FSM Rebel Vision
Graphic Credit: Mike Dancy II

UNLV Football Rebel Vision: UNLV vs Nevada Film Breakdown Week 2



This FSM series will follow the UNLV Football season as a coaches analysis by FSM’s JaRon Turner. JaRon is an Arbor View alumni and former college football player who has coached high school football locally in Las Vegas for the past three seasons. This weekly segment will focus on crucial plays and factors of UNLV football games this season. This assessment will highlight plays that made a difference in the ball game, ranging from great individual effort plays, attitude runs, big hits, coaching adjustments, etc. Be sure to follow us for weekly film breakdowns throughout the 2020 season.

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A week after UNLV lost to San Diego St. in Carson, California, UNLV fans were left with many questions about the readiness of their team to compete this season. What people need to remember is that UNLV has lost a total of 20 players to either transfer, suspension, or opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. To put that in perspective, that is an entire recruiting class NOT playing football for the Rebels. 


UNLV vs Nevada
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

UNLV Head Coach Marcus Arroyo remained confident that his team and its culture would improve and make a difference in the season. Unfortunately, UNLV had to play their next game against an impressive looking UNR team that sports a Doak Walker candidate, coming off a good overtime win against a talented Wyoming team.

After a bad loss, to come into a week where UNLV had to prepare for a big in-state rival, and their season opener being in a brand new $2 billion stadium, the Rebels had a lot of outside pressure this week to win. However, after I analyzed the game, the 37-19 score doesn’t accurately tell the game’s story.

UNLV improved offensively both in rhythm and timing within their offense. They ran the ball much better, with Charles Williams gaining 99 yards on 20 carries. Max Gilliam showed out and made a solid case to continue as the starting quarterback for this Rebels’ team. Limiting mistakes, good pass decisions, escapability in the pocket, and gutsy play helped UNLV stay in the game. But defensively, the Rebels were unable to continue their play from the second half of the SDSU game. Poor tackling and discipline remained a problem, and the Rebels’ ability to eliminate the “big play” cost them in this game.


Time for Rebel Vison!


Play #1: 1st & 35 53 yard completion

Video Credit: FS1

With the game tied 3-3 and UNLV on defense, the game’s momentum was split between both teams and their ability to get down the field and make plays. But both offenses had not yet made that one “big play” that would separate them from the other. After two consecutive penalties resulting in a 1st and 35 for the Reno, UNLV had a statistically favorable chance of getting off the field and sending the offense back out.

Especially after a momentum-shifting kickoff return that set the Wolf Pack offense up inside UNLV territory. Instead, UNR found a way to take advantage of two safety coverage on Reno’s best receiving threat, #7 Romeo Doubs. A simple “Go” route, in which the corner had help over the top and Doubs came down with the ball in UNLV territory, which eventually led to a 1 yard run by Devonte Lee to take the lead 10-3.

This play makes it into the analysis because plays like that should never happen for a defense that knows it’s opponent. UNR is a notorious Air Raid team; if left to their own devices, they will make the mistakes to lose the game by trying to pass even if the odds are against them in that area. But allowing this team to gain 53 yards on a set of downs that required them to get 30+ to move the chains reinforced their confidence to continue to throw deep. It also gave them the confidence to throw to a specific side of the defense. Romeo Doubs lined up to the defense’s left for the rest of the game, regardless of who was supposed to cover him or how they decided to bracket him. With a corner down low and safety over the top, he still racked up 200 + yards receiving. That doesn’t happen if UNLV stops that play.



Play #2: 65 yard TD to Romeo Doubs

Video Credit: FS1

Momentum in rivalry games is what leads to victory, in a very literal sense. This is why most coaches tell press or media personnel that “the record doesn’t matter” in rivalry games. So when UNLV closed the gap between them and Reno with a field goal that made the game 10-6 in favor of Reno, the UNLV sideline still had a sense of positivity. Because they were one scoring possession away from taking the lead, that sense goes away when Reno, on their first offensive play, scores a 65 yard TD. Again, Romeo Doubs found his way behind the defense. This wasn’t an important play because of the score, but because of the issues it created for the Rebels on defense.

Not more than one drive after Doubs caught a 53-yard pass to set up an eventual touchdown, he came back out in the second quarter and torched his defender again. The coverage was “quarters,” a zone scheme that forced the corner to take Doubs deep. However, the corner allows Doubs to eat up his cushion, going full speed. Doubs got him to flip his hips the wrong way and then beat him by more than six yards. Plays like this cripple a team in both momentum and scheme. Because of that one play, UNLV had to recover from another hit to their momentum, throw out that coverage (because they did not rerun it for the remainder of the contest), and they now found themselves trying to play catch up, down two possessions.

Play #3: 2nd & 20 to Cole Turner with 30 seconds left in the half

Video Credit: FS1

With a bold 4th and goal call by Coach Arroyo that led to a two-yard sprint out touchdown by Tyreek CollinsUNLV found themselves back in the game, closing in on UNR and making Wolf Pack fans sweat. With the game 17-12 after a failed 2-point conversion attempt by the RebelsUNR came back on the field with over 1:50 seconds left in the half. For any good passing team on a particularly lucrative day throwing the ball, that is way too much time to ask a defense to go out there and make a stop. On this day for UNLV, the numbers were against them, but the Rebels were making their best effort to keep Reno out of the endzone.

Again a penalty backed up the Wolf Pack offense to a 2nd and 20 situation. Penalties are part of the game, but penalties for an offense can kill a drive, especially when they put you behind the chains– meaning you have more than the required 10 yards to get another set of downs. Somehow Reno quarterback Carson Strong found 6’6 240 Cole Turner open on a post route to get a first down. On the next play, Strong hit Justin Lockhart over Nohl Williams to extend the lead to 12.  

It was the second time in the game the Rebels gave up a long pass play that saved the Wolf Pack from their drive-killing mistakes. This play also gave a much-needed cushion to the Reno team. They would have eventually found a way to close or possibly take the lead if they had not lost momentum. Surely more energy would have been one their sideline. Instead, UNLV found themselves going into half time down two possessions and again trying to make magic happen to win.

Play #4: Goal-line stand

Photo Credit: FS1

For most of the game, the Rebels’ defense was on its heels, reeling from the Reno offensive passing attack that had them hard-pressed to find a solution. The third quarter seemed to reveal UNLV’s answer to that issue. In the third, UNLV held UNR to three points, the only points of the quarter for Reno did extend the lead, but the way it came had the Wolf Pack sideline baffled. 

Running back Toa Taua scampered for 36 yards, almost scoring a back-breaking touchdown that would have clinched the game for the Wolf Pack. Instead, safety Bryce Jackson ran him down at the 1-yard line giving UNLV a chance to make a stop. The irony of that statement is that earlier in the game, UNR had a similar goal-line situation. They ran the ball in for the score with ease–so naturally, they tried to do the same.

Once again, Bryce Jackson made a play on Taua in the hole, using his stature to get under the big back, standing him up and allowing his teammates to jump on top of his back, forcing second down. Before the snap on second down, Reno had a false start penalty that backed them up to a 2nd and 7. The Rebels defense tightens up, forcing a no gain scramble by Carson Strong and an incomplete pass to Melquan Stovall on third and goal. 

This stand is here because it showed that UNLV could find a way to stop the Wolf Pack in crucial moments. That when the Rebels’ defense plays how they are supposed to, they can stop Reno. And in this situation specifically, it kept the Rebels in the game for at least another quarter since UNLV’s offense kept Carson Strong and the rest of the Reno offense on the sideline until a Steve Jenkins touchdown once again closed the lead to eight. It also reinforces my earlier assessment that Reno would find a way to stall their own drive with mistakes and penalties, giving the Rebels’ defense a chance to make a stop.

Play #5: Every 4th Down call for UNLV

Video Credit: FS1

When you ask people about the UNLV Rebels in 2020, many words may come out to describe this particular team. However, one word you can use for them, and their coach, is “gutsy.” Max Gilliam showed a lot of guts out on that fancy new turf in Allegiant Stadium on Saturday, fighting and earning every yard he got in the game passing or running. However, Gilliam reflects Head Coach Marcus Arroyo, who had his team go for it on 4th down over six times in the UNR game. And had it not been for a bad snap by back up center #75 Jaron CaldwellUNLV would have converted all six. 

This selection of plays tells me through analysis that UNLV is committed to finding ways to win no matter the circumstances. Each time they converted a 4th down, they dramatically increased their chances of winning that game. Even though the game did not go in the Rebels’ favor, they showed toughness, desire, and a high level of preparation and execution: things that lead teams to victory.


Final Breakdown


The analysis shows that UNLV has a long way to go defensively, but they are getting there. Some players have dramatically improved from one game to the next. Vic Viramontes struggled in the first half of the San Diego St. game but since halftime of that game, he has played at a high level. If players continue to improve, they will continue to find their stride and win some ball games. The Reno team that UNLV just played talent-wise is a bit better than them because the talent knows the scheme, and their collective skill sets fit the scheme.

 UNLV, offensively, has found something that they did not have in week one against SDSU, and it is something that they can build on as the season continues. However, to be competitive on defense, the list to get on the bus will start tightening up and becoming more cut-throat. Peter Hansen and his staff are experienced and talented at coaching this game, and they have had their work cut out for them all season. But it is time to ready themselves for a Fresno St. team that rebounded with a nice victory last week against Colorado St. after a 34-19 week one loss to Hawai’i



The Rebels continue to show improvement under Coach Arroyo and his staff on both sides of the ball, especially in the second half of games. The film shows that the players are getting better weekly, and soon that will translate into wins. 

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