UNLV vs Notre Dame Recap: Fighting Irish Defeat Rebels

UNLV vs Notre Dame Recap: Fighting Irish Defeat Rebels

Mountain West Football

UNLV vs Notre Dame Recap: Fighting Irish Defeat Rebels


UNLV at Notre Dame Recap: Fighting Irish Defeat Rebels

Unable to overcome early setbacks, UNLV falls in South Bend

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Rebels offense can’t keep up

Rebels take 3rd loss in a row, fall to 4-4, Friel and Bailey split time at QB

As a big underdog on the road, few gave UNLV much of a chance today, especially when it was announced that both quarterback Doug Brumfield and running back Aidan Robbins would be sitting out the game due to injuries. And after a decisive first quarter in favor of Notre Dame, the Rebels would struggle to find those chances for much of the game.

On its first drive, Notre Dame performed largely as expected, looking to get a running game started behind Audric Estime and Logan Diggs and quarterback Drew Pyne looking for tight end Michael Mayer, eventually scoring on a 15 yard run by Estime. After a quick three-and-out by UNLV, the Fighting Irish would add a field goal to extend their lead to 10-0.

But the Rebels would answer early, with Courtney Reese picking up a 74-yard run, down to the 2 yard line, where Jordan Younge-Humphrey would find the end zone on an option pitch, to make it 10-7.

Notre Dame and UNLV would then exchange three-and-outs, but the Rebels’ drives would not end as they would expect. On the punt attempt by Marshal Nichols, Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey would block his first of two punts, setting up the Irish with a short field on both turnovers. The Irish would convert both blocks into ten points, including a 20-yard touchdown reception by Michael Mayer, to extend the Irish lead to 20-7.

The Rebels would again go three-and-out on their next two drives, and Notre Dame would add a field goal to gain a 23-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

For much of the second quarter, both teams struggled to establish any sort of momentum. On their opening drive of the quarter, Notre Dame’s Audric Estime lost a fumble that UNLV recovered on the Irish 43. The Rebels could then find little offense themselves, getting five drives in the quarter, but each drive went three plays or less. The Irish hardly fared better, turning the ball over three times in the quarter. The only scoring in the quarter came when Irish tight end Mitchell Evans lined up under center for a 1-yard rush to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 30-7 at halftime.

Both teams’ struggles continued into the second half, as UNLV turned the ball over on downs and the Irish missed a field goal on their opening drives. Harrison Bailey then came in at quarterback in relief of Courtney Friel, and led a touchdown drive for the Rebels, scoring on a 2-yard run to shorten the lead to 30-14. The drive also featured a 47-yard run by Courtney Reese, who finished the day with 142 rushing yards on 11 carries.

Then, as the third quarter ended and fourth quarter began, the teams suddenly exchanged touchdowns as both the Rebels and the Irish appeared to take advantage of one another’s tiring defenses. The Irish finished the third quarter with a 13-play drive, going 62 yards as running back Logan Diggs rushed nine times on the drive, capped by Chris Tyree’s 8-yard rush to move the Irish ahead 37-14. The Rebels then responded with a sustained drive of their own, going 74 yards in 11 plays. Jordan Younge-Humphrey would get his second touchdown of the day on a 1-yard score. With the lead at 37-21, UNLV attempted an onside kick but failed to recover, setting up Notre Dame at the Rebels 46 yard line. The Irish ultimately scored again to seal the victory, on a 9-play drive as quarterback Drew Pyne found Braden Lenzy in the end zone to make the score 44-21.

Keys to the Game:

Considering Notre Dame had not scored a touchdown in the first quarter thus far this season, finishing the quarter with two touchdowns and 23 points overall had to exceed even Irish expectations. For UNLV, it could not have been a worse start to any game, let alone on the road against a Power 5 opponent. 

Third down efficiency was another self-inflicted wound the Rebels could not overcome. Going 0-for-12 in the game, the offense ended up punting on nine drives overall, including the two attempts that were blocked. Each of the Rebels’ ten first half drives went three plays or less. Simply put, the offense could not stay on the field and the defense had no time to catch its breath before being asked to return to the field. Granted, there are a variety of factors that affected those outcomes, but results like that in the future will leave UNLV wanting for points, let alone wins, for the remainder of the season. 

Final Thoughts: 

College football fans will know many of the cliches used when it comes to injuries: no excuses. Next man up. Adapt and overcome. But today, without the starting quarterback and running back that led the Rebels to its early success this season, those four wins may seem like a distant memory.  While Courtney Reese was able to break through for some big plays, and Harrison Bailey may have played well enough to be in the conversation at quarterback if Doug Brumfield misses more time, the team overall looks like it may struggle again in upcoming games against San Diego State and Fresno State.

Player of the Game:

At the risk of stoking the flames of a quarterback controversy, would it be out of line to say Harrison Bailey? Although Courtney Reese was able to run for 142 yards and Jordan Younge-Humphrey rushed for two touchdowns, the running game still appeared to be more of a “boom or bust” option for the Rebels than it has when Aidan Robbins has led the attack.

Coming into the game in the third quarter, Bailey was able to lead two sustained drives down the field in the second half and showed some mobility in scoring on a quarterback keeper himself. It appeared Head Coach Marcus Arroyo was looking for a spark for his team and he found it in Bailey. 

Does this mean Bailey will be starting at quarterback against San Diego State in two weeks? We may not know the answer to that any time soon, but with a bye week upcoming, the Rebels will have some time to heal up and prepare for the final four weeks of the season. A potential bowl berth remains in their sights.

Next Up:

Next week, the Rebels will return home for a bye week before going on the road to face San Diego State. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:00pm EST (4:00pm PST) on Friday night, November 5.



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