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Rebels disappointed they couldn’t get a win at Cal

UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo believes his team could have won against California in Berkeley last Saturday. “That game was up for grabs,” he said Monday.

After the Rebels lost 20-14 to a Power 5 conference opponent, he admitted that a lot of his players were disappointed that they couldn’t finish the game and secure the win.

“It was good to see because I’m not afraid for our guys to express their disappointment in wanting to win those games,” Arroyo said.

Being in close games isn’t new to the Rebels. Last season they lost six games decided by one score or fewer.

Arroyo said he has seen the mindset of his team change. They are no longer satisfied with just wanting to be competitive in games. Instead, they expect to close the deal when they have an opportunity to win.

While the players felt they let a potential win slip away against California, they said they have put the loss behind them and are focusing on how they can improve for their upcoming game against North Texas on Saturday.

With a group that has experienced tight games, Arroyo said it’s time for his veteran players to show players new to the program how to learn from a close loss.

“Losing those tough ones builds resilience. It can make a team closer or divide us,” senior linebacker Austin Ajiake said. “We’ll never let it divide us, so we’re moving forward and learning from the film.”

Junior center Leif Fautanu said the crowd noise in the road atmosphere at Cal presented a challenge for the offense at times. He said learning from that experience will better prepare them for the rest of the season so they can execute in similar circumstances.

Despite the offense getting off to a slow start, Arroyo said he was pleased with how they and the rest of the team responded to the challenges they faced.

One thing Arroyo was not going to question about his team was their effort. Even when someone makes a mistake, Arroyo said there isn’t any finger-pointing during a game or practice.

“Right now, there is a lot of good dialogue going on the sidelines when things get a little adverse,” Arroyo said.

Ajiake said no one is overreacting in the locker room after the loss. After digesting the film, he said everyone has used their missed opportunities as motivation to execute the rest of the season.

Arroyo sees the progress the program has made in his third season. He said there was an energy inside the Fertitta Football Complex after the loss that he’s never felt before that excites him.

Fautanu said that energy stems from how close this team is and the expectations they have for the rest of the season.

“We did beat ourselves against Cal, but I think it shows that our best football is still ahead of us,” Fautanu said. “With all the mistakes we made in all three phases, we feel we can improve that much more this week.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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