brumfield in as UNLV trails Wyoming, 10-0

The early fireworks have died down and this has turned into a defensive struggle, as the last four drives have ended in punts. Heading into the second quarter, Wyoming still has a 10-0 lead.

UNLV's offensive struggles (just 1.1 yards per play in the first quarter) led Marcus Arroyo to yank starting quarterback Max Gilliam and send in freshman Doug Brumfield. The young lefty did not provide much of a spark, however, as he missed on his one pass attempt and UNLV went 3-and-out.

Wyoming just punted again, however, and Brumfield is back in the offensive huddle during the timeout so it appears he will get at least another drive to show what he's got.

Wyoming takes early 10-0 lead over UNLV

It didn't take long for Wyoming to get on the board, as running back Xazavian Valladay took a handoff on the second play of the game and raced 78 yards untouched up the middle to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.

After a UNLV punt, Wyoming drove 54 yards an added a 36-yard field goal to make it 10-0 in favor of the visitors.

UNLV's defense has simply gotten blown off the ball, leaving huge running lanes. Only a superb run stop on second down by linebacker Jacoby Windmon salvaged the last drive, as he single-handedly forced Wyoming into a 3rd-and-long passing situation (quarterback Levi Williams threw incomplete, resulting in the field goal). Unless UNLV can put up more of a fight in the trenches, Wyoming is going to run wild.

Offensively, Max Gilliam got the start at quarterback but couldn't get anything going on the first drive. He completed 1-of-3 passes for five yards, and UNLV's only first down came via penalty. Let's see how long Marcus Arroyo waits before sending in Justin Rogers.

Three keys for UNLV football vs. Wyoming

Time is running out on the 2020 season, so if UNLV football is planning to win a game this year they’d better act fast.

Friday’s home contest against Wyoming (1 p.m., Fox Sports 1) may represent the best chance for a victory in Marcus Arroyo’s first season at the helm. The Cowboys are 1-2, and their last two games were canceled due to COVID-19, so they might not exactly be game-ready.

Three keys to watch as UNLV looks to notch its first victory:

Quarterback competition

It feels odd to say this with three games left on the schedule, but UNLV’s season-long quarterback competition will continue today. Senior Max Gilliam is likely to start, with sophomore Justin Rogers set to come off the bench for a significant amount of snaps.

Rogers clearly looked more promising in UNLV’s most recent game, a 34-17 loss at San Jose State, but Gilliam might still represent the best chance to win in the present and Arroyo really does not want to go winless in his first year as a head coach.

Assuming UNLV has a full complement of healthy, COVID-free receivers, it would be nice to see what Rogers can do while throwing to Steve Jenkins and Kyle Williams for an extended period.

Young defenders

The quarterback situation is the most visible, but there is also a burgeoning youth movement on defense. Two of the team’s most heralded recruits — linebackers Brennon Scott and LeShaun Bell — have played sparingly to this point, but Arroyo hinted before the Colorado State game (which got canceled) that he planned to give them more snaps in order to assess their development.

Expect Arroyo to follow through on that plan today. One of the only bright spots of this season has been the play of linebacker Jacoby Windmon and defensive end Adam Plant, both sophomores. If Scott and Bell can get on the field over the final three games and show some flashes, it will at least give fans a reason to believe Arroyo is building a competitive defense for 2021.

Time to gamble?

There are just two games left on the schedule after today: a home date against conference power Boise State and a road trip to Hawaii, so you can do the math. If UNLV loses this game against Wyoming, a winless season is very much on the table.

Will we see Arroyo coach any differently if UNLV is competitive this afternoon and the game is undecided in the second half? Will he maybe go for it on a fourth down when he would normally punt? Will he stick with Charles Williams and the running game longer? Will he call for a more conservative defensive scheme? Will he pull back the reins on younger players and go with veterans? It’s a delicate situation, balancing development against the specter of a giant “zero” in the win column, so we’ll have to wait and see how Arroyo plays it.

UNLV vs. Wyoming

How to watch: 1 p.m., Fox Sports 1

UNLV leaders

Passing: Max Gilliam, 60.8 percent, 534 yards, 4 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

Rushing: Charles Williams, 323 yards, 3.8 per rush, 2 touchdowns

Receiving: Kyle Williams, 21 catches, 211 yards, 1 touchdown

Defense: Jacoby Windmon, 29 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss

Wyoming leaders

Passing: Levi Williams, 55.0 percent, 660 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions

Rushing: Xazavian Valladay, 397 yards, 4.8 per rush, 3 touchdowns

Receiving: Ayden Eberhardt, 11 catches, 173 yards, 0 touchdowns

Defense: Charles Hicks, 19 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 1 interception

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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