It was the kind of special play that can turn a game, not to mention an entire season, around.
An ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 kind of play. One that you have to see to believe.
Leading Fresno State 21-10 midway through the third quarter and facing a 3rd-and-11 on his own 9-yard line, UNLV freshman quarterback Dalton Sneed went back to pass, then retreated into his own end zone as blitzing Bulldogs linebacker Brandon Hughes wrapped his arms around his waist for what looked like a sure safety.
It wasn’t. Sneed broke away, zig-zagged through several Fresno State defenders, then sprinted up the right sideline where he picked up a key block from tight end Andrew Price en route to a 91-yard touchdown that helped power UNLV to a 45-20 Mountain West Conference victory on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
(Check out the play below)
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 2, 2016
Sneed, a redshirt freshman from Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., finished with 147 yards rushing on 15 carries in his first college start. He also completed 8-of-16 passes for 129 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Elijah Trosclair, as UNLV snapped a three-game losing streak before a homecoming crowd of 17,811.
True freshman Charles Williams, a Fresno native who had the game circled because he said Bulldog coaches refused to recruit him as a running back, finished with 153 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown and senior running back David Greene added two touchdowns as the Rebels rolled up 493 yards in offense, including 364 rushing.
Still, it was Sneed’s 91-yard TD run – the longest scoring play in UNLV and Sam Boyd Stadium history – that dominated the post-game discussion.
“(Sneed) put us on his back and made an unbelievable play,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “That wasn’t a call, that wasn’t something we worked on. That was just his heart and spirit stepping up and doing something special. And if you’re going to win football games, you’re going to have to have a couple of those every single game. You see it every Saturday.”
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Sneed began the season No. 3 on the depth chart and was replacing injured starter Johnny Stanton (right knee) in the starting lineup. He admitted he was just trying to avoid taking a safety before breaking loose on his record run.
“It looked a little hairy for the throw and I decided to get out of the pocket,” he said. “As soon as I saw that black paint in the end zone I thought, ‘Ohmigod, I better get out of here and I better get to the other sideline or I’ll get a safety here.’ I got out, got a few good blocks, turned on the jets and got six (points).”
Simple as that.
“We had a chance to get a safety, and we don’t finish the tackle there,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We had a couple of other guys take bad angles. Someone assumes that someone else is going to make that play, and we can’t do that.”
You also can’t let talented young prospects like Williams, who starred at Bullard High School just four miles from the Fresno State campus, get away to a conference rival. The explosive 5-foot-9, 175-pounder, named the Fresno Bee’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year as a senior and one of the state’s top sprinters, finished with more than twice as many rushing yards (153) as the entire Fresno State team (64 yards on 32 carries).
“It just showed that they missed out on talent,” Williams said. “(Fresno State) wanted me as a slot receiver and I felt disrespected.”
DeRuyter, who finds himself on a very hot seat thanks to a 1-4 start, was asked about the irony of Williams having his breakout game against the Bulldogs.
“I didn’t think it was ironic,” he said. “He’s a good football player. You know, we’d love to have him as a Bulldog but that’s the way it goes in recruiting. You can’t take all the guys. Hats off to him. He had a heck of a game.”
It was a must win for a UNLV team that entertained thoughts of going to a bowl game entering the season but came into the contest off a bitter 33-30 overtime loss to lowly Idaho.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but it’s great to be in this room after a win and seeing the way the boys are in there right now,” Sanchez said. “They’re spirited and excited right now. It’s great to see them be able to celebrate all the hard work they’ve put in.”
UNLV next travels to San Diego State for a Saturday night game.