SAN DIEGO – Dalton Sneed’s first college start, which featured a memorable highlight-reel 91-yard touchdown scramble and a 45-20 victory over Fresno State, was one for the record books.
But start No. 2 here Saturday night against San Diego State was one that he and his UNLV teammates would just as soon forget.
Sneed’s first pass was intercepted by cornerback Derek Babiash setting the tone for a miserable offensive night for the Rebels who finished with just 122 yards in a 26-7 loss to the Aztecs before a crowd of 33,296 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Former Canyon Springs High star Donnel Pumphrey ran for 141 yards and a touchdown while backup Rashaad Penny rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown and also caught a 41-yard touchdown pass to lead San Diego State (4-1, 1-0 Mountain West). The Aztecs finished 460 yards, including 245 rushing, and controlled the ball for over 38 minutes.
Sneed, who had rushed for 147 yards and completed 8-of-16 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown in his brilliant debut, completed just 2-of-12 passes for 9 yards and rushed for a team-best 56 yards on 12 carries against the Aztecs.
“Extremely frustrating,” Sneed said. “Obviously the offense didn’t score any points, and that hurts. That hurts.
“I’m kind of at a lost of words for it. I’ve never been on the offensive side of the ball and not been able to put one point on the board.”
UNLV’s only touchdown was scored by the defense. End Jeremiah Valoaga stripped Aztec quarterback Christian Chapman on a sack and end Dominic Baldwin scooped the fumble up and raced 20 yards for a touchdown that cut San Diego State’s lead to 10-7 with 10:35 left in the second quarter.
But the Aztecs regrouped to scored the game’s final 16 points, including a career-best 50-yard field goal by John Baron that made it 13-7 at halftime.
“Dalton kind of had his grace period,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “Last week nobody knew what to expect. Now you go against a team like San Diego State, Coach (Rocky) Long’s team, it’s whole different beast.
“We struggled throwing the ball. When you become that one-dimensional … you’re not going to line up and just pound a team like San Diego State. They’re a much more physical team than that.”
The Rebels (2-4, 1-1) ran just 49 offensive plays in the contest, including only 19 for 52 yards in the first half. UNLV, which entered the contest ranked ninth nationally in rushing offense with an average of 273 yards per game, finished with 113 yards on the ground.
“We never really got into any rhythm offensively,” Sanchez said.
The lack of any real passing game played a key role in that.
“We had some open receivers, we just missed them,” Sanchez said. “There were some reads out there that you thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’ (Sneed) was just making the wrong reads. … It was him being young. He’ll figure it out.”
Sanchez brought in junior Kurt Palandech for the final offensive series and said he’ll likely use both quarterbacks in Saturday night’s game at Hawaii (3-3, 2-0).
“It’s a young group out there and it showed tonight,” Sanchez said. “They played hard; both sides of the ball played extremely hard. Bottom line is we just got beat by a better football team.”