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Vanderbilt Football 2023 Summer Opponent Preview: UNLV Rebels

Oh good, these guys again.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Opponent: UNLV Rebels

When: September 16, 2023 at 6:00 PM CT on the CBS Sports Network

Where: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada

Last year: 5-7 (3-5 MWC.) The Mountain West, it must be pointed out, was bad last season (see: a Hawaii team that Vanderbilt roughed up in the season opener won two games, and the conference was won by a team that lost to UConn.) But especially considering that UNLV as a program has had exactly one season this millennium and Marcus Arroyo had improved the team from 0-6 to 2-10 to 5-7 in three years, this certainly wasn’t a “fire the coach” bad team, at least to anyone outside the people calling the shots at UNLV.

The last time we saw these guys: I’d call the 34-10 loss to UNLV on October 12, 2019, the beginning of the end for Derek Mason, but no, really, that was just the point where he should have been shown the door, except it took Vanderbilt another year and a half to actually do it because reasons. Actually, his last remaining supporters bailed in the lifeless 31-6 loss to Ole Miss to week before. This was just icing on the cake.

Series record: UNLV leads, 1-0. Yep, that’s the only time we’ve ever played these guys before.

Head Coach

So, the weird thing about that 34-10 loss to UNLV is that the next week, Derek Mason said “fuck it,” sent Mo Hasan out at quarterback, Hasan breathed life into the Vanderbilt offense for a bit before being knocked out of the game with a concussion, and Vanderbilt won 21-14 over Missouri, which was ranked in the Top 25. Derek Mason then celebrated by saying that he was built for this job on live television. He would go 0-12 against FBS competition after that.

That Missouri team was coached by Barry Odom... who is now the coach at UNLV. I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Barry O got jobbed at Missouri (did ya see what I did there, 1980s WWF fans?) but I also think UNLV hiring him was... weird. I also think UNLV firing Marcus Arroyo was weird.


UNLV found a quarterback last year, part of the reason why the Rebels jumped from an awful 20.8 ppg to a more respectable 26.3. Doug Brumfield is 6’6” and left-handed and completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season, also throwing for ten touchdowns. Really, he was supposed to be the starter in 2021, but he got hurt early in the season. 1000-yard rusher Aidan Robbins hit the transfer portal, so he’ll probably be replaced by some combination of Pitt transfer Vincent Davis and backup Courtney Reese, who averaged 7.3 yards per carry last season. Leading receiver Ricky White also returns, though everyone else in the receiving corps seems to be gone. I don’t know anything about UNLV’s offensive line and I’m too lazy to find out, though UNLV’s website doesn’t exactly make it easy.

Okay, I’m lying. I do know that UNLV’s starting right tackle is named, and I am not making this up, “Tiger King Shanks.” He is 6’5” and 320 pounds. No, I did not make this up. This is a real person, and he plays on UNLV’s offensive line.


Well, probably the two best players on the defense (linebacker Austin Ajiake and defensive lineman Adam Plant) are gone. Junior defensive back Cameron Oliver had two pick sixes last season, but the team’s other interception leader (Nohl Williams, who tied Oliver with three interceptions) transferred to Cal. They seem to have loaded up on transfers from Power 5 programs, who are probably more talented than typical Mountain West recruits but also weren’t playing at Power 5 programs and that’s why they’re here. If this feels like I just wrote a generic paragraph that could probably apply to half the Group of 5, it’s because I did. Where, exactly, can I find a list of who the starters were last season so that I can write something intelligent, because it sure isn’t on UNLV’s website. Either way, Barry O is a good defensive coach, so if there’s a unit I would peg for improvement, it’s probably the defense.

Special Teams

UNLV had a pretty reliable kicker in Daniel Gutierrez, who made 34-of-37 field goals over the last two years; the NCAA finally decided that six years was enough, and he’s out of eligibility. If you thought I was having trouble finding out who UNLV’s defensive starters were, well, what makes you think I can tell you who’s going to replace the kicker? Punter Marshall Nichols averaged 42.4 yards per punt.


  • September 2 vs. Bryant
  • September 9 at Michigan
  • September 16 vs. Vanderbilt
  • September 23 at UTEP
  • September 30 vs. Hawaii
  • October 14 at Nevada
  • October 21 vs. Colorado State
  • October 28 at Fresno State
  • November 4 at New Mexico
  • November 10 vs. Wyoming
  • November 18 at Air Force
  • November 25 vs. San Jose State


I honestly don’t know what to think here. UNLV improved from two wins to five in the head coach’s third year, improved on both sides of the ball, and then... they decided to bring in a new coach? They did this on purpose? And I realize that Barry Odom is probably a better coach than Marcus Arroyo, but this is just a strange vibe all around. They return their starting quarterback, found out what Tennessee did with Harrison Bailey. They weren’t good in 2022, of course, but there’s just enough here that I don’t want to chalk this up as an automatic win. Plus the game is in Las Vegas. Remember when Derek Mason decided to schedule a bunch of home-and-homes with Mountain West teams?