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Rebels fall short in comeback attempt against Aztecs

Once again UNLV had a chance to get an upset victory, and once again the Rebels let an opportunity slip through their hands.

Boise State v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

If UNLV could have a redo with its game against San Diego State, they would eagerly take it. For the second week in a row, the Rebels had a chance to get a conference win, but they squandered its opportunity as San Diego State outlasted UNLV 20-17.

The game went down to the final seconds as Daniel Gutierrez lined up for a 42-yard field goal attempt. But, that was not the Rebels first and only chance to win the game.

It did not look like, at the start, that UNLV would be in this game.

After UNLV went three-and-out on its first drive, the Aztecs connected on their second drive. Quarterback Ryan Agnew threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Debeaux to cap off a 90-yard Aztec drive.

UNLV’s third drive was going to end with a punt, but it did not. The Rebels were backed on its own goal line and Hayes Hicken’s punt was blocked and recovered in the endzone for a San Diego State touchdown, 14-0 Aztecs after one.

San Diego State made a field goal to extend its lead to 17-0, but the Rebels made some noise late in the half.

Randal Grimes, who is UNLV’s best receiver and who made some crucial drops in the game, came up with a great back-shoulder catch and spun away from the defender down the sideline for a 58-yard Rebel touchdown. UNLV went into the locker room down 17-7, but with momentum on its side.

UNLV came out of the half and drove inside the Aztec five-yard line. The Rebels could not punch it in the endzone, but Gutierrez converted a 22-yard field goal attempt to cut the deficit back to single digits, 17-10.

The Aztecs responded, as time expired in the third quarter, with a field goal of their own to push their lead back to 10, 20-10.

Down double digits again, the Rebels needed a break to get them back in the game, and they got one. Jericho Flowers, who had two interceptions against San Diego State last season, intercepted Agnew’s pass to get UNLV back in the game.

UNLV could take full advantage of its new lease on life.

Charles Williams kept the drive alive after a gain of two on fourth and one. On the next play, the old Williams was back. He rushed for 42 yards to the Aztec 24 yard line.

The Rebels faced another fourth down at the San Diego State four-yard line, but redshirt freshman quarterback Kenyon Oblad got the necessary yards to keep the drive alive.

Oblad then found Giovanni Fauolo in the back of the endzone to put the Rebels within three, 20-17 with 5:57 left in the game.

The Rebels forced another Aztec three-and-out to give itself one last chance for the win.

They almost gave it away after a bad snap went over Oblad’s head and put UNLV in a second and 24. On fourth and 24, Oblad connected with Grimes again for a 42-yard reception to get into San Diego State territory.

The two almost connected again later in the drive. Oblad had Grimes wide open that would have been an easy walk-in touchdown, but Oblad under-threw him. UNLV could not win the game, so they sent out the kicking team to play for overtime.

Back to Gutierrez’s field goal attempt. The snap and hold were perfect, the kick had plenty of distance, but doinked off the right up right. No good.

The Rebels fought their way back into the game, but could not overcome many of their own mistakes to get a much needed win.

Just like the Fresno State game, there was not much difference between the two teams in the stat sheet. The Rebels had more passing yards and total yards, they also won the turnover and time of possession battle.

But there are things not shown directly in the stat sheet UNLV wish would have gone their way. Dropped passes, missed throws, mismanagement of timeouts, blocked punt, and missed field goal are all things the Rebels wish they could have back.

Kenyon Oblad made a statement that he should remain the starter for UNLV. He was 21/39 with 255 passing yards and two touchdowns. Without question the passing game has improved since Oblad took the reigns, and the offense has a new confidence and swagger among them.

For a redshirt freshman, Oblad does not look rattled and looks like he gives UNLV its best chance to win moving forward.

Williams was back to form. He had 113 yard on 19 carries, averaging 5.9 yard per carry. He will need to continue to provide big plays for UNLV moving forward.

UNLV hits the road again for its next game. They head to Fort Collins to face Colorado State Saturday afternoon. The Rebels sit a 2-6, and must win out to keep their bowl chances alive.