Update, October 10: UNLV has since defeated San Jose State 41-13 (Sept. 30) and lost to San Diego State 41-10 (Oct. 7).
In its 40 years of existence, the UNLV football team has been to a bowl game just three times (four if you count a win in the 1984 California Bowl that they had to forfeit). So, UNLV really isn’t exactly the gold standard for football. And quite frankly, in recent years, the Runnin Rebels’ football program is making a strong argument for its demotion from Division 1.
So, it should come as no surprise that UNLV has started the year 1-2, while also allowing a near Division highest 37.7 points-per-game with a defense that can’t seem to stop a single play. What is a surprise though is that UNLV’s season has been somewhat of a wild ride, compared to the expected myriad of blowout losses that most people expected their performance to be. Up-and-down, rather than a dismal downward spiral.
In week one, the Rebels entered the first game of the season against the FCS school Howard as 45-point favorites. For those who don’t know, the FCS division is a subdivision of Division 1, formerly known as Division 1-AA. But, in what was one of the most insane games of college ball ever, Caylin Newton, younger brother of NFL star Cam Newton, led Howard to the biggest spread upset in college football history, as he and the Bison somehow took down the Rebels 43 to 40.To give you a better idea of just how insane this upset was, Howard is so bad that they were recently beaten by Richmond – another FCS team – with a score of 68 to 21.
In week two, the madness didn’t stop. The Rebels entered their game against the Idaho as five-point underdogs. Instead, they went on to beat up on the Vandals with a decisive victory – 44 to 16 – in a game that saw UNLV’s Lexington Thomas run for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
The absurdity of the Runnin’ Rebels’ season did slow this past Saturday though, as the team travelled to Columbus to take on one of the best teams in the country in Ohio State. In the first half, the Rebels lost any grip they had on the game very quickly, as the Buckeyes jumped out to a whopping 44 to 7 lead, after OSU star J.T. Barrett found the endzone five times in just seventeen attempts. However, there was at least one somewhat surprising bright spot in UNLV’s embarrassing defeat: they managed to outscored the vaunted Buckeyes in the second half. Sure, OSU had all their second and third stringers in the game – but, history and the box score will show that UNLV outscored OSU 14 to 10 in the last two quarters. So, rejoice a little, Rebels fans.
These first three weeks have been undeniably unpredictable for the Rebels, but expect things to calm down soon as the team begins to settle into the same rhythm of its pitiful four win 2016 season. And I know it’s disappointing, but remember that the UNLV football program is rebuilding right now, so we might not be able to much greatness from them for a while. Still, there are at least a couple players that we can enjoy watching while the rest of the team gets its act together. Wide receiver Devonte Boyd and previously mentioned running back Lexington Thomas are both high-energy players with the ability to make big plays and turn the game around.
Boyd and Thomas should make UNLV football at the very least bearable while Coach Tony Sanchez and Co. work on getting the team to their fifth bowl game ever.