CARSON, Calif. — UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo looked at his debut Saturday as a learning experience for himself and his team.
San Diego State provided a rough lesson for the Rebels, especially with a defense that was among the nation’s elite last season.
UNLV was limited to 186 yards of total offense and went 1-for-14 on third down in a 34-6 loss at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“This is one step in a journey that I’m looking forward to and I think our guys are,” Arroyo said. “We’re going to learn from this, and there are a lot of things we need to clean up. I’m excited to get back home and see the tape to see what we can learn.”
San Diego State (1-0) finished with 424 yards of total offense, including 287 on the ground. Greg Bell ran for 111 yards and a touchdown, and Chance Bell added two rushing touchdowns.
Max Gilliam received the start at quarterback for UNLV and threw for 105 yards and the Rebels’ only touchdown, a 4-yarder to Steve Jenkins on their first drive of the second half.
Kenyon Oblad and Justin Rogers also took snaps, and Rogers had the Rebels’ only first down of the first half with a 12-yard run. UNLV had 25 yards of total offense in seven first-half possessions.
“Our plan from early in the week was to play all three of those guys, and we almost played four,” Arroyo said. “We’re in a reps industry, and they were told they were all going to play. Max did a nice job moving the football, and we got a chance to see if he could keep it rolling.”
Charles Williams led the Rebels with 80 yards on 20 carries, but he had only five carries for 16 yards in the first half as San Diego State pulled away.
The Aztecs scored their first touchdown in the first quarter on a 4-yard pass from Carson Baker to Ethan Dedeaux, then took control in the second quarter.
Chance Bell rushed for a 5-yard touchdown, and Greg Bell added a 3-yard rushing TD after a blocked punt by Trenton Thompson set up the Aztecs at the UNLV 16. Matt Araiza kicked two field goals in the final minute of the first half for a 27-0 halftime lead.
UNLV’s best chance to score in the first half was when the Aztecs muffed a punt and Nohl Williams recovered the ball at the San Diego State 23. The Rebels lost 2 yards in three plays, and Daniel Gutierrez missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
After Gilliam drove the Rebels for their score to start the second half, UNLV’s defense forced three straight three-and-outs.
That kept the Rebels in the game, and they gave themselves a chance to get within two touchdowns late in the third quarter. But a drive that went 73 yards in 18 plays, including two fourth-down conversions, stalled at the San Diego State 4.
On fourth down, Tyleek Collins came in motion as if he was going to run a jet sweep, but turned back the other way. Gilliam’s pass was behind Collins, and he had no chance to turn up the field and was buried for an 11-yard loss.
“I’m going to take ownership of that. I was trying to get too cute,” Arroyo said. “We’re down there, and I’ve got to put ourselves in a better spot than that. I can make a better call than that.”
The Aztecs immediately pounced, going 85 yards in five plays, with Chance Bell scoring on a 19-yard run.