Fsm rebel vision
Graphic Credit: Mike Dancy II

UNLV Football Rebel Vision: UNLV vs. Fresno State Film Breakdown – Week 3



This FSM series will follow the UNLV Football season as a coaches analysis by FSM’s JaRon Turner. JaRon is an Arbor View High School alumni and former college football player who has coached high school football locally in Las Vegas for the past three seasons. This weekly segment will focus on crucial plays and factors of UNLV football games this season. This assessment will highlight plays that made a difference in the ball game, ranging from great individual effort plays, attitude runs, big hits, coaching adjustments, etc. Be sure to follow us for weekly film breakdowns throughout the 2020 season.

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Saturday, the Rebels faced a talented and tenacious Fresno St. Bulldogs team that was looking to win two in a row and keep their hopes for the Mountain West championship alive.



While the Rebels are still looking for their first win in the Marcus Arroyo era, they’ve shown improvement from one week to the next. As the season progresses, coach Arroyo and his staff continue to evaluate talent and adjust to an ever-changing roster in a strange 2020 season. However, the game against Fresno St. was something of a spectacle; it was by far the best UNLV has looked all season. But the game ultimately came down to a few crucial plays that impacted the outcome on Saturday.


It’s time for Rebel Vison!


Play #1: UNLV's first goal line possession; The 2nd and 3rd down play calls.

Video Credit: CBS Sports Network

After Fresno St. found their way into the endzone on their second possession, the Rebels looked to respond with a scoring drive of their own. As they made their way down to the end zone, the last two plays of the drive stuck out to me. The reason being is the plays had nothing to do with talent and everything to do with execution, scheme, and football intelligence. 

Before UNLV was in the red zone, they ran a bubble screen play that netted them about 20 yards– a play that UNLV had tried to run several times in the previous game with no success. However, in this game, the play worked and, in doing so, forced Fresno St. to honor that particular formation and set up.

Fast forward to second down and goal from the Fresno St. two-yard line. UNLV ran a heavy two tight end set with a split receiver (receiver out by the numbers) and ran a Run, Pass, Option (RPO) that was deflected after Max Gilliam pulled it and passed the ball to Tyleek Collins. UNLV then called timeout and talked about their next play. This is where coach Arroyo and the Rebels offense showed that the machine could throw teams off and make them make mistakes without the defense realizing what’s happening. 

UNLV came out the next play with a three-wide receiver set, two left and one right with one tight end on the right as well. They then motioned the receiver on the right across the formation. This made Fresno have to adjust and bump men over to equal the numbers the Rebels’ offense had to the formation’s left side. Max Gilliam checked the play to a run to Charles Williams, who quickly scored. The series was beautifully drawn up and beautifully ran.

Because of the 2nd down-play call, the UNLV offensive line had a great push up front with a nine-man box; Gilliam made the right decision to take his chance on the outside with Tyleek Collins one on one. However, up in the press box, the coaches could see that they had a chance to run it in. During the timeout, Arroyo called two plays and let Gilliam make the call on the field based on the numbers in the box, and because UNLV, after motioning the right side receiver to the left, was in the same formation from which they ran the bubble screen that gained 20 yards.

Fresno adjusted to make sure the Rebels couldn’t just pop the ball out there and easily score, but they left the box (the area from tackle to tackle) light with only six men against UNLV’s seven. Gilliam noticed and checked the play to a run, and the Rebels took the lead after a touchdown and successful extra point. 


Play #2: Bad Penalties 

Video Credit: CBS Sports Network

After Fresno made a red zone stop on the ensuing drive, forcing UNLV to kick a field goal to extend the lead, the Bulldogs were trying to put another drive together to regain the lead. A 3rd and 5 put the Bulldogs drive in jeopardy as the play ended up as an incomplete pass, and it looked like UNLV was going to get the ball back. That was until a questionable roughing the passer penalty, perpetrated by Jacoby Windmon, gave Fresno St. new life with a fresh set of downs. Eventually, the Bulldogs found their way to the endzone and recaptured the lead.

One drive later, the Rebels again took the lead with an excellent time-consuming drive that saw UNLV run the ball seven consecutive times, then go over the top with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Tyleek Collins. On the next Fresno St. drive, the Bulldogs moved the ball, looking as though they had caught their stride offensively. On 2nd and 9, an 11-yard pass play, wide receiver #8 Chris Coleman was tackled by freshman corner Nohl Williams, who slammed him to the ground out of bounds.

The play was legal, but Coleman took some offense, and the two exchanged words, then Coleman tossed the ball at Williams drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty from the officials. While the Bulldogs still had a fresh set of downs, the penalty backed them up, and the Rebel defense grabbed back to back sacks that stalled the drive and forced Fresno St. to punt.

These plays are mentioned because they were stupid. They either took points off the board (the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty) or helped the other team put points on the board (the questionable roughing the passer call). The real issue is that UNLV can ill afford dumb and untimely penalties that assist their opponents and hinder their success on the field. 

Play #3: Turnovers

Video Credit: CBS Sports

After halftime, a very nice pass rush from Fresno State’s #99 David Perales ended with a strip-sack of Max Gilliam on the UNLV side of the field. The ball was recovered by Fresno and led to a 16-yard touchdown run from running back Ronnie Rivers.

Later in the game, Max Gilliam threw an untimely interception on a 3rd and 15 in which he was trying to hit his receiver #82 Jacob Gasser. Instead, the ball ended up in the hands of Bulldog defensive back Chris Gaston. After the interception, the UNLV defense stood tall and held the Bulldogs to a field goal, making a good stop, but Fresno had extended their lead to 10 points.

These turnovers occurred in the second half of the game. They are particularly crucial because Fresno St. scored 10 points off these two plays, both being the only two turnovers of the game. Both plays set the Bulldogs apart from the Rebels, making it harder for the young UNLV team to continue keeping the pressure on Fresno St. through the remainder of the game. The fumble crippled UNLV’s momentum and allowed Fresno to take a commanding lead, one the Bulldogs never surrendered.

Play #4: Missed opportunities

Video Credit: CBS Sports

For teams struggling to find that ever-elusive first win, the one thing that can keep a team from taking home the victory are missed opportunities to score; in this instance, Max Gilliam missed Kyle Williams twice for touchdowns. The first play happened in the first quarter on a 2nd and 9. UNLV dialed up a play where they took advantage of the cover 3 defense that Fresno was running.

The middle safety (or deep center fielder) bit up on a 10-yard dig route by the tight end, which left the corner on the outside with no help and a very fast Kyle Williams running to the deep post with a step in front of the defender. Gilliam ended up overthrowing Williams, leaving a touchdown on the field.

The other missed opportunity took place later in the game with UNLV trying to crawl their way back on a 1st and 5 after the offense had caught Fresno St. with 12 men on the field on defense. Kyle Williams lined up in the backfield, which offensive coordinators use to create a matchup that favors the offense. Williams came out of the backfield and ran straight up the seam (hash to goal post), splitting two defenders, sprinting into the endzone.

The pass was perfect and hit him in the hands; however, Williams dropped the ball in the endzone. The play cost UNLV a touchdown, the game’s momentum, and a better chance to stay on Fresno State’s trail in the game, eventually allowing UNLV to take the lead later on when Gilliam scampered for a 71-yard touchdown run. 


Final Breakdown


Saturday was UNLV’s finest hour this season. They played well, fought hard, and made it difficult on the heavily favored Bulldogs. However, the Rebels are still trying to break bad habits with untimely penalties and missed opportunities that impact the game’s outcome. I wanted to touch upon this analysis; UNLV has to stop allowing one man to ruin their games. In each game UNLV has played so far, one person on the other team has completely taken over and carried their respective teams to victory over the Rebels.

In the SDSU game, it was running back Greg Bell, and his 19 carries for 111 yards and 1 TD. For UNR, it was wide receiver Romeo Doubs, with 7 rec for 219 yards for 1 TD. In this game, it was running back Ronnie Rivers, who led his team in both rushing and passing (19 carries for 133 yards and 3 TD’s rushing and 6 rec for 99 yards and 1 TD receiving). This type of production cannot continue from players on opposing teams if UNLV expects to get the monkey off their back and get that long-awaited first win.  


The Rebels will head on the road and take on coach Arroyo’s almer matter, the undefeated San Jose State Spartans on Saturday in San Jose. The film shows that the Rebels are getting better weekly. It’s starting to click for this team. I’m sure the growth will translate into Rebel wins soon. 

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