The UNLV football team passed its first test, routing Idaho State at home in their season-opener, 52-21, in Allegiant Stadium.
But a bigger test will come Saturday as the Rebels go on the road to face the Pac-12’s California in Berkeley, California.
The Golden Bears are also 1-0 on the season, having opened play with a 34-13 win at home against UC Davis. In the preseason media poll, the Bears were projected to finish ninth.
“They’re smart. They tackle well. They communicate effectively,” UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo said of the Bears. “(Coach Justin Wilcox) puts his team in position to have a good defense. I’ve got a ton of respect for what they do. That’s why you have to be error-free and play good football.”
This game will be a big step up in competition for the Rebels, having faced a Big Sky opponent in their opener that had won only one game the season before. The Bears finished 5-7 overall, one game away from bowl eligibility, and 4-5 in the Pac-12.
Coach Arroyo said his team is better prepared than in the past to handle the more physical Bears. He said having better recruits makes his team more competitive in practice, which will lead to better efforts against the better teams.
“I can’t go rent five NFL D-linemen, but what I can do is recruit the best talent available to make the roster bulk up so when you get the change in service you get the guys across the line that look like and can give you a valuable look,” Arroyo said. “We believe we have that group right now.”
UNLV quarterback Doug Brumfield will start for the second straight week. In this game, however, he will play as long as his health allows. In the opener, Arroyo played three quarterbacks in Brumfield, Tennessee transfer Harrison Bailey and sophomore Cameron Friel.
“Doug’s going to be starting,” Arroyo said. “I don’t have a plan to play all three of them. He’s done a nice job in week one. Those other guys have to be as ready as anybody.”
Brumfield threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns in the first half of play, but said he’s been watching film to find out how to improve even more against Cal.
“I need to be more patient in my reads,” he said. “Get better at identifying the coverages and seeing the whole field.”
Cal also has stability at the quarterback position in Purdue transfer Jack Plummer, who threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns against UC Davis. Jaydn Ott rushed for 104 yards for the Golden Bears as well.
Cal opened as a 12.5 point favorite in the game, but the line has grown to 13.5 points. The total opened at 51 points, but has been bet down to 47.5 points.
Game time is 1 p.m. with the game televised on the Pac-12 Now station.