Fresno State endured the full Vegas experience Friday.
As often happens in Sin City, Fresno State got into an early hole, only to get on a roll. The Bulldogs even caught a critical break.
But they still left busted and broke.
UNLV missed its first chance to beat Fresno State but not its second as long-kicking specialist Nicolai Bornand hit a 33-yard field goal in overtime after Fresno State failed to score on its possession as UNLV came away with a 30-27 victory Friday before an announced crowd of 15,398 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
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Fresno State (3-4, 2-1) suffered its first loss in Mountain West play and had its three-game winning streak snapped -- against a UNLV team (2-2-5, 1-2) that had beaten only FCS program Northern Colorado prior to Friday and had some of the worst statistics in the nation both offensively and defensively.
"That's not acceptable," Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. "We knew this was a dangerous team all week. We had too many self-inflicted things. It was ours for the taking right there.
"We knew that going into this season that we're going to have to go out and earn everything that we've got. This is a blue-collar team that's got to play well in all three phases to win. They outplayed us in all three phases. Give UNLV credit."
Though Fresno State spotted UNLV a 17-0 lead at halftime, the Bulldogs were in position to win after taking a 27-24 lead with 7:21 remaining on Marteze Waller's 13-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches. The Bulldogs failed to tack on what would become a critical 28th point, as walk-on kicker Kody Kroening missed the PAT.
Fresno State did nothing on its final two drives of regulation, including a four-and-out series in overtime when both teams trade possessions starting at the 25-yard line.
UNLV tied it at 27-27 on Bornand's 46-yard field goal with 3:37 remaining. And though Rebels kicker Jonathan Leiva missed a 27-yard field goal from the left hash as time expired in regulation, Bornand winner sent the homecoming crowd into cheers as UNLV ended a four-game losing streak.
"I don't worry about who we lose to -- I worry from the fact that we lost," DeRuyter said. "Anytime you lose, we better learn from it and grow from it and move on. Both years we lost a league game; you better learn and grow from it. Each time we've gotten better after those losses in league. But just because we have in the past doesn't assure anything this year."
Waller was the Bulldogs' most effective offensive option as he rushed for 137 rushing yards and an 8.1 average per carry, but the Bulldogs turned to him in overtime to make plays as a receiver rather than as a bruising back.
It proved costly.
A screen pass to Waller on first down went incomplete on Fresno State's first play in overtime. Waller rushed for 3 yards on the second down before Burrell threw short of the first down to Josh Harper to bring up a fourth-and-3 from the 18.
Instead of attempting a 35-yard field goal by Kroening, Fresno State decided to go for it all. But Burrell's pass to Waller along the sideline and near the back of the end zone on a wheel route sailed just off the running back's fingertips and fell incomplete.
DeRuyter said the Bulldogs entered overtime planning to go for a touchdown rather than a field goal.
Burrell said the Bulldogs hadn't run the fourth-down play much this season. The timing, he added, also was thrown off by a UNLV linebacker blitz along the edge.
"To be 100% honest, I didn't even see (Waller)," Burrell said. "I just knew where he was supposed to be. They basically called the perfect play against that play. They brought the backer off the edge and we didn't have anyone to block him.
"I had to try to make him miss and just throw it up and hope something good would happen. And I don't even know how close it was."
Burrell added: "We haven't really ran it against any other defense. But the way they play it, their safeties are low and essentially play man-to-man. They didn't have anyone for the (running) back. I'm not sure how open he was, but I thought it was a good play call."
Instead of rolling through the Rebels as statistics indicated the Bulldogs potentially could, Fresno State found itself struggling in the first half to just gain yards, let alone score points.
Hurt by its play calling and execution during critical times, turnovers and penalties, Fresno State did not score in the first half for the first time this season and trailed 17-0 at halftime.
The Bulldogs' running game couldn't take advantage of the second-worst run defense in the nation and generated just 62 yards at the half. UNLV came in allowing an average of 292.5 rushing yards per game.
Burrell had a fumble, threw an interception and checked Fresno State into a tough fourth-and-2 run that was stopped.
Fresno State's defense, however, stepped up each time the offense made a mistake in the first half and prevented UNLV from scoring off any of the Bulldogs turnovers to keep the Rebels from running away early.
UNLV scored in the first half with a 33-yard field goal on its first drive; a 3-yard touchdown run by Shaquille Murray-Lawrence that was set up by a 56-yard pass from quarterback Blake Decker to Taylor Barnhill; and a 5-yard touchdown pass by Decker to Kendal Keys to cap a drive that started at the Fresno State 26.
The Bulldogs, however, made halftime adjustments that got tight end Chad Olsen involved and Burrell started having more success throwing deep as well as the middle of the field.
Burrell found Olsen for a 21-yard pass and then a 29-yard scoring strike during Fresno State's first drive of the second half that cut the Rebels' lead to 17-7 with 13:45 left.
Entering the game, the true freshman Olsen had one catch this season a 4-yard touchdown reception.
He added another touchdown with a 3-yard reception that reduced UNLV's lead to 24-21 with 13:47 to go.
Between Olsen's two touchdowns, Burrell found receiver Josh Harper for a 27-yard touchdown late in the third. The play moved Harper into a second-place tie on Fresno State's career list with 25 touchdowns.
UNLV, however, immediately answered on the ensuing possession, moving 65 yards in 54 seconds and scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run from Decker. Just prior to the touchdown run, Decker absorbed a big hit from blitzing Bulldogs inside linebacker Kyrie Wilson but waited out a developing route from the pocket and delivered a 31-yard pass to receiver Anthony Williams.
Down 24-21, Burrell committed his third turnover of the night when he was picked off at the UNLV 23.
But the Bulldogs forced the Rebels into another three-and-out series.
On the Bulldogs' next drive, Waller ran in a 12-yard touchdown on fourth-and-inches to put Fresno State ahead for the first time at 27-24 with 7:21 left.