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First Arroyo win

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UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo celebrates with wide receiver Kyle Williams (1) after the Rebels defeated New Mexico, 31-17, on Nov. 6, 2021. It was the program’s first win since 2019, and the first win in Arroyo’s coaching tenure.

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UNLV won its first football game in nearly two full years on Saturday. After the scarlet and gray dropped New Mexico, 31-17, the players doused head coach Marcus Arroyo with Gatorade and partied in the locker room for an extended period.

On the plane ride back to Las Vegas, interim athletic director Erick Harper presented Arroyo with a game ball for recording his first career victory. Arroyo then passed the ball to senior running back Charles Williams, who broke UNLV’s all-time rushing record in the course of the victory.

From the field to the locker room to the plane, it was a raucous post-game vibe.

That atmosphere was by design. Though the triumph only improved UNLV to 1-8 on the season (and 1-14 over the past two years), Arroyo wanted his players to live in the moment and feel as though they accomplished something.

“I told these guys, we’re going to celebrate after the game,” Arroyo said. “Winning a football game is really hard. You’ve got to enjoy it and savor it. … You can’t just be relieved you didn’t lose, you have to celebrate the fact that you won the game and you found a way to get it done. You put in all this work and you’ve got to have that excitement and fun and emotion.”

And then, somewhere 30,000 feet above the Nevada desert, the celebration ended.

On Monday, Arroyo reiterated that while he wants his team to enjoy wins, the page has been turned to more important tasks, namely UNLV’s next opponent.

That means no day off from practice. No victory meal. No special perks for the players. For UNLV, the win is in the past and Arroyo wants his team to leave it there. This is going to be a normal week of practice and he wants his players to focus not on the final score of the New Mexico game, but the things they could have done better.

During his weekly press conference, Arroyo said he felt UNLV could have scored 50 points if they had executed better on offense. He is going to try to mix in those coaching points this week without diminishing the win.

“As a coach you have to make sure that [the team] doesn’t get comfortable,” Arroyo said. “There’s a fine line. You’re not trying to minimize a win and cut ‘em down. There’s a balance there for an ultra-competitor at this level to be able to take the victory, turn it over and go, ‘You know what, I’ve got room to improve.’”

If UNLV can improve on its performance from Saturday, there’s no reason the scarlet and gray can’t topple Hawaii (4-6, 1-4 Mountain West) at Allegiant Stadium to make it back-to-back wins..

Williams echoed Arroyo’s point about embracing the victory and then moving on to the next game.

“It’s great to be back in the win column,” Williams said. “We worked so hard for this, and now we want to keep it rolling.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

Article written by #LasVegasSun

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