NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Known more for their running, the Rebels used a big pass play en route to an upset victory over Vanderbilt.
UNLV (2-4) snapped a four-game losing streak, earning its first-ever road win against an SEC opponent. Mountain West schools are 3-2 this season against SEC opponents. It was the first-ever matchup between the schools.
"Obviously really excited for that locker room," UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. "Those kids worked extremely hard, from spring ball through camp through the duration of the season, and things have not started the way we wanted them to this year. These guys show up every day, they've got a great attitude, there's never moping around."
Vanderbilt (1-5) couldn't generate much after their first drive of the game against the Rebels. The Rebels scored on their first four drives of the first half, with the three drives that resulted in touchdowns all going in excess of 70 yards.
"For us, it's been explosive plays given up, man, that's really let games sort of get away," Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. "I thought second half, defense played harder, a little better. We had our fair share of opportunities, but didn't capitalize on any of them. You know, then games start to get away."
Oblad, a redshirt freshman, was efficient in the opening half, and connected on 5 of 7 seven pass attempts. Two of the completions were for touchdowns, including a 63-yard pass to Randal Grimes early in the second quarter.
It was a play the Rebels have worked on in practice, but the first time they had a chance to use it in a game, Oblad said.
"He's been doing a great job, throwing the ball, reading his keys and everything like that and being a smart guy overall," Grimes said of Oblad.
The only drive the Rebels failed to score on in the first half was their final one which began with less than two minutes remaining in the half. UNLV ran the ball three times to take a 24-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"We're still working, just working," Vanderbilt defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo said.
Vanderbilt had a strong start, taking a 7-0 lead after an impressive 8-play, 76-yard opening drive that concluded with a 4-yard Ke'Shawn Vaughn touchdown run.
Vaughn was the lone bright spot for the Commodores, rushing for 140 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
Following their first drive, the Commodores struggled to generate much offensively. Starting quarterback Riley Neal was replaced by Deuce Wallace for a couple of drives before returning late in the second quarter.
A pair of Neal second half turnovers on back-to-back drives doomed any chances the Commodores had of mounting a comeback.
"Coach Sanchez had told us a few weeks ago just to play free and just let it loose," Rebels linebacker Javin White said. "I feel like today we just let it loose. Like we had no worries, just go play football, and that's the best thing about -- at the end of the day it's just football."
White intercepted a Neal pass and made seven tackles in the game.
Rebels running back Charles Williams entered Saturday 17th in FBS in rushing, averaging 105.8 yards rushing per game. He rushed for 69 yards on 24 attempts and a touchdown.
Quarterback Kenyon Oblad led a balanced Rebels attack. Thanks to a solid running game from Charles Williams and Chad Magyar, Oblad was not called upon often, but when a pass was needed, he was able to spread the ball around to his backs and receivers. Oblad's big strike was a 63-yard touchdown pass to Randal Grimes in the second quarter, a career long for the redshirt freshman quarterback.
"It was beautiful," Rebels coach Tony Sanchez said. "We hadn't seen that all year, so that was fantastic."
Losing to UNLV damaged Vanderbilt's already slim chances of making a second-straight bowl game appearance under coach Derek Mason. The Commodores are 1-5 overall and all but one of their remaining six games are against fellow SEC opponents. Three of their remaining SEC games are on the road, including trips to South Carolina and Florida.
The Commodores have struggled on both sides of the ball all season, with ineffective play at quarterback and a defense that is allowing over 200 yards on the ground to their opponents.
Neal, a graduate transfer is new to the Vanderbilt offense this season.
"These are the same things that we've talked about before, so what we have to do is make sure that we continue to put those guys in a position to try to help this team," Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. "We know we can run the football. We've got to find the guy who can help us manage the game better and then make plays in critical situations because right now we just don't have a quarterback that can make a critical play in a critical situation for us."
UNLV: Visits Fresno State on Oct. 18.
Vanderbilt: Hosts Missouri on Oct. 19.
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