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Rebels beat themselves, squander opportunity of upset victory against Northwestern

UNLV had an opportunity to get a signature win over a Power 5 team, but they have no one else to blame except themselves for Saturday’s results.

UNLV v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Northwestern did not do anything special against UNLV Saturday. The Wildcats did not catch UNLV off guard, or pull something out of their hat. UNLV could not stop making mistakes in their 30-14 loss against Northwestern Saturday afternoon.

The Rebels had plenty of opportunities to take the lead, cut into the lead, or shift momentum from the Wildcats, but failed to cash in on any of them.

Northwestern scored first, and quick. It looked like the Rebels were going to be in for a long day, but then Charles Williams showed up.

Down 7-0 early in the first quarter, Williams rush down the right sideline on UNLV’s third play of the drive for a 65 yard touchdown. With the game tied 7-7, momentum seemed to be on the Rebels side, UNLV made a huge fourth down conversion in the red zone and looked like they were about to take the lead.

The Rebels put the ball in the hands of Tyree Jackson, who took a safety on the kickoff at the end of the Southern Utah game, and he fumbled.

It would not be the last Rebel mistake.

UNLV fought back to retake the lead in the second quarter. Once again, it was Williams, who took it 37 yards to give UNLV a 14-10 lead.

The Rebel defense played well, and did not break. UNLV held Northwestern to two field goals to keep the game within one score at halftime, 16-14 Northwestern advantage.

A blow to UNLV’s defense was when safety Drew Tejchman was ejected for targeting. Tejchman made contact with the head of a Northwestern receiver as the receiver was lowering his head, and the two heads made contact.

UNLV received the second half kickoff and made great progress down the field. Armani Rogers converted a 3rd and 4 with their legs to keep the drive alive.

But, unfortunately for UNLV, Rogers giveth and he taketh away. Rogers threw an interception on 1st down, and all the momentum on their side disappeared.

Even with an entire half left to play, and only being down by two the interception seemed like a final nail in the coffin for UNLV.

The Rebels would not score again and Northwestern added a touchdown in the third and fourth quarter to win 30-14.

“I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win the game. Just some of the fundamental things did not show up. Early in the game. two personal fouls, that extended drives and gave them some easy field position,” Tony Sanchez said following the game.

UNLV left Evanston with more questions than answers, specifically a lot of “What Ifs?” What if UNLV did not turn the ball over three times? What if the Rebels did not have five penalties for 65 yards? What if Tony Sanchez decided to run Charles Williams more than four times in the second half?

Williams had in the first half on 12 carries. He only had four in the second half.

Four.

Sanchez said that Northwester’s defense was keying in on Williams. But the question is, how did Sanchez know that from only four carries? Williams did limp off the field in the second half, but Sanchez said there was nor injury issue with Williams in the second half.

In total, UNLV had three turnovers. An interception from Rogers and two fumbles (Jackson and Rogers). In a game were the defense played to an acceptable level, it was the offense that let UNLV down.

“Turnovers, it comes down to turnovers. If you hold onto the ball, you give yourself a great opportunity,” Sanchez said. “We turned the ball over in some critical areas, we’d have a really good drive going and we have a turnover, it changes momentum.”

Aside from the turnovers, UNLV had three personal fouls in the first half. It was a sloppy game for a team that has been very disciplined in their first two games of the season.

“There’s so many things I can point to that are frustrating because we had a chance to win the game,” Sanchez said.

One of the most frustrating parts of the game as Rogers’ performance. He did not silence any of his critics with his performance against Northwestern. He threw for 120 yards on 16-26 passing, with a QBR of 45.

Another “What if,” question that can be asked by Rebels fans is “What if Kenyon Oblad had played?” Personally, I do not think the outcome would be different if Oblad had started or played. Regardless, UNLV cannot afford another performance like that from Rogers if they want to make a bowl game, (or if Tony Sanchez wants to keep his job). Do not be surprised if Oblad gets some significant playing time in their next game.

“That was a very winnable football game,” Sanchez said. “We just had to go out, keep moving the chains, hold onto the football and we had a great chance to win that football game.”

UNLV now has a bye week before they begin conference play at Wyoming. As mentioned earlier, UNLV has plenty of questions to be answered, and will have two weeks to find solutions before their season cannot be saved.