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Rebels pushed around in lopsided loss to Wyoming

Updated November 27, 2020 - 6:29 pm

UNLV was thankful for the opportunity to get back on the field Friday after having last week’s game canceled, but Wyoming showed the Rebels early they were in for a physical beating.

Xazavian Valladay raced untouched up the middle for a 78-yard touchdown on the second play of the game, and the Cowboys led the rest of the way in a 45-14 win at Allegiant Stadium.

Wyoming, which had its previous two games canceled because of COVID-19 issues in the Air Force and Utah State programs, ran for 399 yards and controlled the game up front on both sides of the ball.

“Wyoming came in and did what they wanted to, and you can’t have that happen,” said UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo, whose team fell to 0-5 in his first season. “They did a nice job executing the running game. That’s what they’re built on. They use their quarterback to add a body to the count, so that makes it tough.”

Trey Smith led the charge with 164 yards and a touchdown, Valladay had 94 and the score and quarterback Levi Williams added three touchdowns on the ground and went 8 of 14 for 99 yards through the air to help Wyoming (2-2) to 498 total yards.

The last time UNLV had allowed 300-plus yards on the ground was in a 53-17 loss to Wyoming last season.

UNLV’s touchdowns came on runs from its quarterbacks. Max Gilliam capped a 98-yard march with a 2-yard plunge into the end zone just before halftime, and freshman Doug Brumfield scrambled for an 8-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Gilliam led the Rebels with 63 yards rushing, and Brumfield was 4 of 8 passing for a team-high 93 yards. Gilliam and Brumfield were sacked a combined five times.

Here are the three takeaways from the loss:

1. Turning point

Gilliam’s touchdown got UNLV within 17-7 at halftime, and the Rebels received the second-half kickoff with a chance to get even closer.

They faced fourth-and-3 at the Wyoming 46, but Charles Williams couldn’t shake loose on a pass from Gilliam in the backfield and was dragged down for a 7-yard loss.

“I’ll take that call back,” Arroyo said. “That’s on me.”

The next two UNLV possessions ended with a fumble and interception, and the Cowboys took advantage of the short fields for touchdown marches of 47, 31 and 56 yards to take a 38-7 lead after three quarters.

“If you don’t take care of the football and turn it over three times — one on downs, two on turnovers — to a team that’s not going to turn the ball over much, run the ball and be physical, that’s going to be tough,” Arroyo said.

2. Brumfield gets his shot

The depth chart that is distributed before games lists three quarterbacks for UNLV. Brumfield hasn’t been one of them, but that could change after Saturday.

Arroyo said Brumfield has shown promise in practice and wanted to give him a shot. It was a solid debut for the freshman, who showed some zip and touch on his throws and an ability to escape from pressure.

“We’ve watched Doug throughout our season and camp keep developing,” Arroyo said. “He’s got some tools that give us a chance to look at in scout team stuff when we’ve had the numbers, but he did some nice things maturing throughout.”

3. Running game shut down again

The Rebels have talked about getting better on first and second down, and much of that was focused on being more consistent in the running game.

That didn’t happen, especially with production from the running backs. Williams, a first-team All-Mountain West performer last season, was limited to 24 yards on nine carries.

“I’m aware that every defensive coordinator knows I’m one of the best backs in the conference, so I wouldn’t want the best player to go crazy,” Williams said. “Defenses are going to lock in and try to stop the best player, but I have to make plays if I’m calling myself the best player. It’s going to happen soon, but we’ve got to keep working.”

Williams has rushed for 347 yards and two touchdowns with an average of 3.7 yards per carry this season. That’s well off last season’s pace when he ran for 1,257 yards and 11 scores and picked up 5.9 yards per carry.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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