Matt York / Associated Press
Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 | 2 a.m.
With Doug Brumfield at quarterback, UNLV went toe to toe with Arizona State for most of three quarters, threatening to upset the No. 23 team in the nation on its own home field. Without Brumfield, they stood no chance in an eventual 37-10 loss.
In the aftermath of that defeat and with No. 13 Iowa State coming to town on Saturday, the team’s focus this week has been Brumfield’s health—and his role in keeping himself on the field.
Brumfield was forced to leave last week’s game after taking a hard hit while attempting a pass outside the pocket, and there was enough damage for UNLV to leave him in Tempe overnight, where he received medical treatment while the rest of the team flew back to Las Vegas.
On Monday, head coach Marcus Arroyo declared Brumfield “day to day,” but the team is hopeful the sophomore will be under center against Iowa State (7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
One of Brumfield’s most dynamic skills is his ability to scramble from the pocket and gain yardage on the ground; he has rushed for a touchdown in each of UNLV’s first two games, picking up 70 yards on 15 total carries. For an offense that has otherwise struggled to move the ball, Brumfield’s off-script runs have been a godsend. But they also open him up to additional punishment and at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Brumfield sports a gangly body type, one not designed to absorb the punishment of a running back.
Asked this week if he would like to see Brumfield slide more to avoid unnecessary collisions, Arroyo said it’s something that has been discussed.
“We talk about it actually a lot,” Arroyo said. “Taller guys, longer guys, angular guys have to learn how to get down because they’re larger targets.”
Arroyo said not all quarterback hits are created equal, and that it’s up to Brumfield to make that assessment on the field in real time.
“There are times where he knew on that on first, second, third down, if he goes head-first he’s going to get forward progress, and if you slide you’re going to be down where your knee is,” Arroyo said. “So I think you do teach that as well. If you can get down there and get skinny and split two [defenders], that’s different than staying up on the sideline and running at an angle tackle and taking one directly on the shoulder.”
Brumfield took a variety of hits against Arizona State. His best play of the night came on a 3rd-and-3 from the ASU 4-yard line, when he took off up the middle, went airborne and vaulted over two defenders at the goal line, somersaulting into the end zone. It was a risky play, from a safety standpoint—and one that paid off.
Conversely, he was hurt on a much more routine play, as the southpaw rolled to his left and got knocked down by an unblocked pass-rusher just as he completed his throwing motion.
Arroyo wants Brumfield to remain aggressive while remembering to protect himself when the situation calls for caution.
“Diving into the end zone on an open play, you’ve just got to be smart,” Arroyo said. “I’m not going to take away from the effort or the ability to do that. It’s just one of those moments man, you’ve just got to hold your breath and make sure our guys are okay to do that, their bodies are built up to do that.”
Brumfield completed 6-of-14 passes for 60 yards against Arizona State while rushing eight times for 43 yards and a touchdown. If he is unable to go on Saturday or gets knocked out again, the snaps will likely go to junior QB Justin Rogers, who has completed 8-of-16 passes this season for just 30 yards (1.9 yards per attempt).
For UNLV, there may not be a bigger priority than keeping its quarterback on the field.
“It is something you’ve got to be conscious of,” Arroyo said. “We are conscious of it because you lose your quarterback and things change, man.”