The field at Sam Boyd Stadium has also been redecorated to match UNLV's new uniforms.
Expectations were high for UNLV's 2015 football season after the hiring of National High School Champion Bishop Gorman head coach Tony Sanchez. Sanchez spent the off season trying to rebrand the team with new uniforms (and a new field) that embrace the unique culture and history of the city of Las Vegas. But UNLV would have to survive a brutal non-conference schedule that included a nationally-ranked opponent.
Sanchez's team looked promising in the first half of its opening game, as they got off to a 17-3 lead in the second quarter against Northern Illinois. They also got off strong against 13th-ranked UCLA, holding them to only 10 points up until almost halftime. Unfortunately, the Rebels lost both those games due to second-half collapses, and they began to look like the same ol' Rebels. In fact, in the UCLA game, UNLV's starting quarterback, Blake Decker, left the game with an injury in the first half, and the offense wasn't able to do anything under the command of backup quarterback Kurt Palandech. UNLV also faltered against MIchigan, against whom the offense was only able to score a single touchdown. However, in all of these games, UNLV was far more competitive than they were expected to be. The defense played surprisingly well in all three games, but was worn down by their overpowered opponents and the inability of UNLV's offense to move the ball.
So I had no clue what to expect going into UNLV's home game against FCS opponent Idaho State this past weekend. I've witnessed some embarrassing defeats at the hands of FCS teams in year's past, and it was really hard to tell if UNLV's offense was completely incompetent, or if the teams that they played against in their first three games were just that much better. Hopefully, UNLV would be able to score against Idaho State. And score they did!
UNLV got off to a hot, 17-3 start in the opener against Northern Illinois, but the offense had floundered since.
After quickly turning the opening possession into seven points due to a blown coverage by Idaho State, UNLV's offense failed to do anything in its next couple drives. In the meantime, Idaho State put together some pretty impressive passes to wide open receivers, but was unable to score. The game blew wide open midway through the first quarter though, when UNLV blocked an Idaho State field goal and turned it into another touchdown. After that, UNLV ran away with the game, ending the first quarter with 35 points and going into halftime with a 52-8 lead. UNLV would go on to win the game by a score of 80 to 8, setting school records for most points scored in a quarter, most points scored in a half, and most points scored in a game. The previous school record was 72 points in a game. UNLV's 80-point night also sets a Mountain West Conference scoring record, beating Air Force's previous record, which was also 72.
I've certainly never seen such a dominating performance by UNLV, and it really blew me away. Maybe Sanchez really is turning the program around. Even the usually-high-powered Boise State Broncos were only able to put up 52 points against Idaho State when they played them the previous week. On top of that, UNLV's previous opponent, Michigan shut out BYU this week 31 to nothing. UCLA destroyed fellow PAC-12 team, Arizona 56-30. It's hard to believe that UNLV was more competitive than schools like Boise State, BYU, and Arizona against common opponents, but that's the case.
The Mountain West is also a very chaotic conference this year. The usual powerhouses in the conference, Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada have all had some tough losses, and no one team looks to be particularly dominant. This conference could potentially be completely up in the air, and UNLV might even have a chance to compete if they continue to play as competitively as they have in these first four weeks. Next week, UNLV will travel to Reno for the first conference game. Nevada suffered a week two loss to Arizona, 44-20, and barely squeaked by Buffalo by a score of 24-21. A big win against Nevada would be exactly the kind of confidence-builder that could lead to another Cinderella year for UNLV, and might kick-start another bowl bid.
That's quite a way to earn your first win, coach Sanchez. Congratulations, and keep up the good work!
UNLV ran all over Idaho State in a record-breaking 80-8 victory.