Any momentum the UNLV Rebels (1-3) football program had scrapped together 15 games into the Tony Sanchez era seemed to disappear into the Nevada desert on Saturday night.
This weekend at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, the Rebels turned in a sloppy performance against an Idaho Vandals team that entered the game as more than two touchdown underdogs. Ultimately, UNLV fell 33-30 in overtime.
After the disappointing and discouraging result against the Vandals, the Rebels head coach didn’t mince works.
“I’m pissed,” Sanchez said. “I’m beyond frustrated. I’m embarrassed, I’m pissed off. I’m sick to my stomach right now. This is about as angry as I’ve been since I’ve been sitting in this chair. We gotta get better. It’s been a long time coming. At some point we gotta find ourselves in this program.”
UNLV quarterback Johnny Stanton turned in a third straight performance riddled with errors. The two previous games were against superior opponents in UCLA and Central Michigan. Saturday’s game was against an opponent that had been outscored by a combined 115-20 the previous two weeks. Stanton’s 14 of 26, 175 yard, 1 touchdown, 2 interception effort is sure to get the UNLV faithful talking about a change under center. Coach Sanchez was asked whether or not a mid-game change was being considered.
“I had a really, really, really brief discussion about it and I’m glad we didn’t. He got it turned around and that’s part of it, you just got to let him settle down and he ended up making plays. But still, there were times towards the end where we had some inconsistent, errant throws, and we gotta be more consistent with that.”
Sanchez was quick to point out that he did not think the failures against the Vandals could be contributed to a lack of effort.
“I don’t see a lot of guys not giving effort. I don’t see a lack of effort, I see a lack of execution, a lack of finishing. Even at the end of the game, we got a great opportunity, we got first down, we’re at midfield, we need about 25 yards to get in field goal range, you cannot three and out. Those things aren’t acceptable.”
In two weeks the Rebels play on the road at #19 San Diego State. That makes next week’s game against Fresno State of monumental importance if Sanchez is going to be able to show that his program is taking a substantial step forward from year one to year two. A loss against the Bulldogs, and UNLV is staring down the barrel of a 1-5 start.
“Bottom line is this is a game we gotta go out, and we gotta win. We play Fresno State, they’re in a similar situation as us right now. We’re two bad football teams trying to become decent. Bottom line is we’re not a very good football team right now,” Sanchez said. “I can’t have my head in the dirt, neither can the other guys. We all gotta show up, we gotta own the mistakes we made, we gotta go back to some basics. I gotta do a better job of holding all my guys, coaches, and everybody accountable for getting better at the little things.”
Fresno State had a similarly disappointing weekend. The Bulldogs blew a 31-point lead to drop a home matchup against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 48-41 in double overtime. Sanchez wasn’t shy about emphasizing the importance of the Rebels securing a victory on Saturday.
“Really, we gotta go out and scrap for a win. Like I said, we have two teams in very similar situations, and they’re coming to our house, homecoming game I believe, so we gotta go back to work and get better.”
“We gotta do some soul searching. We all gotta start pointing our fingers inside and asking ourselves what can we do to get better. Each and every one of us, coaches, players, everybody.”
The UNLV Rebels and Fresno State Bulldogs will kickoff from Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas Saturday, October 1st, at 7:30pm PT.