University of Nevada, Las Vegas

I suspected that UNLV's football team would have to crash back to reality at some point. Last wee, the team and its fans were flying high after a comeback win against Colorado State made UNLV bowl-eligible midway through the season, had them receiving votes for national Top 25 ranking, and had them looking like a contender for a Mountain West Conference Championship. UNLV has played like a championship-caliber football team all season long, with the exception of one quarter against Fresno State last night. That one quarter may be the quarter that costs UNLV a chance at the championship.

I did say that the remainder of UNLV's schedule would contain its toughest matchups of the season, and Fresno was one of the toughest. They also still have Wyoming and Air Force as major roadblocks on their remaining schedule. I expected that UNLV would drop at least one of these games, but it's heartbreaking to lose it in the way that they did.

UNLV is now ranked 3rd in the Mountain West behind Fresno State.

UNLV was in total control of the game at Fresno State, with the exception of a dismal 3rd quarter in which they turned the ball over multiple times, gave up 24 un-answered points, and surrendered the lead that they would never take back.

The collapse began on the opening drive of the 2nd half, with Jacob de Jesus muffing a punt return after a Fresno 3 and out. This gave Fresno State the ball in the redzone for an easy touchdown and completely shifted the momentum of the game. Junior return man de Jesus had been a reliable, explosive player all year, and this mistake was uncharacteristic of him. Later in the quarter, freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava threw an interception that resulted in another Fresno field goal, and running back Jai'Den Thomas surrendered a fumble on UNLV's next offensive play from scrimmage that Fresno converted into the lead-stealing touchdown. Personally, I think he was down by contact (of course), but the camera angles were inconclusive and insufficient to overturn the officials' call on the field.

The 3rd quarter collapse started with Jacob de Jesus muffing a punt.

UNLV would surge in the 4th quarter, however and bring the game to within a single score. However, they failed to convert a 4th and goal late in the 4th quarter. Personally, I think that coach Barry Odom should have kicked the field goal at this point. There was still 5 minutes on the game clock, UNLV had timeouts, and UNLV had clawed back the momentum. This was not a do-or-die situation. A field goal would not have tied the game, let alone taken the lead, but UNLV's defense would have to make a stop regardless. A field goal would have meant that if UNLV stopped Fresno and took the ball back, they would be playing for the win instead of overtime.

The decision ended up being moot anyway, as UNLV failed to score a touchdown in the closing seconds of the game. They had an opportunity, but senior receiver Senika McKie dropped an open pass in the endzone on 2nd down, and Maiava would throw an interception straight to a lurking linebacker on the ensuing 3rd and goal.

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University of Nevada, Las Vegas

UNLV's decision to fire Marcus Arroyo and replace him with Barry Odom as the football head coach has certainly proven to be a good decision. I was afraid that the unexpected firing would result in UNLV having to reset its year-to-year improvements under Arroyo and start over as a bottom-dweller in the conference. That hasn't been the case. UNLV has continued its upwards climb and has exceeded all possible expectations in 2023, culminating with a 25-23 comeback win against Colorado State yesterday. That win gave UNLV its 6th win of the season, which makes them bowl-eligible -- and it's only halfway through the season!

I fully expect UNLV's kicker Jose Pizano to receive Mountain West special teams Player of the Week honors this week. The senior transfer set a school record by hitting on all 6 field goal attempts, including the game-winner. He has been fantastic all year. I thought it would be hard to fill the shoes of Daniel Gutierrez, who graduated last year, but Pizano has done the job admirably.

UNLV has impressed me with its hard play for the past 2 or 3 years under Arroyo, but the team is playing with a greater intensity under Odom. What has truly impressed me is that the defense is actually halfway decent. For many years, UNLV has been hiring offensive-minded head coaches, with the goal of having exciting, high-scoring offenses. The problem has been that even when UNLV has had offenses that score 30 or more points per game, they've had defenses that give up 40 or 50.

UNLV football - Jose Pizano
Photo credit: Madeline Carter (Las Vegas Review Journal).
Jose Pizano deserve Mountain West Player of the Week honors
after setting a school record and hitting a game-winning field goal.

The biggest weakness has been UNLV's deep pass coverage. Teams routinely torch UNLV for deep passes and scores. That, unfortunately is still mostly true. If UNLV is going to get beat, it's with the deep ball. Honestly, I don't know why opposing teams even bother running any plays other than deep passes. I feel a team could run 4 or 5 verts every play, and would hit enough of them that it wouldn't matter how many end up incomplete. But overall, the defense being competent has actually been the biggest surprise of the year, to me. But UNLV's run defense has been more than adequate, and they've managed to get pressure with 4-man rushes that have helped defenses contain opponents' short and intermediate pass games.

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University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Last year, I said that UNLV was the best 0-6 football team I had ever seen. Well this year, in 2022, the team has finally turned that competitive spirit into actual wins, and UNLV's football team has earned its first 3-1 start of the current century. Considering that the Mountain West isn't quite as strong of a conference as it has been in years past, this UNLV team might even have a chance at contending for the conference title if they keep playing like they are currently. Boise State and San Diego State aren't the dominant teams that they used to be, and UNLV just closed out a convincing 2-score victory at the home of the defending conference champs, Utah State.

I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but UNLV actually looks good!

Most of the success lies on the arm and legs of sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield. Brumfield showed flashes of promise last year, but was plagued with injuries. He has absolutely taken over the offense this season as the unquestioned starter. He has been throwing pinpoint-accurate passes down the field, and is making mostly smart decisions with the football. So far, he has only thrown a single interception, which happened to be in UNLV's only loss so far this season. When there's no one open downfield, Brumfield has been good about checking down to underneath receivers or taking off and running (he has 4 running touchdowns to go along with his 8 passing TDs). He isn't forcing balls into coverage and sabotaging scoring opportunities with avoidable turnovers.

Doug Brumfield
Photo credit: Lucas Peltier, UNLV Athletics.
Sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield has been playing mistake-free football.

Though Brumfield has been a big part of UNLV's success, it isn't all him. In general, the offense has been moving pretty well. Discounting the loss to Cal, this offense has been putting up an average of 48 points per game. Part of that production has been on the ground with redshirt junior running back Aidan Robbins carrying the bulk of the load in the rushing attack. He has big shoes to fill after years of Lexington Thomas and Charles Williams cutting through and barreling over opposing defenses.

Robbins has been adequate so far as a substitute for Charles Williams. His stats on the season look really good, with over 400 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns in 4 games. But half of those yards came from a standout performance against North Texas, in which Robbins rushed for over 220 yards and 3 touchdowns. Robbins has been sharing carries with change-of-pace back Courtney Reese, who has had some explosive plays, but not scores yet.

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Here we go again. The NFL is modifying its overtime rules. Now, both teams will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime. Even if the winner of the coin toss scores a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime, they will still have to kick off to the other team, who will now have an opportunity to match with a touchdown of their own, or potentially win the game if they convert a 2-point conversion.

The rule change is in response to the Chiefs' victory over the Bills in last season's AFC Divisional Playoff. If you recall, the 4th quarter of that game was a shootout with 5 lead-changes. The Bills scored what should have been the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in regulation. The Chiefs then gained 44 yards in 2 plays and kicked a game-tying 49-yard field goal to trigger overtime. The Chiefs received the opening kickoff, drove down the field, and scored a game-winning touchdown against the exhausted Bills' defense. The Bills never got to possess the ball in overtime because, according to the old rule, if the opening drive results in a touchdown, the game ends.

Chiefs beat Bills in overtime Photo Credit: William Purnell/Icon Sportswire
The Chiefs beat the Bills in overtime of the 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff.

Fans have complained about NFL overtime rules for a very long time. The common complaint is that the winner of the game often comes down to a coin toss. But this is only partially true. In fact, in the regular season, the winning percentage of the team receiving the overtime kickoff is only barely more than 50% (86-67-10). This percentage changes to over 90% (10-1) in the playoffs (since the current hybrid sudden death rule went into effect). The disparity probably results from playoff teams being generally better and having better offenses.

So what else can be done to change the rules? I've already expressed my distaste for proposals to implement college overtime rules. I'm not going to rehash that here, since that isn't what the NFL is doing. Other proposals include making overtime an extension of the 4th quarter, which just gives an overwhelming advantage to the team who possesses the ball at the end of the 4th quarter, and removes any pressure for that team to execute in the final minute or so. Or maybe overtime should just be decided by a field goal shootout? Just take the offenses and defenses out of the equation entirely, and let the kickers decide the winner!

Really though, the NFL's new rule still doesn't solve the underlying problem: which is the coin flip. Now, if both offenses score, the game still goes into sudden death, and the team that gets the tie-breaking 3rd possession was still determined by the coin toss. In that Chiefs vs Bills Divisional Playoff game, even if the Bills had scored a TD to match the Chiefs in overtime, the Chiefs would still get the ball next, and it would be sudden death. The Chiefs would probably still win against a tired Bills defense that was completely incapable of stopping them. The game would just go on longer, the defenses would be even more tired, and the risk of injury would be greater. So here's my proposal:

I propose the NFL get rid of coin tosses.

Get rid of the coin toss

I think the NFL should go back to having sudden death overtime, and should get rid of the coin toss entirely. Instead of having a coin toss, the visiting team should just be able to chose whether it wants to receive the opening kickoff, and the home team should be able to chose whether they want to receive the overtime kickoff. This might sound unfair, but the idea here is to remove a coin toss from the equation, and make the opening possession of overtime become a part of a team's home-field advantage.

In regular season games, teams play half their games at home -- or at least they do over a 2-year average, since the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule. This means each team will have a 50/50 change of getting the opening possession in regular season overtimes, so it's fair. In the post-season, the home team is determined by playoff seeding, which is a function of the teams' regular season records. The team with the better regular season record gets homefield in a playoff matchup. This means that getting the opening kickoff in a playoff overtime will be a privilege that the home team will have earned by having the better record (or the seeding tie-breaker).

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This preseason did not go as I expected it to. I was hoping to get more of a look at what Matt Nagy's offense will look like, but the starters hardly got any playing time at all.

Chase Daniel dramatically turned his play around after the Hall of Fame game.

A lot of teams this preseason seemed to hold their starters. This is a continuation of a trend that we've been seeing over the past few years or so, as teams wanted to avoid injuries to marquee players. However, rule changes before the season made a huge difference. The NFL changed the rules so that teams don't have to cut any preseason players until after the final game. Teams are going from 90 players to 53 players between the last preseason game and the first regular season game. Because of this, the teams have a lot more reserves still on their rosters that they can continue to evaluate, and they seem to be taking advantage of that.

After a rough outing in the Hall of Fame game, backup QB Chase Daniel pulled his preseason together and was actually the best-performing quarterback on the team. Part of that is because he also got a majority of the snaps. Trubisky didn't even play in the last two preseason games, and Tyler Bray got limited action.

Preseason standouts like Tanner Gentry and Taquan Mizzell were retained on the practice squad.

Tyler Bray did get the start for most of the final preseason game, and he had some pretty good drives. The team couldn't pull out a win, as the Bills' reserves outplayed the Bears' in the fourth quarter.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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