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UNLV comes close again, but loses to Texas-San Antonio

Updated October 2, 2021 - 8:32 pm

The bye week couldn’t be coming at a better time for UNLV.

For the second straight game, the Rebels were competitive against a superior opponent before falling 24-17 to Texas-San Antonio on Saturday at the Alamodome.

Freshman quarterback Cameron Friel started for the second time, completing 25 of 37 passes for 307 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for the Rebels (0-5). But he was sacked six times, including on fourth down in the final minute.

The breakdowns in pass protection compounded a flurry of other mistakes. Such as the two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that triggered senior guard Julio Garcia’s ejection. Or the offsides penalty on fourth down by senior defense tackle Kolo Uasike that extended a Roadrunners’ drive late in the game.

“You’ve got to earn a win. You can’t play an undisciplined game and do things to hurt yourself and beat a good football team,” Rebels coach Marcus Arroyo told Learfield Sports. “That was the message.”

Last week, the Rebels led then-No. 22 Fresno State midway through the fourth quarter before falling 38-30 on the road in their Mountain West opener. But they sustained several long drives and had a rhythm to their offense, foreshadowing their play against UTSA, a 21-point favorite.

Friel started in place of Doug Brumfield, who was injured against Fresno State and didn’t practice this past week during the portions that were open to the media. The Rebels were also without wideout Tyleek Collins, running back Jayvaun Wilson, safety Phillip Hill and defensive linemen Connor Murphy and Adam Plant Jr.

Friel threw the first touchdown pass of his career in the first quarter, finding wideout Steve Jenkins for a 63-yard score via play action. He was poised in the pocket, accurate and decisive with his throws, except for the two interceptions that preceded UTSA touchdowns.

“You’ve got to be able to do things that don’t put yourself behind the 8-ball,” Arroyo told Learfield Sports. “There were plays in that game that really gave them an extra edge and limited us. … We’re not good enough to overcome those yet.”

Friel was strip-sacked late in the third quarter while facing a 24-10 deficit. But UTSA’s Hunter Duplessis missed a 33-yard field goal, and Friel led a 15-play, 80-yard drive that quarterback Justin Rogers punctuated with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Zyell Griffin.

Arroyo praised Friel’s play and insisted the quarterback will learn from his mistakes.

“He’s just tough. Continues to play,” Arroyo told reporters. “There’s so much to like about that as a quarterback as a true freshman. … I love that he’s aggressive, and I love that he continues to fight.”

Jenkins finished with five catches for 114 yards and the TD, and running back Charles Williams rushed for 48 yards on 14 carries. Defensive back Bryce Jackson led the Rebels with 11 tackles.

Roadrunners quarterback Frank Harris completed 24 of 30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns.

UNLV’s season continues Oct. 16 against Utah State at Allegiant Stadium.

“We’re banged up. We’re hurting big time,” Arroyo said. “We’re having to step up in big ways. … We’ve got to get back. We’ve got to get healthy. The bye week is going to help us.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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