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UNLV opens season in front of loud but empty stadium

Updated October 25, 2020 - 12:43 am

CARSON, Calif. — UNLV quarterback Max Gilliam had to be a bit surprised when he stepped to the line facing third down on the Rebels’ opening drive of the delayed football season.

The crowd noise inside Dignity Health Sports Park during the Rebels’ 34-6 loss was borderline deafening, particularly considering the only people in the stands were a group of San Diego State players who were not dressed for the game crammed into one corner of the soccer stadium.

It wasn’t them making the noise. Well, maybe they were, but it would have been impossible to hear over the artificial sounds being pumped in over the loudspeakers.

The pumped-in soundtrack consisted of a constant hum that pretty fairly replicated the generic sounds of a stadium. Occasionally there would be a chant or the sound of drums mixed with the fight song.

It took some getting used to, but eventually stopped being a distraction and started to feel like normal crowd noise at a college football game even though there were no bands or students.

Also missing was the random intoxicated fan screaming for a flag on every play. So, you know, it’s not all bad.

The timing and intensity of the artificial crowd noise was also a bit off at times. When San Diego State blocked a punt in the second quarter, the ball rolled and spun up the field for several seconds and was then picked up by one of the Aztecs before someone apparently clicked the “loud cheers” button or however it’s designated on the soundboard in the press box. There was an immediate and far-too-excited reaction to a UNLV fair catch on a punt for some reason.

There could be uproarious celebrating for a 4-yard gain on second-and-8 only to be followed by a smattering of applause for a long completion by the home team.

Of course, in this case, home is a relative term. The Aztecs are playing their games more than 100 miles north of campus as their stadium undergoes renovations.

The arrangement worked out well for San Diego State in a year during which fans wouldn’t have been allowed in either venue anyway.

There will be a couple of thousand spectators allowed inside Allegiant Stadium next Saturday when the Rebels christen their new home in a rivalry game against UNR.

Those in attendance will hope to see a faster start by the UNLV offense.

Gilliam, one of three co-starting quarterbacks listed on the team’s preseason depth chart, took the snaps for the Rebels’ first three possessions.

They netted no points and the same amount of first downs. His only completion during that span went for a loss of 1 yard.

First-year coach Marcus Arroyo had to have realized right around that time he was no longer coaching at Oregon and didn’t have Justin Herbert running his offense anymore, even though this building was the home of the Chargers for the past three seasons.

Instead, Herbert will lead the Los Angeles Chargers against the Jacksonville Jaguars just down the street at SoFi Stadium on Sunday in search of his first win as a pro in his fifth career start.

Arroyo hopes he doesn’t have to wait as long, and there were at least some encouraging signs.

Gilliam started the second half and took the team down the field for a touchdown, taking advantage of whatever adjustments the coaching staff made in the locker room.

The extra point clanked off the upright. Four seconds later, the “crowd” went wild.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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