Nov 19, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; San Diego State Aztecs wide receiver Jesse Matthews (45) makes a touchdown reception against UNLV Rebels defensive back Bryce Jackson (24) at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Lucas Johnson’s 3 TD passes lift No. 19 SDSU over UNLV

Lucas Johnson threw three touchdown passes to Jesse Matthews, helping No. 19 San Diego State escape Las Vegas with a 28-20 victory over UNLV in Mountain West play on Friday night.

Andrew Aleki returned an interception for touchdown for the second time this season for the Aztecs (10-1, 6-1 MW), who reached double digits in victories for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. Seyddrick Lakalaka added an interception to end the Rebels’ last drive.

UNLV’s Justin Rogers replaced injured Cameron Friel in the second quarter and completed 15 of 21 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Junior Steve Jenkins caught five passes for a career-high 176 yards while Zyell Griffin and Giovanni Fauolo had scoring receptions for the Rebels (2-9, 2-5).

Jacoby Windman racked up three sacks for UNLV, but star runner Charles Williams was held to 35 yards on 16 carries.

Johnson completed 18 of 24 passes for 192 yards and one interception for the Aztecs, and Matthews caught nine passes for 75 yards. The West division leaders were outgained 394 yards to 290 while beating the Rebels for the 16th time in the past 20 meetings.

Friel was carted off with a toe injury early in the second quarter. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 67 yards and the interception Aleki brought back for a score.

The Rebels pulled within 21-17 in the third quarter after driving 94 yards on six plays. Rogers teamed up with Jenkins on an 80-yard pass play to the San Diego State 6-yard line and later tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Fauolo with 8:24 left in the period.

Daniel Gutierrez kicked a 22-yard field goal with 1:13 left in the third quarter to pull UNLV within one.

San Diego State stretched its lead to eight on Johnson’s 7-yard scoring pass to Matthews with 3:33 left in the contest. Lakalaka intercepted Rogers with 1:45 remaining, and the Aztecs ran out the clock.

Johnson and Matthews teamed up on their first two touchdowns late in the second quarter as San Diego State took a 21-10 halftime lead.

Matthews caught a 4-yard scoring pass from Johnson to give the Aztecs a 14-10 edge with 2:31 left. They connected again on a 24-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left.

The Aztecs’ first points came when Aleki picked up the interception off a deflection and returned it 16 yards to give his team a 7-3 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first quarter.

UNLV moved ahead 10-7 when Rogers connected with a wide-open Griffin on a 43-yard scoring pass with 6:13 left in the half.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs wide receiver Erik Brooks (3) celebrate after making a catch for a touchdown against the UCLA Bruins in the fourth quarter Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 Fresno State an overwhelming favorite vs. UNLV

Fresno State has turned out its fair share of NFL quarterbacks in recent years, but Jake Haener’s performance Saturday night at then-No. 13 UCLA might just be unmatched in terms of its scope and importance.

All he did was throw for 455 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 14 seconds left in a 40-37 upset win, propelling the Bulldogs into the rankings at No. 22 and earning praise nationally for a gritty effort that saw him overcome a painful hip injury.

Haener’s encore performance seems easy enough on paper. Fresno State (3-1) opens its Mountain West Conference schedule Friday night against visiting UNLV (0-3) as a 30 1/2-point favorite.

The Bulldogs are getting mentioned by some as a contender for the Group of Five’s spot in the New Year’s Day bowl lineup. Their one loss wasn’t exactly a disgrace, as they led then-No. 11 Oregon in the fourth quarter before falling 31-24 in Eugene.

Had Fresno State been able to finish out that game, it might be a Top 10 team with two road wins over Pac-12 foes. However, coach Kalen DeBoer’s squad didn’t let the Oregon defeat enter its mind in Pasadena.

“The biggest thing was the belief that we would win,” he said. “There was never a question coming into this game. We know what we are capable of. The best thing about this game is there aren’t any regrets.”

The only regrets in the Rose Bowl might have been from opposing coaches who wished they had Haener leading their huddle. He marched the Bulldogs 75 yards on six plays in just 40 seconds, connecting with Jalen Cropper on a 13-yard scoring strike for the decisive points.

It was the capper of a huge game for Cropper, who caught 14 passes for 141 yards. But Fresno State isn’t a one-dimensional offense, as proven by Ronnie Rivers’ season-high 136 yards rushing and two touchdowns at UCLA. Rivers, a fifth-year senior, has 2,927 yards and 38 scores in his career.

The Bulldogs’ average of 541.5 yards per game ranks ninth nationally and their 402.5 passing yards per game ranks fourth. Logic dictates both averages could go up against a Rebels team that is off to a rocky start.

A 48-3 home loss to No. 14 Iowa State last weekend kept UNLV winless under second-year coach Marcus Arroyo. The Rebels, who finished 0-6 in 2020, have allowed at least 35 points in each game this year. They have scored just 13 points total in their two games against FBS opponents.

Arroyo, whose team opened the season with a double-overtime home loss to FCS power Eastern Washington, inherited a program with a recent history of failure. He also inherited a brutal early schedule with three straight Top 25 foes, including Fresno State.

“The growth in our program will come from challenges like this, back-to-back Top 25 teams and seeing how we stand up against them and continue to find some good football in there,” Arroyo said after the Iowa State loss. “Particularly with a young group and with depth that’s different than some of those teams.”

The Rebels have started different quarterbacks in each of their first three games, none named Tate Martell. The former Ohio State and Miami backup relieved last week’s starter, Cameron Friel, and went 2 of 6 for 27 yards. It’s believed that Doug Brumfield, who missed the Iowa State game with an injury, will get the call in Fresno.

–Field Level Media

Iowa State senior quarterback Brock Purdy scans the field for an open receiver late in the second quarter against Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

20210911 Cyhawk

Brock Purdy, No. 14 Iowa St. try to bounce back vs. UNLV

Brock Purdy may own the most wins by a quarterback in Iowa State history, but a rivalry loss has brought him under heavy scrutiny.

Purdy will look to bounce back from a subpar performance when the No. 14 Cyclones (1-1) visit UNLV (0-2) on Saturday night.

Purdy has a 24-12 record as a starter but picked a bad time to have a clunker — the highly anticipated showdown with Iowa that marked the first time the schools had played while both were ranked in the Top 10.

Purdy threw three interceptions and was just 13-of-27 passing for 138 yards before being yanked in the 27-17 setback. He has yet to throw a touchdown this season.

Freshman Hunter Dekkers finished the game, completing 11 of 16 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, but Iowa State coach Matt Campbell is sticking with Purdy, who with 9,319 career yards needs 181 to surpass Bret Meyer (9,499 from 2004-07) for most in school history.

“That’s gut-wrenching when it doesn’t go your way,” Campbell said at a press conference. “And some of the things that happen in the game really aren’t on you as the quarterback, but everybody’s perception is that it is.

“So the reality of it is, it’s tough to play that position. But man, he’s played it for four years. He knows how to handle tough times.”

Standout running back Breece Hall also made a huge gaffe, losing a fumble near his own end zone that Iowa’s Jack Campbell picked up and ran 6 yards for a score that gave the Hawkeyes a 21-10 lead in the third quarter.

“What a critical error in the game,” Campbell said of the fumble. “And when you’re an ‘A’ player, you need to be able to play ‘A’ football.”

Hall has 138 rushing yards in two games. He also has scored a rushing touchdown in each to raise his streak to 14 consecutive games with a rushing score, one shy of the Big 12 mark set by Missouri’s Corby Jones (1997-98).

Defensive end William McDonald IV is pacing the defense. He has 2.5 sacks this season and is ranked second in school history with 20.

UNLV is waiting to learn whether quarterback Doug Brumfield will be available. He departed after taking a hard hit in the third quarter of last Saturday’s 37-10 road loss against then-No. 23 Arizona State.

If not, Justin Rogers, who started the season-opening 35-33 double-overtime loss to Eastern Washington, will draw the start. He was pulled from that game in favor of Brumfield.

The Rebels have dropped eight straight games since winning their 2019 finale. Second-year coach Marcus Arroyo saw signs of progress against Arizona State before the game got away in the final quarter.

“We’ve (got) to continue to coach our tails off,” Arroyo told reporters. “Be very introspective in regards to how we can finish a game and put two halves together. We’ve got a sour taste in our mouth.”

Running back Charles Williams (212 yards in 2021) moved into third place on UNLV’s career rushing list with 3,152 yards, passing former NFL running back Mike Thomas (3,149).

Defensively, middle linebacker Austin Ajiake and outside linebacker Jacoby Windmon share the team lead of 19 tackles. Windmon has a team-best 1.5 sacks.

Iowa State leads the series 4-1, but UNLV prevailed in the most recent meeting, 34-31 in overtime in 2008 in Las Vegas.

–Field Level Media

Mar 6, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; The Missouri Tigers Golden Girls perform during the first half of the game against the LSU Tigers at Mizzou Arena. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Missouri to hire Desiree Reed-Francois as AD

Missouri is in the process of hiring Desiree Reed-Francois as its new athletic director, according to multiple reports.

Reed-Francois has been athletic director at UNLV for the past four-plus years. She will replace Jim Sterk, who announced his resignation last month.

Reed-Francois, 49, will be the first woman AD at Missouri and, because of her Hispanic heritage, the first person of color in that role.

Reed-Francois recently signed a four-year extension at UNLV that runs through June 30, 2026. Published reports say the deal called for $420,000 in annual base salary.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sterk was making $700,000 in base salary.

Reed-Francois recently hired Kevin Kruger, son of Lon, as UNLV’s basketball coach.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a Los Angeles Chargers helmet during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers won 29-28. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Former UNLV coach Wayne Nunnely dies at 68

Former UNLV head coach and NFL assistant Wayne Nunnely has died. He was 68.

UNLV announced the news on Nunnely but didn’t list a cause of death.

Nunnely played for the Rebels in the 1970s and was later the running backs coach from 1982-85 before serving as head coach from 1986-89. The school said Nunnely was the first Black head coach on the West Coast. He compiled a 19-25 in four seasons.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of former head coach Wayne Nunnely,” Rebels athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said in a statement. “He was a role model as our only football alumnus to later become head coach and was truly blessed to have touched so many lives while teaching the sport he loved for nearly four decades.”

Among the players Nunnely coached at UNLV was Ickey Woods, who rushed for 1,658 yards in 1987 and was briefly a star for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

After his UNLV stint ended, Nunnely was a college assistant at Southern California (1991-92) and UCLA (1993-94) before spending 17 years as an NFL defensive line coach.

He worked for the New Orleans Saints for two seasons (1995-96), the then-San Diego Chargers for 12 campaigns (1997-2008) and spent his last three season with the Denver Broncos (2009-11) before retiring.

–Field Level Media