History was made at Allegiant Stadium Friday afternoon. But not the kind you wanted to see if you’re a UNLV football fan.
Marcus Arroyo became the school’s first head coach to lose his first five games, going to 0-5 as the mistake-prone Rebels were manhandled by Wyoming, 45-14. He surpassed a 38-year-old mark for ineptitude set back in 1982 when Harvey Hyde lost his first four games as UNLV’s head coach.
Hyde would recover and in four seasons, had a 26-19-1 record. His .576 winning percentage is third-best in school history behind Ron Meyer (.771) and Tony Knap (.696).
Will Arroyo break his skid this year? UNLV (0-5) has two games scheduled in this weird 2020 season — next Friday at home against Boise State, and Dec. 12 at Hawaii. If they get played, it will certainly be a challenge and he may have to wait until 2021 to get his first win. The Rebels, who were 16.5-point underdogs to Wyoming Friday, will certainly be double-digit home ‘dogs against the Broncos and on the road against the Rainbow Warriors.
“We’ve got a lot of room for improvement,” Arroyo said in what might be the understatement of the year. “Wyoming came in and did what they wanted to do. They play a physical brand of football. They ran the ball and we didn’t execute defensively.”
UNLV had not played since Nov. 14 when it lost to San Jose State. But the Rebels couldn’t use that as an excuse. Wyoming, which improved to 2-2 with Friday’s win, last played a game on Nov. 5. But Craig Bohl had his team ready and it took just three plays to prove it.
Following a false start penalty, Xazavian Valladay took a handoff on 2nd-and-13 from his own 22, burst through the middle and went 78 yards untouched to put the Cowboys ahead 7-0. Trailing 10-0 and searching for answers, Arroyo gave a quick hook to starting quarterback Max Gilliam after two series, opting for freshman Doug Brumfield, who was seeing his first collegiate action. Brumfield became the fourth different QB used by Arroyo in five games.
He lasted two series before being replaced by Gilliam as Arroyo tried to find something that would work offensively with his team down 17-0 following Levi Williams’ 15-yard quarterback keeper run.
To Gilliam’s credit, he marched his team 99 yards to pay dirt just before halftime, finishing the drive with a QB keeper of his own from the Wyoming 2 to cut it to 17-7. But there was still plenty of work left to do and the Rebels, who had been chasing the game throughout, were unable to complete the comeback.
Faced with 4th-and-3 at the Wyoming 47 following the second- half kickoff, Arroyo opted to go for it. But the play, a swing pass from Gilliam to Charles Williams, got blown up and the Cowboys took over at the UNLV 47.
Nine plays later, it was 24-7 as Levi Williams scored from the UNLV 1 for his second TD of the day. That’s the way it’s been going for Arroyo and his team this year.
“I’ll take that call back,” Arroyo said. ”That’s on me.”
It got worse for Gilliam as he fumbled on the next series and Wyoming recovered at the UNLV 31. Again, it was Levi Williams with a 1-yard score, this time hurdling over the top, for his third TD of the game, making it 31-7. A Gilliam interception led to yet another Wyoming touchdown, this one a 28-yard run by Trey Smith to up the advantage to 38-7.
Game, set and match. Back came Brumfield to mop up and he showed off his strong arm, completing two straight throws. But two consecutive sacks negated the good he had done. However, he scored his first TD as a collegian with 4:20 to play on an 8-yard run.
“I thought Doug did a good job,” Arroyo said, stopping short of naming Brumfield as his starter for next week against Boise State. “He did some nice things and definitely gave us something to build on.”
Perhaps Arroyo has his quarterback of the future. But he has multiple issues to sort out with his defense. Wyoming, which amassed 498 yards of total offense, rushed for 399 yards, averaging nearly eight yards a carry. The Cowboys used virtually everyone with six different ballcarriers getting touches.
Friday’s result rounded out a trifecta of Thanksgiving Week misery for the athletic program on Maryland Parkway after the men’s and women’s basketball teams lost their season openers Wednesday. Perhaps the lone positive for the university is its fans are unable to witness what’s taking place on the field and the court since no spectators are allowed at any athletic events. It is sparing the players and coaches from hearing boos from the stands.