LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Forget about four straight losses, including the last one, against San Diego State, that if not for some self-inflicted errors, might have turned out differently.
Disappointing? Of course, says UNLV running back Aidan Robbins. But that’s life. “We got hit in the mouth, and it’s all about how you’re going to respond,” Robbins said.
There’s talk of bowl eligibility — talk that’s bounced around the UNLV football program for parts of several years — and it’s got players excited. But at the same time on an even keel as they prepare for Friday night’s Mountain West clash at Allegiant Stadium against Fresno State (7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
“That’s the goal,” Robbins said about the Rebels’ chase to six victories, which is required for a bowl game invitation. “Everyone has that in the back of their minds. But we’re focused on Fresno State.”
The Bulldogs (4-1 in MW, 5-4 overall) have won four straight, including a 55-13 rout of Hawaii on Saturday. It’s the longest win streak by the program since 2018 (seven straight).
Fresno State is looking to qualify for a bowl for the second consecutive season. The last time that happened was 2017 and 2018.
The Bulldogs feature quarterback Jeff Haener, the conference’s offensive player of the week for his play against Hawaii, and running back Jordan Mims. Haener was 24-for-29 passing for 327 yards and four touchdowns against the Rainbows. Mims ran for 123 yards on 18 carries, including a TD, in the rout.
That means the Rebels’ defense will be challenged. Good thing, perhaps, it’s coming off a strong performance (six sacks, one interception) in a 14-10 loss to San Diego State. “Probably should have won the game,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said of the Rebels’ effort.
Coach Marcus Arroyo said his defense probably played its best overall game. He figured if the offense lived up to its part, the outcome might have been different.
“We’re excited about the way the defense is playing,” Arroyo said. “It gives us an opportunity on offense to say, ‘Hey, we got to do our part.’ ”
Arroyo said the main issue in the four-game skid for the Rebels (2-3 in MW, 4-5 overall) has been consistent play in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams.
The offense against San Diego State failed miserably in the red zone, with quarterback Doug Brumfield throwing two end-zone interceptions. He was returning from a concussion and had not played in 11 quarters over three games.
Arroyo said Brumfield, who otherwise this season has played well, was disappointed. So was the coach. It could have been rust from the layoff, Arroyo said. Or maybe poor decision making from Brumfield and Arroyo himself.
“Some critical mistakes in there that are costly,” Arroyo said. “He’s got a chance to fix them.”
And for Robbins, who ran for 115 yards on 21 carries, that’s all you can ask.
“The defense was playing for us,” he said of the San Diego State game. “Now we got to play for the defense.”