Devante Davis made his long awaited return from a wrist injury Saturday against Air Force and showed why he was a preseason all-Mountain West pick with six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Unfortunately, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior doesn’t play defense. Or block on the offensive line. Or play running back.
All those areas struggled again as the visiting Falcons (7-2, 3-2) continued their remarkable turnaround from a 2-10 finish a year ago with a 48-21 thrashing of the Rebels (2-8, 1-5) before an announced crowd of 13,481 on a pleasant sunny 81-degree afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Air Force, embarrassed by the Rebels in a 41-21 loss last year in Colorado Springs, rolled up 542 yards in offense, including 386 rushing, and averaged 6.4 yards on its 85 offensive plays. Sophomore tailback Jacobi Owens, who prepped at Centennial High School, led the way with 135 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown while senior quarterback Kale Pearson rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown and completed 5-of-6 passes for 115 yards and another TD.
It was the seventh loss in the last eight games for UNLV, which finished with just 33 yards rushing on 30 attempts and with redshirt freshman Jared Lebowitz at quarterback after starter Blake Decker, who was sacked five times, left in the third quarter with an apparent hip injury.
Not exactly the kind of senior year Davis had hoped for after helping lead UNLV to its first bowl game in over a decade last season.
“We definitely didn’t expect it to go this way,” Davis said. “The way we worked in the off season and the way we worked in camp, we didn’t expect to be sitting at 2-8.
“We’ve still got three games left. If we’re stunned, we’ve got to get over it and be ready to go (Saturday) against a good, physical BYU team.”
Despite compiling some glossy statistics in his first outing after missing five games, Davis said he could have performed better.
“I didn’t play well tonight,” Davis said. “There were more plays out there that I should have made. I left a lot of yards out there on the field.”
The big question is how serious Decker’s injury is moving forward? Lebowitz was just 3-of-12 for 18 yards in his UNLV debut and misfired badly when throwing downfield to several open receivers. Decker finished 18-of-32 for 263 yards and a touchdown.
“Obviously we’re concerned,” senior offensive lineman Brett Boyko said of Decker. “He took a hit. I couldn’t see the hit. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”
With any prospects of a bowl game having disappeared a couple weeks ago and losses continuing to mount, Boyko was asked about the team’s mental state heading into its final three games.
“I think mentally we’re fine,” Boyko said. “We want to go after it. We want to compete. It’s just that some things happen. We’ve got to adjust and we’ve got to move on to the next play. … We got to move forward and keep believing in each other.”
PHOTO BY JEREMY RINCON