FRESNO, Calif. – All that momentum UNLV built with a strong finish to the first half was squandered quickly in the third quarter.
Derek Carr threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game to Davante Adams after UNLV wasted a prime scoring chance on the opening possession of the second half and No. 17 Fresno State rolled to a 38-14 victory on Saturday night.
"We had great field position the entire second half and didn't capitalize," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. "That just killed us. Their defense did a good job. I didn't think their defense would be able to handle us like that but they did. They played hard and got us."
The Rebels (4-3, 2-1 Mountain West) ran the opening kick of the second half back to the Bulldogs 45 but failed to get a first down on that drive. Carr responded with an 11-play, 84-yard drive capped by the 37-yard TD pass to Adams that gave the Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0) a 35-14 lead.
UNLV failed to score in the second half and was held to 89 total yards over the final 30 minutes.
"We felt like we had a little bit of momentum after our second score going into the half," quarterback Caleb Herring said. "We were pretty optimistic. We just didn't come out and put points on the board."
Carr and Adams set the tone with a 75-yard touchdown on the opening play of the game to the delight of a crowd that included a few hundred former players on hand for a pregame celebration. The Bulldogs equaled their start in 2001 when Carr's older brother, David, led the team to six straight victories to open the season.
That streak ended 12 years to the day before this game in an upset loss to Boise State. Carr and Adams made sure there would be no similar disappointment this year and have the Bulldogs in their best position since then to get that long-awaited BCS berth. The first BCS standings will be released Sunday.
Carr completed 33 of 46 passes for 412 yards, breaking Paul Pinegar's career school records for completions and touchdowns with 849 and 85, respectively. He joined Pinegar and Kevin Sweeney as the only Fresno State quarterbacks with 10,000 career yards passing.
"When the best quarterback to ever play here is your big brother and you can have both your names in a book someday that says you have records together, it means a tremendous deal to me," Carr said. "Not only is he my big brother and the best quarterback to ever play here, he's my role model. I want to be just like him."
Adams, who had eight catches for 221 yards, tied the school record held by Charlie Jones (1995) and Jim Molich (1942) for touchdown catches in a game. He tied the career mark of 25 touchdown catches held by Jones, Bernard Berrian and Henry Ellard with half of his sophomore season remaining.
"He's got a lot of natural ability," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "He's a very good player, he works very hard. Tonight they tried to play some man coverage against him, and when they did he was a handful one on one. Derek finds him and Davante makes plays. It's a nice combination."
Herring threw one TD pass and Tim Cornett ran for 49 yards to break Mike Thomas' career school rushing record with 3,158 yards before leaving with a lower-body injury. But UNLV had its four-game winning streak snapped. The Rebels haven't won five straight since a seven-game streak in 1984 when Randall Cunningham was the quarterback.
Fresno State scored touchdowns on the first four drives of the game starting with the deep pass from Carr to Adams just 9 seconds into the game.
After converting a fourth down on the second drive, Carr connected with Adams again from 27 yards out for another score and Josh Quezada's 2-yard TD run on a rare play when Carr took the snap from under center gave the Bulldogs a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
"It's what he does every week," Hauck said of Carr. "He's good. We had no allusions about who they were on offense. They made their plays."
But UNLV fought back, taking advantage of some questionable decisions by Fresno State to make it 28-14 at halftime. Shaquille Murray-Lawrence scored on a 77-yard burst up the middle for the Rebels' first score. Herring threw a 13-yard TD pass to Marcus Sullivan late in the half after Fresno State receiver Isaiah Burse threw an interception after taking a lateral from Carr.
The Bulldogs missed a chance to add to their lead late in the half when Carr threw an incompletion from the 12-yard line as time ran out when DeRuyter passed on a chance at a short field goal with 6 seconds remaining.