Rebels Rally Late, Win Shootout in Hawaii

Tony SanchezUNLV picked up its first road win of the season on Saturday, rallying behind several big plays in the fourth quarter to beat Hawaii in a 41-38 shootout.

Freshman quarterback Dalton Sneed starred for the Rebels, passing for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore running back Lexington Thomas also regained his mojo, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown.

UNLV scored 17 fourth-quarter points, culminating in Evan Pantels’ go-ahead 28-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining. Sneed made the big play on the final drive, hitting Devonte Boyd for 31 yards down the left sideline to move the ball inside the red zone. After three running plays to drain the clock and center the ball, Pantels nailed the chip shot to give UNLV the win.

UNLV improves to 3-4 with the win, and 2-1 in Mountain West play.

A few quick thoughts on the victory:

Sneed bounces back
A week is a long time in college football. Six days ago, Dalton Sneed looked unplayable against San Diego State, as he went 2-of-12 and passed for nine yards while the offense was shut out in a 26-7 loss. But on Saturday, he looked like the answer at quarterback, completing 19-of-27 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

Credit Sneed for playing better, credit his receivers for mostly holding onto the ball, credit the offensive line and the running backs for moving the chains consistently to take some pressure off the passing game, and credit the coaches for showing faith in the redshirt freshman taking the snaps. They didn’t try to hide Sneed—in fact, they turned him loose on the final drive, and it paid off when Sneed hit Devonte Boyd for 31 yards to move the offense into field goal range.

Sneed’s best attributes were on display, as he moved around in the pocket, scrambled and made big plays:

We’ve now seen two extremes with Sneed in back-to-back weeks, and while the low was really, really low, he showed all kinds of potential against Hawaii. Bottom line, he’s started three Mountain West games and UNLV is 2-1 in conference play.

Deep trouble
Continuing a season-long trend, UNLV was defenseless on deep pass attempts. The Rebels’ secondary gave up five big plays down the sideline—three long completions and a pair of pass interference penalties—and barely escaped with the win.

Marcus Kemp victimized the Rebels three times, reeling in catches of 38, 38 and 30 yards. Long passes have been the single biggest issue for the UNLV defense this season, and it was cornerback Darius Mouton’s turn to be victimized on Saturday. He was in coverage on all three of Kemp’s long receptions and was tagged with two pass interference penalties. Kemp finished with five catches for 120 yards.

Opposing teams watch film, and the book is out on UNLV—the best way to move the ball against the Rebels is to toss it deep down the sideline and challenge the cornerbacks to knock it down. So far this season, they haven’t been able to do it.

Running resurgence
After a pair of down weeks that saw Lexington Thomas accumulate just 46 yards on 24 carries, the Rebels’ leading rusher came back strong against Hawaii. He carried 21 times for 102 yards and a touchdown, and his score came at a time when UNLV really needed it, as Thomas broke free for 34 yards to tie the game with less than five minutes remaining:

Thomas also scored on a 37-yard play in the second quarter that looked like a handoff but was actually ruled a forward pass, giving him the first receiving touchdown of his career:

For the game, UNLV ran for 256 yards on 50 carries (5.1 yards per carry). The Rebels are at their best when the ground game is rolling, and that was the case on Saturday.

Welcome back Boyd
Offense won this game for UNLV, and for the first time since Week 1, it felt like Devonte Boyd was a big part of it. The junior receiver caught a season-high six passes for 83 yards, including the big 31-yarder from Sneed to set up the game-winning field goal. It was a difficult catch, as the defender tipped the pass just before it reached Boyd. But he showed quick hands in adjusting to the deflection and hauling it in.

Vegas Seven

DTLV

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