Live coverage: UNLV trounced at San Diego State, 34-6

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Steve Marcus

New UNLV football head coach Marcus Arroyo responds to a question from a reporter during an introductory news conference at the Fertitta Football Complex at UNLV Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

Published Sat, Oct 24, 2020 (5 p.m.)

Updated Sat, Oct 24, 2020 (11:09 p.m.)

Marcus Arroyo's first game as a head coach is in the books, and unless he's a glutton for punishment, it wasn't a night he'll want to remember.

UNLV was thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game, by vast amounts, in a 34-6 loss at San Diego State.

All three quarterbacks played for UNLV but none of them played well. The defense allowed 427 total yards (6.2 yards per play). The special teams unit missed a field goal, missed an extra point, shanked a punt and had a punt blocked. And somehow, that laundry list of miscues doesn't quite capture how disorganized UNLV looked for 60 minutes on Saturday.

Arroyo has one week to straighten things out, as UNLV hosts UNR on Oct. 31 for the Fremont Cannon.

UNLV down 27-6 in fourth quarter at SDSU

UNLV had a chance to make this game interesting, but a 4th-and-3 play deep in San Diego State territory lost yards and UNLV turned it over on downs.

If they had managed to get into the end zone, UNLV would have pulled within two touchdowns with 11 minutes to play, and the defense has been doing its job so far in the second half. There would have been some pressure on SDSU to move the ball on its next drive, but the failed fourth-down play — a backwards lateral pass to receiver Tyleek Collins that lost 11 yards — pretty much shuts the door on this one.

UNLV trying to mount fourth-quarter comeback at San Diego State

UNLV's offense has come alive — relatively — in the second half, and with one quarter left to play, San Diego State has a 27-6 lead.

Max Gilliam started the second half at quarterback and led UNLV on a touchdown drive, finding Steve Jenkins for a 17-yard score to put the scarlet and grey on the board. The defense has also come out of the locker room strong, as they forced 3-and-outs on each of San Diego State's three drives in the third quarter.

UNLV is currently driving in SDSU territory, and Gilliam has seemingly gotten into something resembling a rhythm (10-of-15, 88 yards, one touchdown). If he can get UNLV into the end zone here, we'll be looking at a two-score game with a lot of time on the clock.

Considering how poorly UNLV played in the first half, that would be an astounding development.

UNLV turns in dreadful half, trails 27-0 at SDSU

Marcus Arroyo couldn't have had a worse start to his tenure as UNLV's head coach, as his team is trailing at halftime, 27-0, and they're very fortunate to even be that close.

UNLV drowned in all three phases of the game over the first 30 minutes, as three quarterbacks took turns stalling the offense (1.1 yards per play), the defense missed tackle after tackle (6.9 yards per rush for San Diego State) and the special teams unit had a punt blocked (and shanked another, leading to a SDSU field goal just before the half). It was a mess.

The numbers are simply dreadful and do not portend a comeback for UNLV in the second half. At the break, San Diego State has a 313-25 advantage in total yards and a 17-1 advantage in first downs.

The quarterback trio of starter Max Gilliam, sophomore Kenyon Oblad and sophomore Justin Rogers combined to complete 5-of-11 passes for zero yards.

We'll have to see if Arroyo can tweak the game plan at halftime, but as of now, absolutely nothing is working for UNLV.

San Diego State jumps out to 21-0 lead over UNLV

The wheels have come off for UNLV.

San Diego State blocked a punt to create a short field, and running back Greg Bell just walked into the end zone untouched to give the Aztecs a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

SDSU is now averaging 6.6 yards per rush as UNLV seems unable to tackle in open space.

Offensively, Kenyon Oblad has had as much success as Max Gilliam, which is to say none. Oblad has hit on 2-of-4 passes for two yards while failing to pick up a first down on either of his two drives. UNLV has yet to notch a first down as a team and is currently being outgained by San Diego State, 210 yards to 11 yards.

Offense, defense, special teams — everything is bad for UNLV right now.

UNLV trails San Diego State, 7-0

At the end of the first quarter, San Diego State has a 7-0 lead, and UNLV should be very happy that it's not a bigger margin.

The offense has been quite bad so far, as Max Gilliam did less than nothing on the first three UNLV drives. The surprise starter completed just 1-of-3 passes (for negative yards), nearly tossed an interception and took two sacks, with the second sack pushing the line of scrimmage back before a field goal attempt. The 42-yarder missed, naturally.

San Diego State scored on a long drive to take a 7-0 lead, but the Aztecs' special teams blunders have kept UNLV in the game. First, SDSU fumbled a punt return, setting up UNLV just outside the red zone (eventually ending in the missed FG). On the next SDSU possession, a 55-yard field goal attempt went haywire with a bad snap, forcing the holder to try to scramble for a first down; UNLV was able to tackle him well short.

At the end of one quarter, San Diego State has outgained UNLV, 114-3.

After three tepid drives for Gilliam, sophomore Kenyon Oblad has taken the field for UNLV. He handed off on his first snap and will try to get the offense moving when the second quarter commences.

Max Gilliam starts at QB for UNLV

Max Gilliam officially got the start at quarterback for UNLV, and it was a rocky start.

UNLV called two running plays on its first possession, and on third down Gilliam tossed a quick pass over the middle that was nearly intercepted. The San Diego State defensive back couldn't hold onto the ball, however, so UNLV was able to punt the ball away. Not a great opening series for head coach Marcus Arroyo.

The good news is that UNLV's defense looked impressive in its first action, as they forced a quick 3-and-out to start the game. New defensive end Adam Plant, a TCU transfer, made a big play with a third-down sack to force a punt.

UNLV coach Arroyo unveils his vision at San Diego State

We are going to find out a lot about Marcus Arroyo over the next two months, and it begins today when UNLV travels to Carson, Calif., to take on San Diego State.

The UNLV football program has been shrouded in mystery since the end of last season, with the quarterback situation, the defensive system and Arroyo’s coaching philosophy all counting as gigantic question marks. Now we’ll get to see how Arroyo, in his first stint as a head coach, wants to build his team.

A starting QB won’t be named until just before kickoff, but that question will be settled fairly early. The rest will be an ongoing process as Arroyo learns on the job and tries to build momentum for a program that went 4-8 last season.

Some keys to watch today:

Chuck Wagon

Arroyo wants to throw the ball, generally, but expect UNLV’s offense to revolve around senior running back Charles Williams this season. The All-Mountain West selection is coming off a 1,200-yard campaign and should be primed to carry an even bigger load in this truncated season.

Williams had his way against SDSU last year, as he ran for 113 yards on 19 carries against an Aztecs squad that ranked third in the nation in rush defense (2.8 yards per carry allowed), but it wasn’t enough — San Diego State escaped with a 20-17 victory. Rocky Long left San Diego State in the offseason, so there could be some slippage in the team’s run defense, but Brady Hoke will still make it tough to gain yards on the ground.

Can Williams put the team on his back and tilt the field in UNLV’s favor? That’s the kind of performance the scarlet and grey will need from him all season.

Defensive debut

San Diego State’s offense cratered last year, so the new coaching staff has its work cut out. The Aztecs are building around sophomore quarterback Carson Baker and a stable of veteran receivers and tight ends who should challenge the UNLV defense down the field.

That could be an issue for UNLV, which appears to be going into the opener with a very thin secondary. True freshman Nohl Williams and redshirt freshman Sir Oliver Everett are the starting cornerbacks, and juniors Bryce Jackson and Tre Caine are the safeties. How cohesive can we really expect that inexperienced unit to be in Week 1?

COVID watch

UNLV has been extremely secretive about its COVID-19 testing, as the program has chosen to not even release its weekly data (other Mountain West teams are reporting total tests and positive results on a weekly basis). That means we’ll have to scour the depth chart each week in order to take a stab at potential corona-related absences.

The Week 1 depth chart provided a ton of opportunity for speculation. Receivers Randal Grimes, Mekhi Stevenson and Brandon Presley are all expected to play key roles this season, but they were left off the depth chart entirely; that could signal a COVID cluster among the position group, or it could be a case of Arroyo sending a message to some healthy veteran players about what he expects in practice. We won’t know until kickoff.

In the defensive backfield, senior safety Greg Francis and junior safety Drew Tejchman were also wiped from the initial depth chart; senior linebacker Farrell Hester was missing as well. Again, it could be COVID, it could be unrelated injuries or it could be Arroyo telling those players they’re not good enough to be second or even third string heading into this contest. It’s going to be a guessing game every week.

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

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